Are you the kind of person that goes along with what everyone else wants when you’re deciding where to go out for dinner? Do you tend to be more fixated on whether or not everyone around you is having a good time instead of considering your own experience? Yes? Same. Welcome to the world of people-pleasing.
As a (recovering) people pleaser, I regularly prioritize other people’s needs and desires at the expense of my own. If I’m being entirely honest, it’s usually out of the desire to be liked. I will go to *great* lengths to avoid others thinking negatively of me. People-pleasing has had a huge impact on my everyday life, from volunteering at work for projects I absolutely don’t want to do, to awkwardly smiling at friends when they say something that offends me, or simply going along with whatever movie or restaurants everyone else wants to go to, even if I don’t like it.
Relatable? Well, what if I told you people-pleasing invades not only your day-to-day life but also your sex life? Yup. People-pleasing can have an extensive impact on your sex life, oftentimes leading to faking orgasms, performative sex, intense self-criticism, or unfulfilling sex. I can tell you from first-hand experience just how unpleasant people-pleasing in the bedroom is, and that each of these effects is in fact very real.
Telltale Signs You’re People-Pleasing in the Bedroom
If this sounds familiar, there’s a good chance you’re people-pleasing between the sheets. Here are five signs you might be people-pleasing in the bedroom.
You make sounds that don’t reflect how you feel
Have you ever faked moans, heavy breaths, or thrilling screams to show your partner you’re having a *much* better time than you actually are? Maybe you want to boost their confidence or show your partner just how good you are in bed. I most definitely have. While there is research that shows exaggerating sex noises at times can increase arousal, if you’re making noises that do not reflect how you actually feel, you might be people-pleasing.
You fake orgasms
If you take your fake noises to the next level to give a 10/10 fake orgasm performance, this is another sign you might be people-pleasing. Most people fake orgasms because, in some way or another, they want to protect their partner’s feelings, even when it comes at the expense of their own comfort.
You’re more concerned with your partner’s pleasure than your own
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s when I learned sex isn’t just about satisfying my partner. I had never considered whether or not I enjoyed sex because I thought it was about fulfilling my partner’s needs. If you find yourself entirely focused on your partner’s experience or putting their enjoyment above all else, this is a sign you’re disregarding your own needs and people-pleasing.
You’re overly critical of yourself
As a symptom of years of people-pleasing, I struggled with performance anxiety. I spent entire sexual experiences guessing what my partner thought of me, what they needed, and if I was performing well. I was hypercritical of my body and my technique because I was so fixated on being liked and wanting my partner to see me as “good” at sex.
You struggle to give feedback
One of the telltale signs of people-pleasing is struggling to give feedback. Oftentimes, people pleasers feel concerned that if they don’t go along with their partner’s preferences or if they ask for changes or adjustments, they will no longer be the person their partner wants them to be. This can result in pushing through pain or discomfort during sex, not having orgasms, or generally having mediocre sex.
What to do if you’re suffering from people-pleasing in the bedroom
The first thing to do to break this habit is to recognize you’re doing it. While this may sound simple, recognizing what behaviors are a desire to please will help you figure out how to navigate those situations differently. Not just that, but your specific people-pleasing patterns can be an insight into why you’re people-pleasing and how to solve it.
If you’re people-pleasing in the bedroom, it’s likely you’re doing it in your everyday life, too. Think about where this shows up day-to-day and start breaking the people-pleasing cycle in the least intimidating situations. Who are you most comfortable with? In a moment where you’d typically go along with whatever they want to do, ask yourself what you really want, and practice saying no or sharing what your preferences actually are.
Breaking your people-pleasing habit takes time and practice, and voicing what you want is a skill you have to build. Start by practicing in the easiest moments.
Use one-word requests
For people pleasers, it can be challenging to say what you do and don’t like. Alas, say hello to one-word requests, a communication strategy from Alison Moon, author of Girl Sex 101. One-word requests can be a less intimidating way to ask for adjustments during sex. Basically, you use one word to make a request, like slower, faster, harder, left, down, deeper, wetter…you get the picture.
Once you’re comfortable with one-word requests, you can graduate to adding more words to your request, by saying things like, “Will you do that slower?” or “I love when you do that even deeper.”
Ask your partner to check-in
For people pleasers, it can be easier to voice what you want when someone prompts you, instead of having to bring it up on your own. Let your partner know you have a hard time bringing up what you really want in the bedroom, and sex would be even more enjoyable if your partner checked in with you more often. You can tell them it would be hot if they asked things like “What would feel good for you right now?” or “Do you want to do this position or that position?” and “Do you want to keep going or take a break?”
Some people pleasers find open-ended questions overwhelming because coming up with what you want can be challenging. If this is the case, tell your partner you like when they give you options during sex, like “Do you want to use a vibrator or your hands?”
Work with a sex coach
Having support from a sex coach can help you identify your people-pleasing patterns and develop strategies to break the cycle. Some sex coaches (like me!) are specialized in working with clients who are specifically struggling with people pleasing.
For people pleasers, it’s common for sex to be unenjoyable, to build resentment toward your partner, or for your libido to dampen. While these can all be very challenging experiences, you’re definitely not alone. Consider incorporating new communication strategies, honoring your needs in your everyday life, and talking to someone you trust.