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Why People-Pleasers in Relationships Can’t Succeed Long-Term

A couple hugging.
People-pleasers in relationships can’t self-actualize to become good partners.

Is your inability to say NO hurting your relationship and leaving you unfulfilled?

Relationships require compromise. One person wants X, the other person wants Z, so they both go with Y because it’s a solution that satisfies both of them.

There are some relationships where there is no compromise. One person wants A, the other wants B, so the couple gets B. There’s no talking it out, no communicating. Just one person getting what they want all the time. This often happens with people pleasers in relationships.

People pleasers are individuals who try to make everyone happy. They might consider themselves the group’s mom/dad friend or the peacemaker, and they do what they can to make sure everyone’s happy, even if it’s simply not logistically possible. In a relationship, a people pleaser focuses all their efforts on their partner.

So, what does this look like? If you’re the pleaser, it looks like all give and no take. The pleaser gives and gives and gives and gets nothing back. And they expect nothing back. They’re more or less fine with the dynamic.

The Reasoning Behind People-Pleasers in Relationships

Is people-pleasing manipulative? Do they acquiesce to their partner’s every desire in order to manipulate the person that they’re dating?

The truth is that it can be manipulative, but it’s not malicious. Unlike most other manipulators in relationships, people pleasers aren’t doing it because they’ve got some ulterior motive. Some of them may not even realize that they’re doing it at all.

Often, the reason people become too agreeable in their relationships is in response to a trauma they’ve suffered in the past. Maybe they had a family that was incredibly demanding and punitive when those demands were not met.

Because of that, they never developed the backbone needed to voice their wants and needs and instead learned to break themselves down to build others up. One of the biggest consequences of people-pleasing is the loss of self. People lose sight of themselves trying to focus on pleasing others.

Some people also feel as if they don’t have a choice but to continuously acquiesce. Maybe they don’t feel as if they’re equal to their partner and don’t have the right to raise their voice in any way.

Maybe they were in a relationship that didn’t work out and now they’re determined to keep the one they’re in, including making sure that every single desire their partner has is met.

Do people-pleasers have low self-esteem? It’s possible that they do. It’s possible that they think that they’ll get left high and dry if they’re not making their partner perfectly happy 24/7.

Being in a Relationship with a People-Pleaser

What happens when you’re dating a people-pleaser? How can you tell that your partner isn’t subsuming their own needs and desires to satisfy yours? Here are some signs to look out for.

They Have No Personality

Does your partner have any hobbies? Do they have anything that they want to do in their alone time? If they don’t have any hobbies, it’s probably because they don’t have time for hobbies.

The reason they don’t have time for themselves is they’re always helping you out with whatever you’ve got going on. They don’t make time for themselves because they want to keep all their time free for you. They might join you in your hobbies, but they won’t have any interests that don’t involve you.

It doesn’t mean they don’t have their own wants and desires. It’s just that they become so mentally weak that instead of being decisive about doing what they want, they find themselves people pleasing time and time again.

A man hugging a woman.
People-pleasing can stump your relationship’s growth.

Nothing Is Ever Wrong

Another sign that someone’s a people pleaser is if nothing is ever wrong. Did you forget their birthday? It’s fine, all days are the same anyway. Did it slip your mind that it was your anniversary and you forgot to get her flowers or a gift? Flowers die and material possessions don’t matter anyway. Nothing is ever wrong with them. Nothing you do bothers them. Everything is always cool and great.

Even when something does go wrong, they’ll never say that anything is wrong. She’s never going to nag you for anything.

You might think that they’re simply being an incredibly cool person. They might be really chill about things like that. Or they’re afraid of rocking the boat and confronting you about it. They’re terrified that if they rock the boat in any way, you’ll leave and walk right out of the relationship.

They Can’t Pick a Restaurant

If you’re in a relationship, you’ve probably eaten out on more than one occasion. But you may notice that your partner never picks the restaurant. You ask her what she’s in the mood for and she replies that she’s down for anything.

She’s not being an egalitarian eater. What’s happening is that she wants you to be happy, even if it means she eats cuisine she didn’t want to. She’s worried that if she picks the wrong restaurant, you’ll be mad at her.

Some people pleasers in relationships are so extreme with their people pleasing that they’ll even eat food that’s not just unappealing to them, but also food they’re allergic to.

When You’re the People Pleaser

But, what if it’s not your partner who’s the people pleaser? She’s got no problem voicing her opinions. What if it’s you that’s got a hard time making your desires known? How can you tell that you’re the pleaser?

And is it such a bad thing in a romantic relationship? After all, you want to make your partner happy, right? It’s not like being a giver is a bad thing, right?

You Need to Be Liked

The most obvious sign that you’re a people pleaser in general, and not just in relationships, is that you need others to like you. The very thought of someone disliking any aspect of you gives you anxiety or makes you physically ill.

If you’ve got a really bad case of people pleasing, then the very thought of someone rejecting any part of you can send you into a days-long anxiety spiral. If this resembles you at all, then you might be akin to a little Miss people pleaser.

A woman holding on to a man.
By focusing on others, people pleasers can’t focus on themselves.

Saying ‘No’ Is Not an Option

Building on the above, you can’t say ‘no’ to anyone, especially not to your partner. The word might as well be in a foreign language as far as you’re concerned. It’s one thing to always say ‘yes’ to your partner. It’s another thing entirely to say ‘yes’ to everyone you know.

Perhaps you can’t stop being the go to person for everything. But acting in this manner isn’t conducive to you or your relationship.

Acquiescing to your partner’s every whim means that they won’t know what makes you happy because you never let them know if you’re unhappy. By not telling your partner what they’re doing wrong, they’re going to keep doing it and it’s going to keep hurting you. It might build up resentment.

It might even get to the point that you apologize when it’s your partner who screws up. You might even apologize for screwups when no one is to blame, like if the restaurant brings you the wrong order.

The Drawbacks of People-Pleasing

Being a people pleaser in the relationship also means that you rob yourself, your partner, and your relationship of room to grow and change for the better. You take away your chance to be happy, you prevent your partner from becoming a better version of themselves, and you stop your relationship from being truly happy.

And being a people pleaser when you’re a man dating a woman makes you look spineless and less masculine.

Being Taken Advantage Of

For people pleasers, the fear of letting others down is greater than the fear of being taken advantage of.

But being everything for everyone means you likely will be taken advantage of, like a friend asking you to pick them up from the airport but their flight doesn’t get in until 3 in the morning on a workday.

Not to mention that trying to be everything for everyone leaves you with less time and attention for your relationship and the people who matter in your life.

How to Overcome People-Pleasing

Don’t lose hope. There is a method to healing people-pleasing, whether it’s you or your partner.

The first thing to do is to set boundaries. If you find yourself being the people pleaser, you need to tell yourself that you can say the word ‘no’ and it won’t be the end of the world. If your partner is the one that can’t set a boundary, then you have to let her know that you’ll still be there even if she denies you a request.

When it comes to voicing wants and needs, it might be best to start slow. If you or your partner have never made any decisions in the relationship, then starting slow can help avoid going overboard.

Think about going out to eat. If you’re the pushover, then put your foot down and insist that you get to pick the restaurant. If she’s the pushover, then withhold from making a decision. Make it clear that she has to make a decision and then speak that decision out loud or you’ll both go hungry. Then she’ll have to tell where she wants to eat.

People-pleasers in relationships can make themselves seem like great partners at first. But eventually, they’ll start to crack. No one can live for one person forever and they’ll eventually start losing parts of themselves. There are a few ways for a people-pleaser to be more assertive with their wants and needs, it’s just going to take the breaking of a few bad habits.

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