Y is for Yes: Three Scary Ways Your People Pleasing Sabotages Intimacy

I was out for a run the other day along a path I normally take where I curve around the field of a school. Usually, when I’m out running there are kids practicing lacrosse or football or some other sport. On this run it was baseball. As I ran by, a ball went over the fence. I had options. I could have kept on running because, well, it was their ball and those kids are agile enough to hop over the small fence. It wasn’t my job to help them out nor did I particularly need to. Or I could instead go out of my way and run off my path, grab the ball and throw it over the fence so they didn’t have to go out of their way. I chose this time to help them out. I was at the start of my run so I still had the energy to run a bit off course.

On the way back another ball flew over the fence. Another decision.

My past self would have run back in and helped them out, no hesitation. But this time I kept on running. Why? I was tired since it was at the end of my run, and I wanted to get back home in time to shower and get ready for date night. Saying yes to running off course again would have delayed that or potentially meant I wouldn’t have time for a shower. I chose to say yes to myself and my relationship and kept on running.

Some of you may think, “sheesh that would have delayed things, what, like 30 seconds? That’s nothing!” But what happens if you keep saying yes to running off your path to help others out? Sure, this one instance was 30 seconds but when there is another yes, and another, and another… the time and energy begins to sneakily add up.

Now, I’m not saying being nice is a bad thing, but when left unchecked your pleasing and helping others with an automatic “yes” can wreak havoc on your relationship. Not only does stepping in all the time not give the other person a chance to discover how they can address the situation themselves, but it also depletes your internal energy, creates resentment, and doesn’t allow you to be vulnerable, all of which are a detriment to intimacy in your relationship.

It’s Exhausting

As a person, you only have so much “yes” to give. Try as you may you aren’t a superhero, sorry. And if you’re an introvert like me you may have an even smaller supply of yes hanging about each day. When you step out of your path to help others all the time you are exhausting yourself and that means what you need to do for yourself likely gets neglected. If you keep stepping in to help others with whatever their equivalent to a baseball over the fence is, you are also enforcing a dynamic of them knowing they can always ask for help and they will learn to depend on you to always show up because you say yes every time. I get it, it’s nice to be depended on and needed, a topic that we will save for another day.

For today, I want you to see that for every yes you say to others, you are as a result saying no to yourself. YOU deserve the yes to yourself too. Not only do you deserve it but you NEED it. At the very foundation of your relationship is you and your care for you. If you are giving out your energy to others all the time then there is no time, space and energy for you and the self-care you need to be calm, relaxed and feel good about yourself. All of these elements are key to transitioning into intimacy with your partner. If you aren’t allowing the energy to be taking care of yourself and saying yes to you, then there is a slim chance you will feel rejuvenated and relaxed enough to show up in your relationship emotionally, physically or sexually.

It Builds Resentment

Your people-pleasing tendencies not only will have you running on fumes, but it also can create resentment inside of you. Resentment, which is essentially feeling bitter about being treated unfairly, is like the kryptonite of intimacy. It weakens it and can slowly destroy it. How? When you say yes all the time to address others’ needs, like your partner’s needs, what happens is your needs get pushed aside. When you constantly do things for others by saying yes either with your words or actions, then either your own self-care needs or the ways you need your partner to show up for you gets ignored. If all the yes energy goes out of you but not in, this creates an imbalance that your whole body, emotions included, will feel is unfair. Each yes moment to others can add a brick to a resentment wall if not balanced with a yes from others, especially your partner, coming your way. If left unchecked, the resentment simmers inside you and builds behind the sneaky resentment wall growing between you and your partner.

Because many women primarily have a responsive desire, the emotional connection is a vital element for many women to be able to step into the physical and sexual connection with their partner. If you have a wall of resentment created by your reflex to say yes all the time there is a slim-to-none chance of stepping into the intentional intimacy time with your partner with any openness. Instead, your body, mind and emotions are going to say a collective “heck no”. Unfortunately, many women add to the yes pile and say yes to sex anyway out of a sense of obligation, yet again giving, giving, giving. Making sure that you negotiate this intimacy time so you are saying yes to yourself and what you need, which will be key in establishing a healthy balance in your relationship.

It’s Not Vulnerable

Sometimes saying yes to everything can be confused with vulnerability. On the surface, it looks like you are being open because you are saying yes and being there for everyone. Instead, being open to saying yes all the time to others is actually closing you off and you hiding yourself which is not being vulnerable. I know this also personally because I’m a recovering people pleaser myself. Think about it, if you are saying yes to others all the time, including your partner, then you don’t have to speak up about your wants and needs. It’s them, them, them all the time with no space for any “me” in there. It’s a lot less vulnerable focusing on others than to speak up for what you want and need and to give your partner a chance to show up for you.

Speaking your wants and needs is 100% vulnerable, no doubt about it. But it’s vital to be vulnerable and to speak your needs otherwise you’ll be exhausted with too much give and your resentment wall will soon look like The Great Wall of China. The result of this is you won't feel the love from your partner and the emotional connection between you erodes. If you don’t speak up and help your partner love you by saying what you need, your partner won’t have a chance to say yes to you in the ways that you need. Stepping back to allow this yes to come to you is what will help you feel loved and feel a fair, rather than unfair, balance in your relationship. If you aren’t sure what your needs are, as is the case with many people pleasers, a great place to start is with The Five Love Languages.

Remember, It’s all a balance. I’m certainly not asking you to say no to others every time. It’s OK to run in and help throw the baseball back over sometimes, but it’s also OK to just keep on running. It’s about making a choice to be kind to others but to also leave enough yes space and energy for you. Not only do you deserve it but saying yes to yourself provides you with space for with more energy, minimizes any resentment, and opens you up to more connection and intimacy with your partner.