What you need to know:
- One of the key signs that you have become a partner-pleaser in your relationship is when you ‘avoid sweating the small stuff’ and opt to be the nice one in the relationship.
- Between men and women, women are more likely to be both people and partner pleasers because of their natural inclination to be caretakers or nurturers.
- Once you become a partner-pleaser, the things you turn a blind eye to gradually build into a resentment snowball.
Marcia Reynolds, the author of Wander Woman says being so nice in a relationship is counterproductive. “While it is in order to be nice to your partner, there is a limit to the dividends that being nice will earn you. Always bear in mind that too much congeniality will undermine your relationship rather than build it,” she says.
Symptoms of defective niceness
One of the key signs that you have become a partner-pleaser in your relationship is when you ‘avoid sweating the small stuff’ and opt to be the nice one in the relationship. “Niceness becomes detrimental when you start to regularly downplay arguments, overlook stings, and sweep painful feelings under the carpet in the relationship,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a social psychologist and the author of The How of Happiness. She says that even when you’re hurting, you will put a cover over your pain just to please your partner. This may include tolerating abuse and even injury such as painful and barbaric sex, in order to please your partner.
Other acts of niceness that could flip over into excessive niceness include too many check-ups on your partner, too much positivity, unsolicited, constant provision of solutions to your partner’s problems, over-protection, and compromising your values, career, or finances in order to fit in your partner’s desires and become likeable to them.
“It could be that to avoid criticism, you have become used to being agreeable. The key is to establish what inspires you to play too nice,” says Dr. Barbara Greenberg, the author of Teenage as a Second Language. In addition, partner pleasing often correlates with people-pleasing. According to psychologist Karen Kawira, people with this behavioural trait have low self-regard. “Persons who have this type of personality will offer themselves to serve others under the illusion that they will fulfill their emotional needs in the process,” she says. Between men and women, Kawira says women are more likely to be both people and partner pleasers because of their natural inclination to be caretakers or nurturers.
Dr. Susan Krauss, the author of The Search for Fulfillment, says once you become a partner-pleaser, the things you turn a blind eye to gradually build into a resentment snowball. Eventually, this resentment puts the relationship down. “A partner pleaser will be less likely to become accusatory and confrontational. Over time, this conflict avoidance in the relationship will cause the couple to become distant and lose their intimate connections,” says Dr. Krauss. Also, Kawira says while one partner will feel her niceness is not reciprocated in kind, the other partner will feel that the relationship and the nice partner’s actions are not genuine.
Dr. Greenberg says there will be a risk that your partner will assume you are uninvolved or evasive in dealing with issues in your relationship. “Being too nice will erode mutual stimulation in your conversations, and the little tensions involved in making big decisions together,” she says. In the end, your niceness will transfer the responsibility of running all the critical aspects of the relationship to your partner. “This will leave them feeling smothered and emotionally worn out,” she cautions.
The other side of the coin
Being a partner-pleaser is not all gloomy. It can be one of the main catalysts to improved relations with your partner. But it will need to be guarded. “You must be fully aware of your actions and position in the relationship to avoid becoming lopsided. This requires you to stop feeling threatened, and become independent in the way you express your thoughts and feelings,” Kawira says. This is echoed by Dr. Krauss, who says that in committed long-term relationships, couples who are high in agreeableness will tend to be better partners and have higher levels of satisfaction in the relationship.