One recurring topic I discuss in therapy is my tendency to people please. Many of you fellow COAs might understand this. I first noticed this when I was married (or more specifically towards the end of my marriage). When things were really bad with my ex-husband, I would do anything to try to make him happy. I was overwhelmed by his demands (which were huge…like having a baby), so I felt like if I could do tons of little things to make him happy, he would love me more and would be nicer to me. The best example I can think of is a blueberry cake donut. This was his favorite from Dunkin Donuts and I would occasionally stop and get him one on my way home. One day he was especially grumpy and when I went to the local DD, they were out of that kind. Then I went to another DD, then another…and at the third one I finally found the donut. Now, this makes me seem so thoughtful and nice (and I do genuinely think I am a thoughtful and nice person), but I did this out of fear and with ulterior motives. Looking back on it now, it seems so stupid and pathetic, but at the time I was so desperate to do anything that would make him happy, even momentarily. The saddest part was that he really didn’t care. I don’t mean that to sound like he was unappreciative, but my gesture was usually not met with the expectation I had. That blueberry cake donut did not result in more love or affection and I was usually left disappointed.
While my boyfriend and I were going through some “moving in together” growing pains recently, I found myself reverting back to that behavior. It was like I was trying to anticipate his every wish, which made me feel bad about myself because I felt weak. My boyfriend would have gladly went to get himself more cereal and probably wouldn’t have noticed if he was out of milk (this is the guy who finds random things in the cabinet to squirt in his coffee if he is out of milk lol). It became an endless cycle: I would do something nice, have high expectations, he would fail to meet my expectations and I would feel crappy, disappointed and unappreciated.
I think people pleasing is an avoidance technique and now that I have reflected a lot about my tendency to do it, I know that it stems from my dad. If my dad was drunk and being mean, I would do anything to try to get him to stop. I tried to be perfect, to do everything right so that I wouldn’t upset him or rock the boat. When he was sober, I tried to do nice things for him or to be extra upbeat to try to keep him sober. As an adult, I know that there was nothing that I could have done to control whether or not my dad drank. And I learned the hard way that buying a hundred blueberry cake donuts would not have saved my marriage.