Do you find yourself needing the approval of your wife before you discipline your children, before you commit to an outing with your buddies, or before you rearrange the furniture in your office?
Where do you suppose this need comes from? As with most of our emotional, psychological, and relationship challenges, the seeds were planted in your youth.
For most pleasers, homes were filled with conflict. In order to save themselves, they learned to avoid conflict, sometimes at all cost. And now as adults, they continue to avoid conflict, often at the expense of their own desires and the health of their relationships. Know this guy? Is it you?
The ugly truth.
Are you a man who fears confrontation? Is it intolerable for you when your wife is upset? Will you go to almost any length to please her, just to make your discomfort disappear? Do you send up trial balloons to see if you can get a tentative approval by tentatively suggesting a tentative idea you had? Do you edit yourself and avoid saying or doing what you know will provoke her, even if it’s honestly what you think is best? Do you spend an inordinate amount of time and energy concerned about how she feels and how she’ll react?.
You’ve been rationalizing, compromising, second-guessing, playing it safe, and avoiding confrontation. As a result, you’ve slowly forgotten what really matters to you, what you were once passionate about, how you truly feel about issues, yourself, and others. Meanwhile, if you’re a dad, you’re teaching your kids to be pleasers, too.
What to do next.
Here’s a good start for shedding the pleaser in you.
Pleasers are not known for their risk taking. For some, a risk might include jumping out of an airplane. But for the pleaser, skydiving might seem like a cakewalk compared to, let’s say, letting your wife know exactly how you’d like to handle discipline the next time your son is disrespectful, or making arrangements for a special night out without worrying whether she’ll approve of your choices.
Taking these honest risks is the path to being that powerful man you want to be, and the confident and loving leader your wife has been waiting for.
Create a New Context
Ever been in the presence of an extremely confident man? You know almost immediately when he’s entered the room. Everyone does. The energy he’s putting out is palpable, and it’s affecting those around him. People respond subconsciously to that energy.
As a pleaser, you emit your own kind energy. That’s why you often don’t have a voice—you’re too busy accommodating those who have pegged you as someone who will satisfy their needs. So it’s critical for you to begin to consciously choose a new path.
Your context is where you’re coming from as you enter the room, begin a discussion, plan an event, or go out on a date. Imagine yourself wearing a sandwich board with your context written on it for the world to see. Because that’s how obvious it is, already, to everyone who meets you. This is your mantra, this is your attitude, this is the man you are in that moment.
Let’s say your wife asks you to pick up something from the store for dinner. Try as you may, you couldn’t find the exact item. So, you buy something close. Your current context as you arrive home might sound like: I hope she doesn’t give me a hard time. A better context would be: Dinner is going to be great and I love you. Hear the difference? This attitude will change the way you walk into the house, the way you give her the alternative item, the way you’ll respond to her criticism, the way you’ll continue to be the man you want to be for the entire night. Rather than having your tail between your legs, you’ll have let it go. Instead of worrying about not pleasing her, you’re available to be the dad you want to be with the kids, or simply present with her in a more confident, attractive way.
To successfully make changes in your behavior, you’ll want the support of other men. Whether it’s a buddy, men’s group, or counselor, support is essential. That support includes being held accountable to your commitments. You’ll want to have specific goals and you’ll want to have your ass kicked when it’s difficult and you want to quit.
In becoming this new man, you’re asking a lot of yourself, and of those closest to you. It’s not an easy process. Prepare by having your support network in place. That’s how you’ll set yourself up for success.
The bigger picture.
Once you become more masculine in your relationship with your wife—and lose the need for her approval—you’ll begin to see how this new man has a place in all areas of your life. And it’s not about being inconsiderate or disrespectful. This is simply about finding your voice, telling the truth, considering other people’s needs and feelings, but not at the expense of honoring your own.
Curing yourself of this tendency to please will actually allow you to be happier in your own skin, be more respectful, be more respected, be a better partner, more compassionate, more present, a better example to your kids, and be more of the man she actually wants you to be.