5 Ways Being a People Pleaser Can Ruin Your Relationship, Therapists Say
Always acting as a yes man can cause more problems in the long run.
We all strive to be a good person, and that's especially true in our romantic relationships. But there's a big difference between trying to always act with kindness and allowing yourself to be walked all over. If you never say "no" to your partner even when you want to, you may be a people pleaser. Many people adopt this "nice" nature in a relationship because they believe it will prevent any problems from arising. But while that may work for a while, sooner or later your lack of a backbone will come back to bite you. Read on to learn five ways being a people pleaser can ruin your relationship, according to therapists.
You're enabling bad behavior from your partner.
If you're always acting as the yes man (or woman!) in your relationship, things can easily turn sour. As Trisha Owsley, MA, a licensed psychotherapist based in Ohio, explains, people pleasing tendencies can enable negative behaviors from your significant other.
"There are consequences to all choices," she warns. "When we say yes to our partner, it may mean that we are taking over and letting them off the hook."
People should, of course, be allowed to make mistakes. But if you never speak out against them, your partner never has the chance to "learn some of the important lessons that you may be taking from them in an attempt to make their life easier," Owsley explains.
You're not acting authentically.
People pleasers often act against their true wants and needs—making you "inauthentic," according to Billy Roberts, LISW-S, a therapist and owner of Focused Mind ADHD Counseling in Columbus, Ohio.
"How can one trust the love of another when so much of a relationship is tied up in one's willingness to overextend?" Roberts asks. "When relationships work, both parties are independent people able to express their own needs and compromise accordingly."
Going along with whatever your significant other wants (or even, just what you think they want) doesn't allow the real you into the relationship, adds Paula Lamanna, LCSW, a licensed therapist and founder of Decisive Element Psychotherapy.
"If you tell them you love romantic comedies too, when you really hate them, you're being dishonest with your partner," she says.
You're unable to set boundaries.
Healthy boundaries are an important part of any relationship, Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, a mental health expert and licensed psychotherapist on JustAnswer, tells Best Life. According to Kelman, people pleasers are usually unable to set any boundaries with their partner.
"In these cases, boundaries may be extremely diffused so as not to upset another," she says. "As a result, intrusions may occur and you may end up being used, taken advantage of, and possibly abused."
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You may grow to resent your partner.
Many relationships fall apart because of growing resentment—and that can easily happen when you're living inauthentically and not setting boundaries.
"When you say 'yes' when you mean 'NO,' it may bring peace for the moment but you end up feeling resentful toward your partner," says Nancy Landrum, MA, a relationship coach and creator of the Millionaire Marriage Club. "This can create emotional distance between you and your partner."
The result of this people pleasing is silent resentment, according to Valeria West, MHC-LP, a therapist working at Intuitive Healing Psychotherapy in New York. But just because you aren't speaking it doesn't mean it's not there.
"You may tell yourself you are OK with always saying yes or going out of your way for others, but long-term it can breed negative feelings about the people you are in relationships with, and they are often not aware of it," West says.
As a result, you're not giving your partner a fair chance to fix or correct any of the things you've grown to resent them for.
You're not resolving issues in the relationship.
Every couple fights—that's just a part of life. But being able to work through those arguments with healthy communication is what strengthens a relationship. If you're a people pleaser, you usually don't let things get to that first essential step.
"People pleasers often avoid conflicts or disagreements because they fear upsetting others or being rejected," David Tzall, PsyD, a licensed psychologist based in New York, explains. "But avoiding conflicts can prevent important issues from being addressed and resolved and you don't learn to do so on your own."
When you avoid addressing problems with your partner, you are not able to adequately foster the skills to resolve conflict—which often just creates more issues down the line, according to Tzall.
"Unresolved conflicts can lead to built-up resentment, communication breakdowns, and the deterioration of your relationship," he adds. "Work on developing conflict resolution skills. Learn effective communication techniques, active listening, and the art of compromise."