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What Me, a Pleaser? Breaking the Vicious Cycle in Relationships

Red haired woman with stress headache

As a therapist, I hear many stories. By asking questions, I pretty quickly get to the root of relationship issues. Often those issues reflect skills taught in our Extraordinary Self e-Courses. For example …

I picked up the phone and listened to Grace on the other end. She started crying and said through her tears, “I am 46, with three grown kids and divorced. I want a relationship but am so confused. I’m not sure if I found the right guy.”

My response in my softest and most empathetic voice was: “Tell me about him and about you.” Grace proceeded to tell me her story:

“I met Phil through a friend. He lives in the Midwest, and I am here in New York. We have been together for a year, but have seen each other only about eight times.

Last time I visited him, about four months ago, I broke up with him and now he is pursuing me again. Maybe I should agree to give it a try but he wants a commitment. I don’t know what to do.

He said we can spend New Year’s Eve together, but only if I make a commitment that we be together moving forward. I don’t know how I feel about that. One part of me wants to be with him and the other part is so confused. And I don’t want to be alone.


I asked,
“Why did you break up with him
in the first place?

Grace responded,
“Three reasons.”

1. When I went out to his house last time for eight days, I had wanted to go out with him alone for dinner at least twice. He agreed but then each day, he had another excuse. First, his daughter’s fiancé was coming over. Then, we had to have dinner with his boss, a command performance. And so it went. No dinners alone.

2. I brought an outdoor projector with me to his home, figuring he, his grown girls who live with him and their boyfriends, would love to watch movies in the yard. He totally ignored my request that we watch a movie until I packed up my car. One of the daughter’s boyfriends helped me and saw the projector. He brought it back to the house and yelled, “Movie Time.” Then everyone watched a movie. They enjoyed. I was upset.

3. I bought a dog from a kennel in Illinois and brought the dog to Phil’s house. I noticed a problem and brought the dog to a vet. The diagnosis – hip dysplasia. So I returned the dog to the kennel. When I got back to Phil’s, he made no effort to comfort me. He said he was busy making dinner for guests.

woman on phone with therapiist

I then asked Grace, “Did the same kind of neglect of you and your needs happen with your ex-husband?”

Of course Grace said, “Yes.”

Then, I asked if she were treated this way growing up.

She replied: “Yes, by my father.”

By now, I am sure all of you recognize Grace’s problem. Not only did she put each man’s needs above her own, she never protested. She submerged her own needs, believing she then would “be good” and get approval.

When I probed further, I discovered that Grace was absolutely petrified of being alone. She also gave into the males in her life so that she would not have to be on her own.

Grace now started crying for a different reason. She said, “You are right, but I don’t know what to do about it. I am really stuck. I don’t know how to change. I don’t know how to communicate my needs and negotiate with a male in my life. It is safer to just give in. That way, I won’t be alone.”


“It is easier to just give in,
she said.
“That way, I won’t be alone.”

Grace further told me that her pattern with her ex-husband had been to deny her own needs, give in to him and then distance into her own world and life. Eventually she felt so distant from him that divorce was the next inevitable step.

I told Grace that Extraordinary Self e-courses and coaching could help.

Grace and I continued to work together until her changes became automatic patterns. She also worked through two Extraordinary Self e-Courses: Overcome Self-Defeating Patterns and Power Up for Self-Confidence and Self-Worth.

What did Grace learn? Here is a summary:

  • She learned to value herself and her own needs more. She learned to believe in her self-worth and that she deserved to get her needs met.
  • She learned to fill her aloneness or emptiness with her own self-reflections. She spent hours alone journaling. Her journals filled up with reflections on how she could have communicated differently and calmly with both her ex-husband and with Phil. Through journaling, and the act of moving thoughts from obsessive rumination out onto paper, she gained clarity on her needs and communication style.
  • She learned to STOP and DETACH when she started to want to give up her needs.
  • She learned to communicate her needs based on standards of good communication.
  • She practiced on Phil. Rather than agreeing to a commitment, she told him that she would commit to communicating with him more fully so that her needs, as well as his, would be heard and attended to,.

When Grace confronted Phil with her needs, he fled the scene. Through learning and commitment to her own happiness, Grace ended up with a great new relationship with someone else.

Can you, or someone you know, relate to Grace’s story? If ‘yes’, please visit our Extraordinary Self® Program at www.extraordinaryself.com to see how we can help. Or contact us at: Coaches@ExtraordinarySelf.com