I don’t think any mother would object to being described as “nurturing” their children. However, when nurturing is used to describe a husband and wife relationship it may not be so positive. Anka was with her ex for about 10 years and they split up when she was 28. She says her most significant accomplishment since then has been rediscovering herself…
After our marriage fell apart I looked at the few significant relationships I’d had and realized that somehow I was picking people who just weren’t right for me. I also realized I didn’t like the way those relationships had ended and the more I thought I about it, I didn’t particularly like the relationships I’d been in or how it felt to be in them. I didn’t know I was doing this but I tended to find people who needed to be taken care of and that’s kind of how I functioned.
I was what specialists would describe as a nurturer and that’s not unusual for immigrant families. I grew up in Poland and we moved here when I was 14. I was the first child to learn to English, the first to get a job and so on. I was taking care of the family and it was a natural transition for me to start taking care of whomever else was in my life. It felt like something I knew how to do.
As an example, I met my husband when I was a sophomore in college and he was senior. Then he went off to medical school, which I put him through. He applied to residencies after I wrote his applications and he did get into a residency during which time I supported him. It was somehow that if you were in a closed relationship with somebody you had to be taking care of them. The overriding concern was what does my partner want to do and that I ought to fit my schedule around him. That was what I used to.
What therapy taught me was that it didn’t have to be this way. I could have a partner where there was much more giving and taking and I had to learn to accept help from others and I had to learn it was OK to have my own needs.
How many women have you heard say ‘my family always comes first?’ I think it’s one of these underlying currents that women have and all kinds of societies reinforce it, your responsibility is not yourself. Your responsibility is to your family, your elderly parents, your growing children. What I think now is that everyone also has a responsibility to themselves. That’s not necessarily something that gets taught and it’s not a prevalent message that women get. Quite frankly I don’t see why it shouldn’t be because you’re not going to be any good to all those other people unless you figure out what your responsibilities to yourself are and how to respect yourself.
And that’s where therapy was helpful for me. It had a huge impact.
The Divorce Coach Says
Anka is now happily remarried – visit tomorrow and hear how what she learned in therapy changed her approach to her relationships with men. I wholeheartedly endorse what Anka says about the first responsibility is to yourself. When I was considering leaving my marriage I felt I was sinking into depression, losing my sense of humor, withdrawing and isolating myself. I felt that if I stayed in the marriage then I wouldn’t be able to the mother I wanted to be to my children. I knew I had to put my own needs first in order to help them.