I define people-pleasing as when we wear a mask to prevent others from knowing what we truly think and feel so they won’t be angry at us, and we will remain safe and protected while in their good graces. When talking about your ex-spouse, why should you even care to keep them happy since you are divorced? Continue reading to find out just how complex relationships are and how this people-pleasing pattern may be showing up with your ex and others.
We Come By People-Pleasing Honestly
Most of us grew up instinctively learning to people-please our parents for our shear survival, to eat and have shelter and to gain the acceptance of our family. We are pack animals and need our family’s love and approval, and so we the desire to fit in is natural.
My people-pleasing habit was further engrained when I was in 8th grade, and my dad challenged me to make straight A’s, not one A-, for $500. I straightaway set my mind to it and accomplished the goal. I wanted the money for sure, but even more I wanted my dad’s attention and recognition that I was worthy of his love.
The meaning I made out of this experience was, “My worth comes from outside of me–from people (my dad), from accomplishing tasks (the A’s). If I do good, you’ll love me. If I do bad, I need to be punished.” This makes the scorecard of life pretty tough, as life is guaranteed to throw us opportunites to challenge this belief system (BS).
What If We Adopted a New Scorecard for Life?
This is the Loving Self-Advocate (LSA) way. A LSA always gives herself the benefit of the doubt even when life gives her lemons, and it surely will. Please remember that we move towards a practice of being a Loving Self-Advocate more and more everyday. It doesn’t happen all at once.
How People-Pleasing Bleeds Over Into All Areas of Life
People-pleasing has at its roots fear, selfishness and the need to stay in control
"You're Killing Me!" She Said
What is People-Charming?
When we do nice things for people, if we really examine our motives, and we are doing it with no strings attached or expectations of how that person should treat us in exchange, in other words, if we are giving from a place of love, THAT is not people-pleasing. That is authentic giving. Someone once called it people-charming.
What would people-pleasing your ex look like prior to, during and post divorce?
EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE-PLEASING PRIOR TO DIVORCE:
- Not telling them that you resent them for ___________ (not doing their fair share of life responsibilities, being a big kid, not being there for you, etc.).
- Not telling them that you don't like to be intimate with them because you don't want to hurt their feelings (this goes deeper than sex).
- Not figuring out how they lost trust with you and discussing it with them.
- Taking over-responsibility for them, rescuing them because you didn't believe they could handle things (a/k/a being the martyr).
- Not setting boundaries and saying what you would and wouldn't tolerate (this passive-aggressive behavior shows up as expecting them to read your mind and usually ends in blindsiding them).
EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE-PLEASING DURING DIVORCE:
- Letting your ex pick an attorney for both of you and relinquishing custody.
- Not calling them out on manipulative, gaslighting behavior when you know in your gut the truth, but ignore it.
- Not taking a stand for you and your kids because you lack confidence and let yourself be pushed around/bullied.
- Picking an attorney who feels wrong for you (they don't return your calls, seem disengaged, etc.).
- Letting the divorce drag on because you're confused about whether you want it. The divorce process is already delayed enough by things outside of your control, but in this case, the indecision feels safer than going through the chaos of divorce.
EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE-PLEASING POST DIVORCE:
- You don't hold them to their parenting plan because you don't want to be the bad guy so you don't confront them about their inconsistent visitation.
- You don't enforce child support/alimony by having it deducted from their pay.
- You get very angry at them for their selfish treatment of the kids (talking badly about you to them and putting them in the middle, missing visits, not following through on their word) but don't confront them about it.
- Continuing to appease them by stroking their EGO so they'll be nice to you versus being direct and honest with how you feel.
- Putting up with abusive language because you feel leveraged by them (for child support, alimony, or whatever reason).