We’ve all encountered friends or family members who are people pleasers. But dating a people pleaser is on a whole other level. Pleasers struggle to say “no” and put the happiness of others above their own. In the midst of trying to make and keep everyone around them happy, the people pleaser oftentimes sabotages their own goals and desires – including their romantic relationship.
The Kelleher International matchmaking team explores the ins and outs of dating a people pleaser. Consider this advice for handling your romance if your partner prioritizes the needs of family, friends, or coworkers over your relationship.
First, it’s important to understand that in the early stages of dating this sort of behavior is acceptable. However, as the romance becomes more serious people pleasing can cause relationship issues.
At Kelleher, we recommend dating with your eyes open. Know what you’re getting into by paying attention to the big and little things as they arise. Notice and never ignore red flags.
Patty Russell, Kelleher matchmaker explains, “If finding yourself at the bottom of the priority list is a pattern, try to figure out the root cause. Realize that someone’s children and family will always come first but you need to be pretty close to the top of that priority list. We live in a busy age where people can be clueless as to how their behavior is affecting others. Be honest about what’s bothering you and open up dialogue to find a solution.”
Develop Healthy Lines of Communication
The Kelleher Matchmaking team agrees that the biggest key to handling the situation is open dialogue and healthy communication.
“It is each person’s responsibility to make their needs in a relationship known. In turn, ask your partner to vocalize their own needs. Once you’re armed with that information it takes conscious checking in to stay aware of both of your needs being met,” Kelleher matchmaker Erin Soskin says. “Be aware that people pleasers don’t often tell you what they need or want. They don’t want to upset the flow of the relationship. Knowing that information, be sensitive to this personality difference and try your best to listen between their words, make room for their desires, and not overpower the relationship.”
If you are the people pleaser it’s critical to know you are just as deserving of happiness as your friends, family, and partner. Erin continues, “Submitting in every argument, constantly apologizing, and not communicating your true feelings and desires doesn’t ultimately get what you want.”
Understand Each Other’s Needs
Getting your needs met with an outside people pleaser requires compromise. And since the people pleaser has many highly desirable qualities; it’s important to keep them happy, too. Make sure there’s a balance of personal-time, family-time, and couple-time built into your weekly schedules. That will give your partner designated opportunities to show up for the other important people in their life without you feeling slighted or caught off guard.
Erin adds, “There are some very simple and important things you can build into any relationship with a people pleaser. Separate hobbies, date nights (that you don’t always let the pleaser plan!), and check-ins where each person can talk about how they’re feeling about the partnership are ideal.”
Shifting from People Pleasing
Thoughtfully communicate with your partner and hear from them that you are indeed a priority in their life. When you’re both clear and on the same page, here are some strategies to create more free time for your relationship to thrive.
Kelleher’s Michelle Gillette shares, “First eliminate the things and activities not working well for the relationship so you can create more room for what you both truly want. I call it “crowding out” the negative stuff to make room for the good stuff. Sometimes, it takes the guidance of a therapist or counselor to help the pleaser identify “why” they need to make everyone happy all of the time. Understanding the “why” will help you both become better partners to each other.”
The Power of “NO”
Another key to breaking the pleasing cycle is learning the power of saying “no.” Michelle adds, “Saying “no” to endeavors misaligned with your goals is not selfish. It’s actually an act of compassion toward yourself and your relationships. The goal is to show up focused, authentic, and engaged when you’re with people you care about. Avoid shouldering the scattered and harried demeanor common amongst people pleasers.”
Kelleher International CEO Amber Kelleher-Andrews says, “Learning to say “no” for yourself and for your relationship is initially difficult for a people pleaser. It doesn’t come naturally. Like with all good habits, it takes practice and repetition. Learn to embrace “no” and share it with compassion.”
Sample Dialogue of a Reformed People Pleaser:
Pleaser: “You know I’d love to help you out today, but for my own sanity I can’t. I need to take care of some personal commitments.”
Asker: “Can you move your stuff around by chance?”
Pleaser: “No, my schedule is locked in, but if you’re flexible I’d be willing to help you <insert alternative date that works for you, Pleaser.>
Asker: “Darn it. I really need to get this done today. Are you sure you can’t help me?”
Pleaser: “Not this time, my friend. Good luck with your project, though. I’m rooting for you.”
Michelle says, “With practice, the people-pleaser will eventually become empowered by saying “no.” If you’re their romantic partner be a good sport when the “no” is directed toward you. Smile and appreciate the progress.”
Are you in a relationship with a people pleaser? Have you discovered compromises and ways to communicate with your partner when you’re feeling ignored? We’d love to hear what works for you in the comments section below.