woman reaching out

How are you at asking for help? Does it come easy to you? Do you trust you will be assisted? Does it make you feel anxious? Do you try to avoid it?

I have discovered that asking for help sets off a cascade of emotions and defenses for me.

When Mark and I first started dating, I made it clear (I thought) that I wanted a partner in life, meaning I wanted someone to help with the hard work of child rearing and household management and someone to create fun with me.

The first two years of our relationship, he was reassuring and responsive. We had lots of fun together. He communicated with me often. We truly enjoyed each other’s company.

Honeymoon is over

Year three, the hard work creeped in. We had moving to do. Children to help with their mistakes and upbringing. We needed each other’s help with house work, financial planning, event planning, etc.

Year three was very difficult.

Preoccupied parents

For my part, I have to own my somewhat subconscious guilt, terror, fear of asking for help. This fear stems from my childhood with preoccupied, stressed and unavailable parents. All of us experience some level of unavailability with our parents. I think my highly sensitive nervous system and my parents’ genuine inability to be there consistently for me, heightened and shaped this fear of being let down when I reach out for help. My parents did not have a lot of money so there was always the knowledge that they could not help very much with college, traveling, bills, big expenses, etc. They both had full time jobs and little family support. They did the best they could but that still left us often feeling it was up to us to make things work.

My siblings and I have all become self-reliant and responsible adults because of our upbringing. My sister is a squeaky wheel. She expects help. My two brothers seem to shoulder responsibility and keep to themselves. They don’t ask for help unless they absolutely have to. I now realize how unnerved I become when I have to rely on others. It makes me critical and upset.

Both helpless

I don’t expect to get help and when I don’t it sends me over the edge. Just knowing I have to ask someone for help, makes me sad. I’ve even noticed a flare in my emotions when others ask me for help, particularly those who I feel could (should?) help me.

I’ve noticed he has a reluctance to accept help too. On more than one occasion he has had a tension headache. I offered to rub his temples and his neck. He lets me do it for about two minutes and then he says I can stop. I think he feels tremendously guilty or uncomfortable accepting my touch and help.

When things break around the house, I feel that dreaded sense of helplessness. I can’t fix them myself. I can’t rely on others close to me to fix them. It is the definition of stress.

Here we go again

Year three with Mark was so difficult because we both needed a lot of help. I felt constantly triggered. Mark helped as much as he could but he had his needs to cover too. It felt like the bad old times when my parents wanted to help but could not. They had too much on their plate. My nervous system cried inside. This was too familiar, in an implicit and hardwired way. My primitive brain and wicked mouth protested.

Focus on this

We are working through meeting each other’s needs in our new life together as husband and wife. Awareness about my fears regarding asking for help and the intentional attention placed on ways Mark does help me, help.

He has ways to soothe me with his smile and strong arms. His positivity and responsiveness comfort me when I do stress out. His growing knowledge that my bark is worse than my bite, helps him deal with my protests (attacks). He is starting to understand that it is fear talking, when I get mad at him.

The truth is…

I need him and that scares me. There were too many times in the past when no one helped when I needed them.


Were your parents there for you most of the time? Do you feel comfortable asking your partner for help? Do you believe you deserve help? 

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash