Relationships usually start with the intention of keeping the other person happy. If you like them, you should want to ensure their happiness all the time, right? Well, maybe not always. Relationships require a delicate balance of asserting yourself while being able to make compromises with your partner. Healthy relationships generally maintain this balance. However, if you’re a people pleaser in a relationship, you may find yourself unhappy after sacrificing so much of yourself to serve the relationship. Here’s some background on people pleasing, how it shows up in romantic relationships, and how to address it.
People pleasing is a set of behaviors where someone puts other people’s needs over their own. Chronic people pleasing involves doing this consistently. Many people pleasers believe that this comes from a responsibility to keep the peace or to get a job done. This compromise is functional but at their own expense.
At its root, people pleasing is a version of the “fawn” trauma response. When one is in fawning, they use the cerebral, thinking brain to try to logically diffuse a threat. Some people do this with flattery, but people pleasers do this by sacrificing their own desires and concerns to make the threat disappear. Consistently engaging in people pleasing increases a person’s perception of a threat, therefore making the people pleasing a recurring behavior. This can lead to a persistent anxiety of being fired, broken up with, abandoned, or rejected. Eventually, the person pleaser becomes completely unable to identify their own needs or assert themselves in any way.
In romantic relationships, people pleasers tend to attract narcissists that will abuse the person pleaser’s insecurity and fears of abandonment. This is because narcissists need a persistent fan club to quiet their own fears of being rejected. The people pleaser, then, becomes the perfect fit.
Even in relationships where there is no narcissist present, the person pleaser cannot adequately assert their own needs due to their inner fear of being broken up with. This causes anxiety, depression, and dissatisfaction to take hold, as the people pleaser is always quieting their own needs.
People pleasers should know that their internal needs are just as important as their partner’s. Long-term people pleasing causes undue stress, and should be unpacked with a therapist. There are a few steps to take when trying to stop people pleasing. These include:
● Identifying your own needs
● Practicing “no”
● Calming internal anxieties
● Discussing boundaries
● Addressing origins of people-pleasing behavior
If you’re struggling with people pleasing, relationship balance, or overall relationship satisfaction, we can help. At Valued Living Therapy, we offer in-person therapy sessions in the Twin Cities area and via telehealth throughout Minnesota. We are inclusive of all relationships, sexual orientations, and identities, and passionate about helping you make lasting change to live your best life.