In this Facebook Live, Briana MacWilliams and I dive deep into the following three things:
- How a people pleaser identity can inhibit a healthy relationship and how to become a more authentic romantic partner.
- Partner aggression and suggestions on how to navigate it. Note: The additional text in this post contains a more detailed description of physical aggression as well as offers resources.
- The difference between expressing needs in a relationship and placing conditions on the relationship.
A People Pleaser in Relationships
A people pleaser is someone who care takes or overextends themselves for others while simultaneously neglecting their own needs. Additionally, people pleasers struggle to be vulnerable to ask and receive support when they need it most.
I (Kyle) became a people pleaser because I was conditioned to receive the reward of verbal affection for doing things that made others happy, even at the expense of my own needs.
This conditioning implanted beliefs deep in my psyche about how I should be in a relationship.
I would often say “yes” to everything my romantic partner would want to do. In fact, a previous partner once said, “you know, I’d be more attracted to you if you had a voice about what you wanted to do.”
As Briana states in the Facebook Live, a yes is meaningless if you can’t say no.
The problem is your romantic partner doesn’t feel you because you are so focused on pleasing them that they don’t get the opportunity to build a mutually supportive relationship with you. People pleasing is actually a barrier to intimacy.
Part of the reason it is so difficult to stop being a people pleaser and be a person with healthy boundaries is our self-worth. Often people pleasers gain satisfaction from pleasing others and even place some of their self-worth in the reward of pleasing others.
This makes it difficult to hear another person set a boundary as it can feel like rejection or that this person doesn’t love you. Since your self-worth is intertwined to another person’s actions, it’s difficult to be authentically yourself and allow the other person to be authentically their own person.
Briana and I are not saying that pleasing is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s the underlying intent. Do you please because you want to or do you please cause you fear that if you don’t your partner will leave you?
Healthy romantic partners are able to set healthy boundaries that make it clear who they are and who their partner is. Secure romantic partners put their needs on par with their partners. There’s mutual reciprocity in secure relationships. Boundaries are not your enemy, they are your ally. They help define who you are, which is core to being authentic in your relationships.
To learn more about how to build a mutually intimate relationship with healthy boundaries, watch the video above.
During the Facebook Live, Briana and I received a question about physical aggression.
Physical aggression in a relationship is never okay.
It is important to recognize that there are two different types of physical aggression.
There is severe physical violence or battering that occurs less common and is often a male battering a female for the purpose of dominating her. 1
The Gottman’s classify this as Characterological domestic violence and it accounts for about 20% of domestic violence.
“One partner is a perpetrator; the other, a victim. The perpetrator takes no responsibility for the violence and instead blames the victim for causing it. There’s nothing the victim can do to stop the violence, which often causes her major injuries or even death.” – Drs. John and Julie Gottman
If you are in this type of relationship, I urge you, to find a safe space to call or text the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Note: If your perpetrator is around, you can quickly double click the escape button and the site will automatically pull up a google search for your safety.
In contrast, 80% of physical aggression includes situational violence. This occurs when conflicts escalate to physical actions that tend to be mild such as slaps or pushing. Essentially partner’s become emotionally flooded during a conflict and become physical. Typically this type of violence includes both partners being physical with each other and is often a byproduct of emotional flooding without self-soothing as I discuss in the video.
A telltale sign of situational violence is when partners express that they do not fear for their physical safety when they are not in the presence of their partner. 2
There are some effective treatments that can stop and prevent situational violence. The Gottman’s Couples Together Against Violence program helped eliminate situation domestical violence by teaching partners how to self-soothe and manage conflict in a calm manner. These results were maintained even at the 18-month follow-up.
Expressing Needs and Conditions in a Relationship
Finally, Briana and I explore the difference between authentically expressing your needs in a relational way and making unhealthy conditions on your partner.
To summarize, Briana highlights that conditions of a relationship often include partners putting emotional responsibility for their happiness on their partner. These often appear in the form of demands, domineering behavior such as manipulating, and more.
The problem with demands is they reduce the freedom to have an authentic relationship. You miss the opportunity to witness your partner choosing to do things that will make you happy.
“When the other person hears a demand from us, they see two options: to submit or rebel…To tell if it’s a demand or a request, observe what the speaker does if the request is not complied with… It’s a demand if the speaker then criticizes or judges.” – Dr. Marshall Rosenberg
To learn more, watch the video above.
If you want to learn more about how I assist couples with fostering intimacy year round, check out my Intimacy 5 Challenge here.
If you are interested in learning more about what attachment style you have, and how knowing your attachment style might offer simpler solutions to your relationship problems, I invite you to take Briana’s Quiz.
- Epstein, N. B., Werlinich, C.A., & LaTaillade, J. J. (2015). Couple Therapy for Partner Aggression. In A. S. Gurman, J. L. Lebow, & D. K. Snyder (Eds.), Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy (5th Ed) (pp. 389-411). New York: Guilford Press ↩
- Carney, M. M., & Barner, J. R. (2012). Prevalence of partner abuse: Rates of emotional abuse and control. Partner Abuse, 3, 286-225; Johnson, M.P. (2006). Conflict and control: Gender symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence. Violence Against Women, 12, 1003-1018. ↩