Heart, Spirit & Mind

Boundaries and people pleasing


people pleasingYou know the best way to get what you want is to ask for it. You also know that the best way to avoid getting what you don’t want is to say “NO”. Then why are these two simple things so hard to do when you are in an intimate relationship?

The difficulty in these simple tasks comes up because we fear the pain of being rejected. You are taking a chance when you ask for exactly what you want in a relationship because you run the risk of refusal, and that can feel like rejection…painful! For some, depending upon childhood experiences, you may feel as though you have done something wrong when your partner refuses your request. There can be a feeling that YOU have been rejected. Partners will always make requests of you, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, if you are not comfortable with the request and you comply with it anyway you will begin to resent the other person. You may even begin to resent yourself for going along with something you don’t believe in. If you’re not getting what you want, or if you’re giving what you don’t want, pressure will build up and there will be an explosion!

If you find yourself thinking: “I can’t say that, it will hurt his/her feelings”, you are not only making a mistake, you are making an excuse. I see so many relationships suffer because one partner will be not honest about their feelings to the other. They use the excuse that asking for what they want, or saying no to what they don’t want will hurt their partner. This usually isn’t about your partner’s feelings at all. It’s about your feelings. Your own fear of being rejected or losing the relationship will have a negative impact on you that will surface sooner or later.

When you are not honest about your feelings you may feel that you have temporarily saved the situation, but eventually you will feel used by your partner and betrayed by yourself. What is happening is that you are settling for immediate gratification instead of what is best for you in the long run. You are avoiding the pain for the time being. Why should there be pain at all when you state your preferences and desires to the one you love? Well, there need not be. Identifying and expressing your feelings honestly accomplishes some really wonderful things, like personal growth and transformation.

When you take the time to identify what is behind your hesitation in certain situations, or your feelings of discomfort, you get to know yourself better. As a matter of fact, that is exactly how to get to know your real self. By getting better acquainted with your real self you experience life in a richer, fuller, more satisfying way. Why? Because you become better equipped to realize what you truly want from life and how to go about getting it. This is the essence of psychotherapy…personal growth by becoming more of your real self.

I’ve just talked about the benefit to you, but what about your relationship? Well just imagine how much more the real you will have to contribute toward your relationship. If you should discover that the person you are with doesn’t like the real you, you will soon see how much better off you are by realizing that now and dealing with it honestly.

The goal in an intimate relationship is to feel calm, centered and focused. When we lack these elements in our relationships it is due in large part to an inability to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with one another. Healthy boundaries allow a person to experience comfortable interdependence with other people, resulting in well functioning relationships and positive self-regard.

When you give up your boundaries in a relationship you: When your boundaries are intact in a relationship you:
Are unclear about your preferences Have clear preferences and act upon them
Do not notice unhappiness since enduring is your concern Recognize when you are happy/unhappy
Alter your behavior, plans, or opinions to fit the current moods or circumstances of another (live reactively) Acknowledge moods and circumstances around you while remaining centered (live actively)
Do more and more for less and less Do more when that gets results
Take as truth the most recent opinion you have heard Trust your own intuition while being open to other’s opinions
Live hopefully while wishing and waiting Live optimistically while co-working on change
Are satisfied if you are coping and surviving Are only satisfied if you are thriving
Let the other’s minimal improvement maintain your stalemate Are encouraged by sincere, ongoing change for the better
Have few hobbies because you have no attention span for self-directed activity Have excited interest in self-enhancing hobbies and projects
Make exceptions for a person for things you would not tolerate in anyone else/accept alibis Have a personal standard, albeit flexible, that applies to everyone and asks for accountability
Are manipulated by flattery so you lose objectivity Appreciate feedback and can distinguish it from attempts to manipulate
Try to create intimacy with a narcissist Relate only to partners with whom mutual love is possible
Are so strongly affected by another that obsession results Are strongly affected by your partner’s behavior and take it as information
Will forsake every personal limit to get sex or the promise of it Integrate sex so that you can enjoy it but never at the cost of your integrity
See your partner as causing your excitement See your partner as stimulating your excitement
Feel hurt and victimized but not angry Let yourself feel anger, say “ouch” and embark upon a program of change
Act out of compliance and compromise Act out of agreement and negotiation
Do favors that you inwardly resist (cannot say no) Only do favors you choose to do (you can say no)
Disregard intuition in favor of wishes Honor intuitions and distinguish them from wishes
Allow your partner to abuse your children or friends Insist others’ boundaries be as safe as your own
Mostly feel afraid and confused Mostly feel secure and clear
Are enmeshed in a drama that is beyond your control Are always aware of choices
Are living a life that is not yours, and that seems unalterable Are living a life that mostly approximates what you always wanted for yourself
Commit yourself for as long as the other needs you to be committed (no bottom line) Decide how, to what extent, and how long you will be committed
Believe you have no right to secrets Protect your private matters without having to lie or be surreptitious


  1. “Have few hobbies because you have no attention span for self-directed activity.”

    Can someone expound on what this means? And how someone would improve this?

  2. It seems pretty straight forward to me. Simply take up something you enjoy doing. If you don’t know what it is, try a bunch of things until you do. By doing that, you direct attention to soothing and fulfilling your own needs instead of expecting it from your partner.

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