-- Question for John --
I’ve been with this girl for 6 months. We care for each other very much, but there is one thing she doesn’t like about me. I guess I pretty much let her always have her way and I do just about anything she wants me to do. She has never taken advantage of my love for her, but it bothers her that I seem to do whatever she wants me to do.
I just try my best to keep her happy because her happiness means a lot to me. What advice to have to me about changing tendency to pretty much always let her have her way? I certainly don’t want to pretend to be mean to her.
-- Answer from John --
Being mean to her is not the only — or even a good — alternative to letting her have what she wants all the time. That you would imagine this alerts me to think that you have either a “giver” or “mediator” type of personality. And that you may not even realize this — or the limitations it places on you. The tendency to focus on the other person’s needs can be deeply rooted in one’s personality type.
There is a “giver” type and also a “mediator” type — and each of these do that, unlike the other half dozen types of personalities. Before you start beating yourself up or denying this, know that we all have one type of personality — and that each, in its own way, presents certain limits that we need to face and learn to work through. On the surface, being a people pleaser can seem like a great attribute. A very good thing. But each of these two types overdo it and then this behavior ultimately backfires in some way or another. And it often leads to unhealthy relationships.
Learning about this and working to grow beyond it is a good thing. This would probably mean that you yourself saw clearly what I am talking about, and that you had already suffered some major relationship pains in the past that serve as red flags, that motivate you to look at yourself and change. But I don’t know at all where you are at in your life or awareness.
These tendencies, if you happen to be one of those two types, are deeply rooted and very difficult to change without some third party help — like a counselor or coach who can show you what’s going on, help you develop healthy alternatives, and call you on your stuff when you go unconscious again. I’ve been there and I know these patterns well. I work with alot of clients who suffer from them.
My short answer is to look into this more deeply. It’s not a matter of being mean. It’s a matter of learning that in order to create a healthy and successful relationship — you need to learn to set healthy boundaries, to state your wants and needs, to advocate your agenda, to come forward and be fully present in the situation, which includes exposing who you truly are. If you are one of these two personality types — as I am — the job right now is to learn how to do that and to take the risks that entails in a relationship. She is a wise woman in pointing this out to you.
Ultimately, partners want to fully know each other, and that means she wants to know what you want, feel, what works, what doesn’t for you, and so on. So if you were to pretend anything, pretend that it matters to you what you would like to choose in the many little situations where there are choices to be made. Like what restaurant to eat at. What movie to see. And speak up and suggest directly what you would like to do. That is only a small start. See what comes up for you in just doing that much.
It goes deeper from there. Like saying what would make you happy and telling her that. She has just as much right to be able to feel good about making you happy as you do for her. See what I mean? If you don’t let her know — if you let the subconsciously held fears of your personality type hold you back from speaking your truth (or even knowing it yourself) — then you rob her of that ability to make you happy. And that ultimately ruins a relationship. So beware.
She speaks the truth and wisdom. You need to look at your fears in this matter and probably seek out some counseling help to do so. These personality patterns are tricky and have the ability to stay unseen from us. That is their very nature. You could use some experienced help to explore this and get to the root of changing it.