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Sneaky Ways People-Pleasing Is Affecting Your Relationship

Although there are obvious ways people-pleasing can show up in relationships, it can also be a little stealthy. One would think that always trying to please your partner would be a good thing. Sure, on some levels, but people-pleasing is more about consistently abandoning your own needs for the other. But wait, that sounds pretty selfless, right? Sure, but not having a self is extremely detrimental to closeness and intimacy in a relationship. Here are some ways that can happen.

Minimizing Feelings. For people-pleasers, downplaying their feelings can be so subtle and natural that it is hard to catch. People-pleasers tend to have a hard time valuing both the experience of the other AND their experience simultaneously, so it becomes one or the other. And guess who always loses out? Correct, the people-pleaser. They are constantly talking themselves out of their emotions. Mad? Oh, they didn’t mean it. Hurt feelings? Not that big of a deal. Sad? I’m just being dramatic. Although they can appear like nothing really gets to them, wait for the big blowup because it is likely coming. The thing about feelings is that you can minimize them all you want, but they will show up later. And always in a way you do not want them to.


Deferring Your Opinion. Tend to find yourself saying “I don’t care” or “whatever you want” or “you choose” a lot? This might be a sign that you are deferring your opinion too much. Of course, we want to compromise at times and incorporate others. However, people pleasers tend to do this as a default. Usually, this comes from the discomfort of differing opinions or fear it might lead to conflict. Better to keep everyone happy even if you never get what you want. The sad outcome is that, over time, you lose your perspective and sense of self. A lot of people-pleasers I work with say they do not feel like they know who they are anymore because they have done this deferring so consistently.  How does this affect your relationship? Although avoiding conflict in the moment, it is actually creating distance. No connection was ever made stronger or closer by someone consistently hiding themselves.  


 Mindreading. This can show up as anticipating how the other person will act or feel and “getting ahead” of it. People pleasers tend to be masters at reading the emotions of others and will try to avoid conflict and disharmony by ensuring everyone is calm and happy. Anticipating needs, withholding things that would upset someone, mediating between people. This becomes super exhausting and often produces resentment in the relationship. Especially because people-pleasers often unconsciously expect this in return. They want others to read their mind and anticipate their needs even though this is unreasonable for them and others.


Through therapy, whether individual or couples, people-pleasers can benefit from learning how to value their own experience AND the other’s at the same time so they aren’t minimizing or deferring all the time. Although it can be scary for a people-pleaser to have a self and take up space, ultimately, this will benefit the quality and closeness of their relationships!


Until next time,


Dr. Jess

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