Marriage Counseling: How Fawning Impacts Relationships

Marriage counseling can help you to understand fawning behavior in your relationship and heal the trauma that causes it.

Marriage counseling can help you to understand fawning behavior in your relationship and heal the trauma that causes it. Fawning is a trauma response that is typical in trauma-bonded relationships and common in codependency.

Fawning behavior is an attempt to appease or please our partner to avoid conflict. When fawning, we prioritize our attachment in order to feel safe. But when we defer to whatever our partner wants to maintain the relationship, we cannot get our own needs met. 

Repressing our own needs and desires to accommodate someone else makes us feel inferior and unworthy inside. This is a typical response to past trauma in relationships including emotional neglect, rage/anger, sexual trauma, or interpersonal violence, whether in childhood or in an intimate relationship as an adult.

Survivors who learned fawning behavior to cope with their trauma often use those same strategies of stifling their own needs and desires even in healthy relationships. They don’t realize they are doing so or why, resulting in feelings of low self-worth and depression that frequently lead to additional maladaptive coping behaviors.

In many cases, we don’t demonstrate fawning behavior until we get into a relationship and feel compelled to attach to our partner. Once we notice this behavior, it is important to address it in marriage counseling.

Fawning, Codependency, And Narcissistic Relationships

Trauma survivors often believe they are not deserving of love and support. This has a profound impact on what they are willing to accept and sacrifice in and for their relationships, and that willingness to do anything for acceptance makes them vulnerable to narcissistic relationships.

The fawn response goes hand in hand with codependency. In a codependent relationship, one partner gives up their own sense of identity to become the caretaker for the other. The partner that receives all of the nurturing and support becomes dependent on it and feels lost without the caretaking partner. This creates an unhealthy and unbalanced relationship.

Narcissists and abusers crave and seek out codependent relationships, gladly allowing a caretaker type to cater to their needs and whims. Additionally, narcissists may use fawning behavior to coax out the attention they need to soothe their shame. 

What Does A Fawn Response Look Like?

Common symptoms of the fawn response in a relationship include:

  • Difficulty saying no to your partner
  • Having poor boundaries 
  • Feeling responsible for your partner’s mood
  • Prioritizing your partner’s needs above your own
  • Avoiding conflict 
  • Feeling the need to constantly check in about your partner’s feelings
  • Feeling compelled to justify your choices and actions
  • Frequently apologizing or taking responsibility for things that are not your fault
  • Accepting bad behavior from your partner
  • Staying in unhealthy relationships
  • Feeling burnt out because it’s too difficult and too exhausting to please everyone
  • Feeling like you should be who your partner wants you to be, not who you actually are
  • Feeling that nothing is ever enough and that you are not appreciated

Marriage Counseling At Take Charge, Inc.

At Take Charge, Terri uses Emotionally Focused Therapy to help you and your spouse move past the surface problems you face into the root causes that brought your relationship to this point. In these root causes, Terri guides you to recognize the destructive patterns of behavior and communication you and your spouse have created in your relationship. Couples recognize these patterns and behaviors are the enemy in the marriage, not each other.

EFT is couples counseling therapy based on 20 years of clinical studies with proven results for couples in crisis. Therapy with your spouse in the safe environment of Terri’s office will help you create a haven of safety and strength in your marriage.

For more information about marriage counseling in Johnson County, KS, call Take Charge, Inc. at (913) 239-8255. To schedule an appointment, click here.

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