People pleasing in the bedroom? In the Year of the Barbie Movie? Nuh-uh.
Are you a people pleaser?
Many are, deriving self-esteem from the value we add to others’ lives. We’re there to help, glad to pitch in, we go with the flow, taking our cues from those around us—especially our partners. (You don’t have to please all people to qualify for this title.)
But people pleasing has downsides, as it shifts your focus to the needs and wants of others. Taking pride in all you do for them can destabilize your own needs and desires. You might prioritize others instead of your own interests, goals, even boundaries. And though people of any gender can be people pleasers, this tendency has been embedded into the female role for a long time. Some of us have been doing this for most of our lives.
So it might be time to take stock.
Do you even know what you truly do and don’t want, whether it’s goals in life or bliss in bed?
Some people pleasers do just about anything to please without asking for what they want. Some are first-class orgasm fakers, performing pleasure more than they feel it. (And when they do, they convince their partner they love the sex they’re having, whether or not that’s true. Don’t train your partner on how not to please you.)
If you’re not getting enough pleasure during sex, you might blame yourself—or sex itself. Some people pleasers gladly focus on other elements of romance if they haven’t sufficiently focused on their own enjoyment to learn the value of sex as a pleasurable activity. If you’ve engaged in sex acts you didn’t want, the end result is rarely a heartfelt love of sex, especially if that’s happened a lot in your life.
We do this because we love and value someone enough to want to please them. How ironic that this cycle actually undermines intimacy.
You’re not being seen for who you really are if you set your own desires and responses aside. Your partner may not know what you want even if they think they do. Setting your goals and desires aside can impact your self-awareness, your sense of what you can achieve, and your self-esteem.
Get specific about what you want. Try new things (from foods to sex toys to roles and fantasies), staying mindful of what gives you pleasure. Solo sex is a great way to learn this. Sometimes, it really helps people pleasers to disentangle from other people for a little while.
Explore The Three Lists, a tool to help us negotiate what we do, don’t, and might want to try. It helps us identify desires, boundaries, likes and dislikes. And those Maybe items—those tell you a lot because why are they maybes? Learn to understand the whys and wherefores of your sexual needs and limits to build yourself a truly pleasurable sex life.
In short: Make sure you are one of the people you seek to please!
You ask, we answer. Send your relationship questions to [email protected], and one of our experts may just answer them in an upcoming column.
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