When I was a little girl, my best friend, Jennie and I would frequently have conversations like this:
Jennie: Do you want to play school?
Jennie: Oh, goodie! Do you want to be the teacher or the student first?
Me: Umm, I don’t know. What do you want to be first?
Jennie: Well…I can be the teacher first, unless you would rather be the teacher.
Me: No, you can be the teacher. Are you sure? Would you rather be the student?
Jennie: OK. I can be the student. Are you sure you want to be the teacher?
And on and on it went until we would ask her mother to pick a number from one to 10 and whichever one of us had the closest got to be the teacher. Like this mattered in the scheme of things? How much time did we waste deciding who would be the teacher when we could have been playing school instead?
Fast-forward 30 years after my childhood to a conversation I recently overheard at the grocery store. A young couple was attempting to make dinner plans:
Her: Hey, I’m in the mood for sushi tonight. Wanna get some?
Him: Yeah, sushi sounds great. Where are you thinking?
Her: That place we ordered from last time?
Him: Sure, that was really good…Ya know, I did hear about another place that is supposed to even better.
Her: Oh? Do you want to go there instead?
Him: We could try it. Whaddya think? The first place was really good, though.
Her: I’m game. Why not? Let’s try the new place…if that’s OK with you.
Him: That sounds great. Or we could go to the usual place tonight and try the new one next time. Whatever you think, sweetie.
Her: Either way sounds good. I’m just hungry!
Him: So, we’ll go to the usual place? Or try the new one?
Her: Whatever you want, babe.
I almost offered to pick a number from one to 10 so they could eat sometime that evening.
My boyfriend and I often have conversations like this, too, because as he pointed out, we are both the pleasers in our relationship. We both want the other person to be happy, so we are all too willing to put our own desires or needs on the back burner at any moment. We did this to a fault one time, and after much discussion the next day, discovered that we had both wanted the same outcome, but in second-guessing each other, we arrived at the exact opposite result.
When we figured this out, I said to him, “Seriously? You wanted what I wanted and I wanted what you wanted and neither one of us got what we wanted?”
“Yeah,” he said. “We need to stop doing that.”
But, if you are a pleaser by nature, as some of us have been since childhood, how do you change this behavior in your adult relationships? (See Part 2 to answer this question and for an example on how to apply the answer to a real situation.)
Check out my Single Parenting column here.
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