I remember being scared a lot when we first started dating. Suspicious. Worried.
Not about you. Not about us. Or our fit. No, we always made sense to me.
I was worried because you kept doing nice things for me. Completely unprompted. You paid close attention to me, and you saw the areas of my life that were unwieldy and offered to help.
At that point, I was used to being self-reliant. I had been conditioned my entire life to never ask for help because it meant being sharply criticized by others or told that I was weak for asking. If help ever came, it was begrudging — and there would be a large bill later, when my helper demanded I return several larger favors. Potentially even ones that violated my core values.
On top of this background, what you were doing was unthinkable. I’d never before had someone look proactively for ways to help me. And I was terrified.
What would I end up paying later for these kindnesses? What could you possibly want from me? Could I give it?
I didn’t want to accept the help at first. But you made it so easy. You started carrying away the extra burdens before I could argue. And in spite of myself, I began to find my life a lot more manageable.
Shockingly, no bill for that ever came from you. It wasn’t manipulation you were after. You weren’t trying to rack up a debt and pin me in place as I struggled to repay you.
You just wanted to help me.
But the terror remained for years. That feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Until one day I didn’t feel afraid anymore.
I’m not sure exactly when that happened. It was gradual, with each kindness imperceptibly less terrifying than the last. Fear graduated into unease. And then unease quietly slipped out the back door.
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This post is part of a recurring feature called Confessions of a Recovering People Pleaser. To see the full series, please click this link.
Like my essays? You’ll love my books. I’ve authored many of them, including 3 nonfiction books on polyamory and the Psychic State series, murder mysteries with strong female leads that feature a large ensemble cast of polyamorous characters.