I don’t like to disappoint people.
I work to not be a bother to others and I like to be liked.
On the surface, these might seem to be good qualities in a wife. I am conscientious and attentive and often put the needs of others above my own.
But there’s a dark side to this tendency in a relationship.
One that I only became aware of after my first marriage ended.
And one that I’ve had to actively work on improving both in my marriage and in my relationships in general.
I focused on my efforts on the following three areas –
1 Be Aware of – and Make Space For – Your Own Feelings and Needs
As a natural people pleaser, I used to respond to other’s requests with a quick, “Sure,” before ever even checking with myself. This wasn’t fair to either one of us. I would easily neglect or un-prioritize my own needs in order to take care of the other person. And eventually, I would become resentful which would then bring an unspoken negative undercurrent to the interactions.
If you’re a people-pleaser, you’re not going to suddenly stop caring about those around you. But you can make the effort to give yourself just as much attention. Your feelings and your needs matter as well. Before agreeing – or volunteering – to do something for someone else, check in with yourself first. Is this an appropriate way to help? Are you in a good place to extend a hand? Is there something between a full “yes” and a total “no” that feels better?
It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. In fact, it’s necessary. If you give everything you have, you have a limited amount to give. If instead, you take the time to care for and replenish yourself, you end up with more to share.
2 Don’t Take Ownership of Other People’s Feelings
I have a tendency to struggle when those I care about are irritable or grumpy. I will take on their mood as my responsibility to somehow diagnose and fix.
Yeah, I know.
Not. My. Job.
People-pleasers want those around them to be happy. And they easily take on the job of trying to make others happy. Yet it’s a job we’re guaranteed to fail.
3 Actively Practice Disappointing People
This was the hard pill for me to swallow. It’s important to be able to say the hard things even if it disappoints – or even hurts – another person. And like with anything, it takes practice to get better.
Now, I’m not recommending that you start a side hustle as an internet troll, spewing vitriol wherever your fingers take you. What I am suggesting is that you practice speaking your truth. Say “no” to the invitation that you would normally agree to only out of obligation. If you’re not happy about a dynamic within the relationship, speak up. Learn to distinguish between your part – delivering these missives with kindness and clarity – and what is not your responsibility – the other person’s reaction to your words.
In order to be a good wife, I need to be willing and able to disappoint – and even hurt – my husband.
I hate even thinking about that. It’s the last thing I would ever want to do. But I’ve also learned that things left unsaid in an attempt to not cause someone pain only build in intensity until they eventually erupt.
In some ways, I am still a people-pleaser. I have to work to not take social media comments personally (I keep reminding myself that I’m not Burger King- they can’t always have it their way) and I have to be very intentional about the responsibilities I take on at work. But I’ve come a long way, in both awareness and action.
And that makes me happy.