Appease or Alone

Sleeping BeautyWhether negotiating a peace treaty between warring nations or who will do the dishes, each side has in mind a desired outcome. The parties come to the table girded for a war of words, their negotiating tactics firmly in mind. Each party, whether they admit it or not wants the upper hand, wants to win.

Do you find yourself wanting to win? Maybe just who makes the coffee in the morning or whether the coffee cup belongs in the sink or the dishwasher sometimes these simple things grow into what breaks us with resentment. Marriage, partnerships whatever we find ourselves in are not hearts and flowers all the time despite what we would like others to believe; indeed they are often something far more challenging than negotiating a piece of contentious legislation or world peace.

Princess Bride Forever

Princess Bride Forever

With the pronouncement of solemn vows, the agreement to love, honor and cherish something shifts. We think the honeymoon will last forever, it doesn’t; truthfully it cannot life has a habit of moving in with you when you return from paradise. We may believe roles don’t or won’t change, they do and they will.

No matter how clearly we have drawn our lines in the sand, written our boundaries (in our heads), those little words “till death do you part” have a profound effect on both of you. Whether it is social norms, cultural norms, gender norms or a combination of all of these, whatever you thought during courtship will change.

In the politics of relationships our hearts and our futures are on the line, we have often invested years in our marriages / partnerships. It is what you do when negotiating your relationship, your boundaries and your future that makes or breaks you. Not just your relationship but you.

  •   Concede – Accede
  •   Appeasement – Concession
  •   Compromise – Reconciliation

The above are words we might think of, might act out in the rough waters of our marriage or partnerships. Only one pairing has a good outcome, yet all too often, we find ourselves doing something other than what is healthy, what is good for our relationship and ultimately us as individuals.

We make concessions, or concede our positions on some points. Perhaps these are minor, things we can easily give. Concerns that have no real bearing on our long-term happiness or the foundation of our relationship or the agreements we thought we had made. But wait, before we accede do we talk about them, do we discuss why these concessions matter or do we simply give in, setting the pattern for all future interactions within our relationship.

My mom & dad 1951

My mom & dad 1951

With each concession, do we allow our resentment to grow? Do we disappear under the weight of another person and his or her demands for ‘their way’? Do we become a passive member of our relationship simply to appease the other, out of fear of loss, fear of public condemnation or shame, fear of loneliness. What happens to our ego or our boundaries as we appease, as we concede positions?

The boundary we established for ourselves that line in our mind the one that said we would be a full partner has now changed. We have agreed to a different more passive role in our relationship, without realizing or acknowledging the change in our status. Our emotional investment in the relationship is greater than our partners, it is no longer an equal partnership. Truthfully, it is no longer a partnership at all, rather it is a relationship without balance.

Can a new balance be established?

Is it possible for you to reassert yourself, redraw the boundaries and redefine your needs within a relationship where you have practiced appeasement for peace. This is a question I suspect many women in my generation ask

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themselves. We teeter between fear of growing old alone and resentment when we have given too much of ourselves away. We are a hybrid of our mothers and Betty Friedan, we burned our bras yet shopped for the perfect wedding dress. We demanded equality in the workplace, yet remain uncertain how to negotiate equivalence in our homes.

We talk a good game, yet we still lose ourselves within our desire to be loved, needed and not alone. Initially we might say, it is small perhaps even it is nothing. The coffee cup in the sink rather than the dishwasher, the bed unmade or love notes unwritten on our heart. It is important though, are we conceding authentic self, our true need for the sake of not being alone? Is not being alone enough?

These are questions I hear from more and more women today, women my age. Women in long-term marriages, both first and second go-arounds, seem to be questioning their relationships and their standing within those relationships. Are we having another awakening?


  1. Marriage is difficult and divorces run high. Trying to balance the weight of appeasing your significant other and standing up for your own opinion/desire is so difficult. But I definitely would not want to be with a person that always agrees with me!

  2. I love my husand dearly and can’t imagine not being with him…BUT…We are always renegotiating, compromising, giving in, putting up with, or overlooking. It just depends on the day, the mood and what subject matter. With that being said, we have never settled.

    • I suspect that is true of most of us. It is whether it happens on both sides and with love and some mutual respect. When it start happening just to keep the peace, no matter who is doing it that things go sideways, that is the problem.

  3. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    I like this article a lot, Valentine, like the tone of it.

    I was dying away within my marriage, shrinking… shrinking…shrinking. I met him at 17/gave my virginity to him (however you express that – gave/lost it/he took… I don’t know…), married at 19 because he asked and asked and asked, and his parents saw me as the right one for him etc etc, “You will complete my life, if you just marry me”, and then slowly, the dying away, the shrinking. 26, up and out.

    What I have surrendered to countless, too many, relationships, is giving in sexually when I don’t wish to touch them or be with them but they are all over you and you have so much you want to say, something else is to be said before we get into that, and you lie back and try not to think of England, because that’s just too typical.

    That’d be the worst moment… which has happened again and again. As I say, low self esteem, etc, taught to placate men, etc. And all that with a MADLY MADLY MADLY wild high sex drive. I just haven’t known how to “handle myself”.

    • We, that is the female side are only one side. The strange thing is men say the lose themselves as well. I think it is a different losing, power imbalances often create this, but I suspect internally and emotionally there might be the same feeling sometimes.

      I know though how you feel. Surrender, appeasement especially sexually buys us little except momentary safety.

  4. Hey no second guessing on things, and the honeymoon can last a lifetime if you want it to, just don’t be too naughty or I might get the cups mixed up when it is your turn to wash up 🙂 Kidding… I think that you girls need lots of love and attention, then you wouldn’t be thinking too much about this, that and whatever the other may be 🙂 Okay enough said, it’s back to paradise for me 🙂 Are you coming or not? 😉 lol

    Have a lovely rest of weekend Val 🙂 🙂 xxxx

    • My dear friend, my personal feeling is all parties to a pairing need attention in equal parts. Both parties find themselves at times negotiating for what they need, for what is missing. This is why I tried to keep the piece gender neutral, both or either could be in the court of appeasement.

      Weekend is nearly over, am going to try my hardest to squeeze something besides work out of it.

  5. Lisa and I have had our share of “cycles” as it were. We celebrated 32 years of marriage last week. I’m sure she has changed and compromised, as I have. Put the clock back – will I marry her again? A definite yes. Will she marry me? On my knees, I hope so.

    Our three adult children wish to have our type of marriage – this is great affirmation coming from them and especially from our two daughters who are fiercely independent.

    Just sharing, Val – feel free to delete if you wish. I’ll take no offense.

    Peace, Eric

    • I would never think to delete. This is what I would hope this post would bring to light Eric. I said in another response, the best marriage I ever saw up close was the one between my father and step-mother. Their pairing was so special, so loving and perfectly balanced.

      I think the differences is always going to be the line between compromise and appeasement. If we don’t speak up, talk about our individual needs and the needs of our relationship eventually something suffers; either the relationship or the individual. The cycles are natural, it is I think the silence that is unnatural.

    • WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

      Eric! 32 years! AWESOME : congrats to you both 🙂

  6. Giving yourself away over time changes who you are from who you were. I don’t know any woman able to turn back the clock AFTER the first, second, third concession etc. Husband doesn’t notice the changes (she’s adapted to) until Wife wants to retrieve lost ground. He’s become accustomed to the way life is now. The first words she will hear are, “Boy, have you changed,” Odd, isn’t it what once was so appealing…

    I’ve been alone waaaaaaaaaay longer than I was married. I’m happy with my life and who I am.

    • You my friend have said a mouthful. I suspect this is it in a nutshell, the regaining of lost ground. Those fateful and fatal words, “Boy, have you changed.”

      We do change overtime. It is human nature to change. Hopefully we change in positive ways. This struggle to retain our authentic selves while retaining our marriages is what is such a conundrum.

  7. Maybe we should have an Awakening! I went through the feminist movement so I understand the need for independence yet I want to keep my longtime relationship via marriage. It is never an easy balance and choices can be fewer as women grow older. It is sad to me to see young women giving up themselves so early when there are clear role models and other choices. A thoughtful and honest post.

    • I think my friend some of the problem may be so many of the role models seem to be ‘alone’ rather than ‘having it all’ these days. At least those role models the younger generation is looking to. For those of us in the new middle age 50+, most of us I suspect are like you if we are already in long term relationships whether marriage or otherwise, we are trying hard to strike that balance. I know I all to often find myself struggling.

  8. What a well written post which reflects many truths in our world of relationships, I would challenge any relationship to admitting that without compromise, Conceding,and appeasement it would disintegrate at the first set of hurdles.. And get many stay in relationships which are controlled, violent, and degrading of self esteem, maybe fearing their loss of security or of being alone..
    Love comes in many forms there is love to allow one to be Free and then there is love which controls and holds one tight as a possession…
    My parents divorced when I was 23, I’d left home age 20 to be married.. my Mother and Father had a volatile relationship which impacted greatly upon the home, and coloured my own world when growing up.. to the point I still cannot stand confrontation without feeling physically sick.. So maybe I appease too much, or maybe I have been forgiven often, but one thing I know….. I am loved!

    • I suspect Sue, the knowing of being loved makes the ideas of negotiation, concession, sacrifice and appeasement a easier structure for relationships on both sides. It is where there are questions of mutual love, respect and concern these ideas become difficult. That is where communication becomes so important.

  9. Val, It’s been so long since I’ve been in a relationship but you know what? I don’t miss it. I keep thinking of all that baggage and I figure if I want anyone else’s baggage it better be Louis Vuitton! Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend. 🙂

    • One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite Broadway shows, Rent, “looking for someone with baggage like mine.” I think all of us know that feeling well now and then, even those of us in long term marriages.

  10. I have been single by my own choice for a long time now. Many of the concepts you discuss Val about appeasing and wanting to be loved are ones that I will need to face when I do become involved with someone… Thank-you for such a thoughtful post.

    • I think Christy it is an issue each of face, we seek those balances. How to negotiate self within relationships. I don’t think relationships necessarily require us to sacrifice self, only that we often concede rather than talk about our individual needs within the relationship so neither of us are lost.

  11. wonderful post. it’s about sacrifice AND balance to me. when i was in bad relationships, i gave too much away. when you’re with the right person and when you’ve done the work on yourself, i find that never happens. but, you still will sacrifice. it’s a sacrifice for the good of the whole, in some ways. xoxo, sm

    • Thank you SM, I am so pleased and honored by your visit! It is my suspicion the ‘appeasement’ problem sometimes rests within imbalanced roles and our willingness to accept a lack of growth. We remain stuck in roles our mothers played, despite our ‘modern’ views and the roles we play outside the home. As one partner progresses the other doesn’t, they remain stagnate, refusing to change and refusing any change to “the way it has always been”. So we simply give in, either we do this and it doesn’t matter it is small or we do it till the resentment is piled high and we blow. I don’t know, except I am hearing and seeing more and more of it.

  12. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Your posts are always meaty subjects, Valentine, and so worthwhile to reflect on.

  13. there are little light bulbs planted along the marriage such clarifying moment came to my consciousness when i read this simple statement –‘will it matter in ten years?’ soon after that, i made it a mad mantra–if the cup on the counter or the towel on the chair takes away from my future, then i mention it–if not, i pick it up until my husband adopts the gesture as his own..and he has consistently..
    i don’t get mad, i get determined to move on to the next choice on this path we travel. several decades have shone on this theory, it does work..i admit that i am surprised.

    • Nadine thank you. Wonderful philosophy and one I am happy has worked for you. I admit to having taken a similar stance some time back. Though I do have an additional mantra, “You don’t have to love what I love, you have to love me enough to notice and help.”

      I suspect mine might not be as evolved as yours, I have to repeat my mantra aloud and often.

      • valentine, patience is an elastic way of living; but as all elastic bands, it may loose its bend and pull power–so these inconsiderate quirks that are brought into a union must be addressed as soon as possible. before the love wears out on the edges..
        later, it may be taken as ‘nagging’ or habit..i maintain my patience by sharpening my doing what you do–repeat my own mindful mantras when i feel irritation creeping in..and for some reason–he surprises me by helping, then i thank him.

  14. Oh I have so many thoughts on this, so little time. I was married 10 years, been divorced for 12. I don’t really have a desire to get married again because I believe it’s a one shot deal and I got my 3 kids. But I wouldn’t rule it out. And I struggle between being strong willed and having to have it all my way, but you know life just isn’t like that. My parents were married 64 years until my Dad just passed away in October, I saw how to make it work first hand. It wasn’t a bed of roses but you work through it civilly and with lots of sarcastic humor. 🙂

    • I watched my fathers second marriage in awe and delight. If ever there was a marriage of soul mates, that was it. If I could be my step-mother, with her patience, great love, great heart and expansive joy I would choose to come back to this world as her, no one else just her.

      I think we, as women of this age must struggle with retaining our personality with relationships. I think it is hard. I think it is often very difficult to retain our identity within marriages that despite the hoopla are not really modern, even if we work, pay bills all that jazz; we are also usually still the primary ‘house frau’, caregivers, keepers of the flame.

      I do not envy us any more.

  15. Cycles is a good word to describe the ups and downs of life and relationships. Then again, I remain cautious here because I don’t want to initiate an attack by an angry mob. 😉 Good post, Val!

    • Frank, I love having your perspective it is always and most joyously welcome. I do think cycles is the best way, sometimes they are vicious and others they are simply the ebb and flow of normal. It is I suspect mainly the two people involved, how they grow both together and as individuals that determines the outcomes.

  16. I lost myself completely in the concessions of marriage…tip-toeing through life living in the shadows of someone else’s expectations of me. The worst part was, I don’t think that I realized I was doing it until after my marriage ended. The lessons learned? I turned into the person I thought he wanted me to be, and in the end, he left anyway. So – it was a lose-lose situation. I’m re-learning how to be Me…and as Red said, I would rather die alone than die someone else. The struggle to re-introduce myself to me has had it’s peaks and valleys (and we can know..currently in a bit of valley), but at least it is authentic.

    • Now you struggle to find you again. I know so many of us who have gone through marriages like this. Thinking, this is small I lose nothing with this never realizing it is something. I suspect it is who you are married to, you partner. See my response to Nadine further up.

      I hope you know though, I continue to be your greatest cheerleader!

      • I absolutely know you are my greatest cheerleader…and I live and breathe your support on days when I’m looking for something to grasp on to.

        And you’re correct…the whole “i’m losing nothing” mentality…always hoping he would care and realize…was probably one of the major cracks in the relationship. He didnt’ notice…and I worked harder and harder to make things ‘right’ and to standard. Never was enough. And really…is never would be enough because regardless of what I did…he didn’t notice. It is an interesting phenomenon. WOuld I do it differently if I could go back in time? Probably not. I am better off without him…and I might dare to think that he is better off without me. Plus…it has been a lesson well learned…granted the hard way, but a solid lesson none-the-less.

  17. In the end, most women are alone, because they so often marry partners who are older. Now in my mid seventies, most of my friends my age are either widows, or nursing, caring for, coping with old men with altzheimers, Parkinsons, emphysema and so on.
    Companionship disappears, but not confljct, as illness alters personalities or old patterns surface. Suddenly we find we’re working harder than ever before, doing the manual things that husbands always used to do, and everything else as well… I’m chauffeur, gardener, caregiver accountant, log piler,etc etc……
    So actually, we need to handle those challenges of marriage , so that when we are alone, we are strong, and able to enjoy life whatever it brings…

    • I think so many of us, especially those of us born in the later part of the baby boom grew to a different set of expectations, a conflict of expectations even. This is perhaps especially true where we have to separate our personalities; career and home. I see this often.

      I suspect it is why women are more conflicted today in their relationships.

    • WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

      There’s a lot in what you say in comment, Valerie. I think it’s wrong so many women end up alone, but also I think it wrong they should end up carers of those who have simply faded away/broken up in the physical sense. If they love them, that’s different, but if they are a female family member and “no one else” is doing it – I am sad at that.

      My grandmother was alone, but wrote and visited the Polish house, and occasionally had Polish visitors. I would be entirely okay with such a situ – a lot of alone time, writing time, and people just here and there.

      • I think we all fall into patterns that work. Maybe we don’t even realize it initially. When my parents divorced forty years ago I suspect something in my mother said, I will marry again. She never did, I am not at all certain she ever wanted to or sought out any opportunity to do so.

  18. For me it goes in cycles — sometimes the little things irritate the hell out of me, sometimes they roll right off. Then again, no one has ever accused me of being neat so perhaps I just don’t notice stuff.

    On the other hand, there are lots of times when “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away” is my very favorite song …

  19. That was a useful blog. I will continue to check out this site.

  20. It is not enough to just not be alone. I am firm in the concessions break the marriage belief. When we give ourselves away to the want-du-jour, we eventually stop being ourselves.

    Harsh, but true. I would rather die alone than die someone else.

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