How to Break the Cycle of People Pleasing

by | Sep 6, 2022

Last time we talked about how Jenny was eager to please in her relationship. She was so eager, that she pleased him to the point of putting her own needs on the back burner. She did whatever he wanted, including helping him restore his boat. She discovered he was perfectly happy to take advantage of her free labor. Finally, she realized she needed to stand up for herself.

Marriage Counseilng, Relationships Therapy, Couples

How did Jenny learn to stand up for her own needs and wants?


  • She noticed she was feeling resentful. She worked hard during the week in a demanding job, and on the weekends, her partner expected her to put in long hours doing hard physical work refurbishing his boat. The more particular he was about sanding and varnishing, the angrier she became. She felt overwhelmed and underappreciated.
  • She asked herself the cause of her anger. She realized she was partly angry at herself for failing to set boundaries, failing to ask for what she needed, and failing to say “No.” She wanted more affection, but not necessarily more sex, which her partner always got when he wanted. And, she wanted to do something (anything!) with her time other than work on his boat.
  • She realized she needed to attend to her own self-care. Early in her relationship, Jenny was so swept up in new love that she neglected her journal and skipped her yoga classes. At the beginning of a relationship, it’s natural to sacrifice self-care for the sake of spending time with your exciting new partner. But over time, such self-sacrifice is an unhealthy, bad habit. Jenny found she needed to attend to her own needs more in order to feel a strong sense of self. And if her partner were really a good person, he’d want her to be her healthiest best.


How did Jenny find authentic love?


Jenny realized that she shouldn’t have to be the only person in a relationship who gave of herself. In her case, she gave and gave and all he did was take. In the process, she lost herself until she realized that this was not really love. When she left the relationship, she knew she had learned a valuable lesson: He did not really care about her because he was willing to let her please him to a fault. She knew she had to love herself enough to attend to her own needs before she could find authentic love with someone else.


When Jenny entered into a relationship with an emotionally mature man, she learned that a certain amount of give and take is a good thing for both partners. Occasionally, she might need to put her partner’s needs before hers when he really needed her support during stressful times. And she should expect that he could do the same for her when the situation arose. But the point is to give love freely without keeping score. There will be times when any relationship will be unbalanced, but it should return at some point with both partners feeling their needs are met.


Loving partners will accept extra support when they need it, and give it to their partners, too, without losing their own identity in the process.



Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:



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