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People Pleasing & Poly: Resentment and Broken Promises

People Pleasing & Poly: Resentment and Broken Promises

“I’m a people pleaser,” they say. “I can’t help myself. When I see someone wants something, I have to give it to them. I need to make people happy.” And it sounds like a good thing, at least on the surface. What could possibly be wrong with people pleasing?

Plenty, it turns out.

Focusing solely on pleasing others leaves your own needs unmet.

People pleasers are conflict averse and afraid of troubling others.  Because of these qualities, they often don’t ask for help when they need it.

And forget about self-care. They spend so much of their time and attention catering to other’s needs that their own go ignored.

All of this can contribute to a growing resentment. This resentment builds silently with no one — not even the people pleaser –realizing it’s even happening until it’s too late.

One day they suddenly snap, boiling without any advance warning that they were even the slightest bit upset.

People pleasing is the fast track to broken promises.

Because they have an incredibly difficult time saying “no” to people, people pleasers lack the ability to set healthy boundaries. They quickly become overextended. Committed to more than they can possibly fulfill, people pleasers are forced to break promises they never should have made in the first place.

They say that you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

And it’s not only that you can’t. You shouldn’t try to please all of the people all of the time.

If a person’s expectations are unreasonable, disappointing them is not only okay, it’s the APPROPRIATE response.

The opposite is also true. Meeting those unreasonable expectations? Could very well be utterly inappropriate.


When I entered into polyamorous relationships and especially once I became a busy hinge, I found that my former way of relating in romantic relationships (people pleasing to the point of emotional martyrdom) no longer worked with multiple people in the picture.

When Partner A wanted something, and Partner B wanted something that directly opposed that, I was forced to consider what wanted. I had to learn to advocate for my preferences, even when they weren’t universally popular. To discuss, negotiate, and compromise. And occasionally to go against the grain and decide to do something that only wanted.

I became my own primary.


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