Oh, Please!


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.

Moms :)


Even though I write this blog mostly about my father, I know that my mother was equally as (if not more) influential on my childhood. Whereas I associate my dad with negative things and pain, my mother represents everything good and positive in my childhood. She was the antithesis of my dad- she was sober, kind, patient, loving. Maybe she did not always know what was the best way to protect my sister and me, she did everything in her power to fill our childhoods with happy memories. She was a class mom, my girl scout leader, etc. My sister and I are unusually close to our mom and if anything, she overcompensated for how our dad treated us. Now, she’s not a saint and I had to forgive her a long time ago for not getting my sister and me away from my dad, but now that I am a divorced adult woman, I can understand a little more how hard it was for her. My mom is one of my best friends and I can go to her literally about anything- my day is not complete unless I hear her voice on the phone. I know that even though my dad affected my childhood so, so much, that my mom is the reason that I am a responsible, caring, sensitive, thoughtful, philanthropic, animal loving, craft show attending teacher and adult.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you 🙂

Not afraid anymore

Today I was reading the end of The Secret Life of Bees with my students and I came across a part of the novel that stood out to me. Interestingly enough, I have read the book a number of times and this scene never affected me before. The protagonist has an emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive father. At the end of the book, they have an altercation where she sees him in an entirely different light. She suddenly is not afraid of him anymore…he is no longer a threat. Instead, she looks at him with pity.

I realized that is how I feel about my dad now. Especially since he had the stroke, I oftentimes look at him and he appears so helpless and just…old. Gone is the dad who used to be able to chase me until he caught me…now he hardly has enough strength to push himself up off the couch. And even though he does not deserve it for the way he acted when I was younger, I do feel sorry for him. It’s hard to admit that because the logical part of my mind recognizes he does not deserve my sympathy.