Sunday, February 17, 2013

It's Hard to Relate to A Marshmallow: The Dependent Personality Disorder

Most of us realize the difficulties relating to someone who is aggressive or bossy. We're often less aware of the difficulties of relating to someone stuck in the Dependent Pleaser Personality Disorder, especially in a couples relationship.

Being married to a Pleaser can feel like you're relate to a marshmallow. You keep trying to get the person's real point of view and take a stand on something but end up with nothing but impenetrable, yet sticky, sweetness.  

It's Hard to Relate to A Marshmallow

Utilizing the power of a whole Self Compass helps counter the marshmallow effects of the Pleaser pattern. Here's how.


Janice is married to Greg, who is learning how to counter the effects of her Pleaser pattern. She is motivated to change, and has agreed that Greg can address this with her tactfully.

Greg is with Janice as she ends a phone conversation with their grown son, David:Of course, dear. I’d be glad to baby-sit for you. You both need a break when you’re looking after two little children.”

Janice hangs up the phone and turns to Greg.I hope you don’t mind, dear, but I just agreed to baby-sit next weekend for David and Sharon. David said they really need a break.”

Greg looks at her, concerned. “Guess you didn’t remember that we have plans for a get-away next weekend.” (Notice how Greg keeps his cool, explains the problem, and lets Janice feel the tension.)

Janice’s hand goes to her mouth. “Oh, that’s right. Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot. I heard the stress in David’s voice and I just couldn’t say no.”

“Okay. What about calling him back and telling him what you just told me? You could baby-sit the following weekend.”

Janice leans forward. “Oh my, I just don’t know. I hate to disappoint them. They’re having a hard time of it lately. I worry that their marriage won’t stand the stress. Could we change our plans for the following weekend?”

Greg frowns. “Whoa. This doesn’t feel good to me. You’re placing our relationship a definite second here because of your need to please David. That hurts.” (Greg uses Assertion to express his feelings).

Janice winces. “I’m so sorry, Greg.”

Greg stops himself from reassuring her that it’s okay. “I agree that David and Sharon need a break. But they don’t even know about our plans.” Greg looks at her and says softly, “It’s your choice, Janice.” (Greg uses the Strength compass point to keep from rescuing her and the Love compass point to reach out to her.)

Janice tears up and reaches for a tissue.I need to think and pray about this for a little while,” she murmurs. She heads to the bedroom. Ten minutes later she emerges, a look of relief in her eyes.

Janice smiles as she sits down by Greg. “I just called David and told him about our plans. I’m going to baby-sit the following weekend so you and I can have our date.” She puts her arms around him. “Thanks for your honesty, honey.”

The Self Compass

  1. Greg expresses his feelings with caring assertion and holds with his point of view even though he knows that it will be uncomfortable for Janice to hear. 
  2. He does not take over for Janice. 
  3. He gives her the opportunity to take responsibility for her actions. 
  4. Greg's holding the tension allows Janice to assert herself.

  1. Janice diplomatically stands up for her marriage in her relationship with her son. 
  2. Janice gives her son new information and offers an alternative
  3. She demonstrates that she shares Greg's priority of placing their marriage first
  4. No longer manipulating her family by being overly sweet, Janice is becoming her own kind yet assertive self.
 For more, read: 

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