Like many people, I spent a good part of my teens and early 20s in relationships that weren’t working.
My less-than-perfect childhood meant that I was drawn to a certain men, namely those with commitment and/or intimacy issues.
If this sounds all too familiar, it is, but my story differs in that even though once I was aware of I was doing this, I was still drawn to these types of men and still repeating the same patterns.
This isn’t an easy thing to admit to—I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent woman. I can also acknowledge the truth in that famous quote that the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
So why was I doing this?
Simply put, I didn’t know that my endless people-pleasing was attracting these sorts.
My people-pleasing goes back to when I was a kid. At the age of seven, I remember sweeping the floor and cleaning the bathroom without being asked because I though my mother would be pleased.
I remember being in fourth grade when a very strict teacher remarked that I was a “good kid—the sort who always kept quiet and did her homework. It was one of the best compliments I ever received. I went out of my way to be seen as the “good kid” and nice person.
This continued later on as a teen and adult.
For example, I had one boyfriend whom I used to cook dinner for on a regular basis. More often than not, I bought all the food, and I would pay whenever we went to the movies. This was despite the fact he actually earned more than me. I thought that by doing these things it would make him want to keep me around for the long-term, but that didn’t happen.
He dumped me by claiming that being with me was preventing him from potentially seeing with other people. He did suggest we could still be “friends” and sleep together all presumably while he pursued these other relationships but by then, even I could see this was not a good deal.
However, even while I could see this was bad behavior on his part, I felt that somehow if I had given him more-dinners, support, sex,etc.-he would have stayed with me.
It wasn’t until after I had time to reflect on that and other failed relationships that I realized that a lack of gifts was not the problem. In order for someone to love me, I didn’t have to do these things to “prove” my worthiness: I should have been enough.
Interestingly enough, I always felt guilty or resorted to excess praise if someone did something nice for me. I still find myself doing that.
While I still enjoy doing things for people like cooking, giving them gifts, etc. I still need to remind myself not to go overboard or not to think that by doing these things, I am “earning” their undying love and gratitude. There is nothing wrong with doing things for people but unfortunately, there are people who can sense that the person is doing this in an attempt to gain their love and will take advantage of that. It’s sad, but true.
In any case, having someone like me just for me is something I am still getting used to, but it is a very nice feeling.
While I wouldn’t say I am entirely over my people-pleasing ways, at least I can say I am getting better. I am also learning to appreciate people doing things for me for a change.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise