Are you suffering from the "disease to please?"
As a divorce and relationship coach, one of the most common things I hear when I speak with partners contemplating divorce is that each feels as though they are doing so much for the other and that their partner is unappreciative.
People pleasing is when each one feels as though they are doing everything possible to try and make things work and that their partner is not putting forth the same effort.
The usual expression of frustration is, “I have really been trying and I just don’t know what s/he wants!” The interesting thing is that I usually hear this same thing from BOTH partners.
How can it be possbile that both people are trying so hard to please and nothing is working?
- Whether you are working on maintaining your relationship through settling your divorce, the disease to please or constantly trying to please other people can undermine all your efforts.
Whenever either of you repeatedly sacrifice what you really want to try and please the other and are not met with appreciation and gratitude, you get resentful. Resentment leads to anger. Anger leads to the breakdown of communication. And eventually you hear yourself saying, “But I did A, B and C for him/her and s/he still doesn’t appreciate it. S/he is so selfish!”
Where does the resentment come from? Typically, the resentment comes from two places:
- When we continually place someone else’s needs ahead of our own, we actually place greater value on the other person than on ourselves. Somewhere in our consciousness, we are telling ourselves that the other person is more deserving of having their needs met than we are. Are one person’s needs actually more important than the other? While we are trying to be kind and loving, we are actually creating a deep imbalance in our relationship. These imbalances often lead to co-dependence, a diminishment of intimacy, and ultimately the creation of emotional walls as protection.
- Frequently when we try to please our partners, the things we do are not what really matters to them so there is no appreciation. We keep doing everything we can think of from a generous place in our heart, and somehow our partner is never satisfied. Soon, we hear ourselves thinking, “Is this person I married – the father/mother of my children - really so selfish?
The answer is: probably not. Rather, the things that we do to try and please our partners are simply not the things that really matter to them.
- “But I gave my partner all day to play golf. Doesn’t that make me a generous partner?”
- “But I let my partner go for a long weekend with friends and I took care of the kids. Doesn’t that make me a generous partner?”
- “But I gave my partner the entire living room set in the settlement, how come he/she is still battling with me?”
The fact is, if what is missing in your relationship is the ability to communicate honestly with one another, then the day of golf, the weekend away, and the living room set are nice, but they are not really relevant. They do not fill the “intimacy void” in your relationship. They do not substitute for the fact that you are not in honest dialogue with each other.
Whether you are preparing for divorce, in the midst of negotiating a divorce settlement or post-divorce, it is time to rid yourself of this disease. It doesn’t ever serve in having a healthy relationship with yourself or your partner.
Try this cure for Disease to Please:
- Step #1: Learn to ask yourself what you want and what is important to you. Dialogue with yourself first, before you think about what to do for your partner to try and meet their needs or make things better. This is not selfish; it is self care.
- Step #2: ASK your partner what is important to them. Ask, rather than assume. One of the most powerful questions that we can ask is, “What do you need here?” Don’t assume and exhaust yourself trying to guess what they need, ask. “What do you need and what is important to you about that?”
- Step #3: Share what your needs are and discuss with each other how both of your needs can be met.
It is easy to prescribe, challenging to follow, and very powerful.
Whether you are trying to preserve the relationship while negotiating a divorce agreement and communicating with your former spouse, try it. When you consistently follow these three steps, you may be amazed at the response and the results.
About the Author
Adina Laver, M.Ed, MBA, CPC, and founder of Divorce Essestials, is a divorce and relationship coach who works with clients who are in the process of separating, getting a divorce, or are in any other way undergoing a significant change or transformation in their lives, and who want to engage in this experience consciously and with integrity. Follow Adina at
Topics: Your Wellbeing