People Pleasing in Relationships

Mariel Witmond
Mariel Witmond

23 September, 2022

In my opinion, two of the most important ingredients in a relationship are compromise and communication. The reason people pleasers struggle in their relationships is that they over compromise and under communicate. They over-give, putting aside their own needs to the point where they may even start to lose touch with what those needs even are. Then out of fear of confrontation and to avoid the pain of someone else’s disappointment or rejection, they will start to build up silent resentment for all that they do – many times without their partner ever being aware there is an issue.

People pleasing also makes us vulnerable to manipulation and bullying – which is why many tend to attract narcissists.  Our brains get wired to create trauma bonds from the intermittent approval and validation used to manipulate. These relationships can be so subtle that they can be difficult to recognise. 

People pleasing is a way in which we behave – a form of self protection born of trauma. It is not who we are. And as is the case with all behaviours, they can be changed.

How can we tell we’ve stopped pleasing in our relationships?

  • We start by paying attention to our own needs. What is it that we want? What are we sacrificing for the sake of someone else and is that a sacrifice we feel comfortable with (compromise)? 
  • We learn to listen to the resentment so those feelings don’t build. Our emotions are always trying to communicate something to us and resentment means we are living in the past – replaying an old story that makes us angry (at ourselves and/or our partner).
  • We learn to respectfully communicate our feelings without blaming or criticising. This one takes vulnerability, courage, and practice.
  • We know that we have choice. We’ve learned a subconscious behaviour that may make it feel like we don’t, but the choice in how we respond to any given situation is always ours to make.
  • We are aware that we are deserving of love, that we can think for ourselves and we can set boundaries without the fear of being rejected for standing up for ourselves.
  • Our actions no longer reinforce negative behaviours. We can stop repetitive patterns that enable poor behaviour. That means no longer taking the blame for something we didn’t do, speaking up when we disagree, and doing things when they could be done without our help. 
  • We stop being agreeable and we start being genuine. We know who we are and what we values, we seek meaning over validation, and we have a healthy self-regard.

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