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Warning: Spoilers ahead for Sex Education season 3
This season, fans are crushing hard on Aimee Gibbs, Maeve Wiley’s best friend and ultimate vulva cake baker. But we've also seen how Aimee's kind-hearted ways can lead to hurt in the long run.
During an argument with her BFF, Maeve tells Aimee that she’s too much of a 'people-pleaser' to break up with her boyfriend, Steve Morley. Ouch.
While this was undoubtedly a bitter pill to swallow and said in malice, Aimee realises that her fear of hurting those around her has led to unhappiness in her choice of friends and continuing a relationship when she knows it’s not what’s right for her.
People pleasing is defined us the emotional need to please others, often at the expense of your own happiness. If you’re a people pleaser in a relationship, then you might put off breaking up with someone so you don't displease your partner, even if the relationship isn’t bringing you joy.
So how exactly can this be harmful to a relationship? Tyla spoke to Alex Mellor-Brook, relationships expert and co-founder of www.selectservices.co.uk, about how avoiding hurting others can actually cause more heartbreak in the long term for everyone involved.
“If a relationship has run its course, then prolonging it can be harmful,". Alex explains. "'People pleasers' require approval and validation and if this affirmation is not being provided by their partner it can lead to a loss of self-worth, blaming themselves for the failed relationship and adding to their insecurities.”
Just like what Aimee and Maureen Groff (who's going through a divorce of her own) talk about when they're in the Milbruns' house. Aimee has outgrown her relationship and has been so preoccupied with people pleasing that she ahs reached a breaking point with needing to discover her sense of self.
It's also a common view that women are more likely to be people pleasers due to the imposed belief that they should be nurturing and the care givers for those around them.
This can mean that women are more likely to delay a break-up: “That sense of failure and letting someone down drives them not to break up with their partner in the fear of hurting them emotionally.”
If you believe it’s your duty to shield others from pain and not cause any upset, then the fear of inflicting pain can be a daunting one.
Then there’s the question of how someone who struggles with people pleasing can overcome this so that they can end a relationship that isn't working anymore.
Alex adds: “You always put your partner’s emotions ahead of your own which can lead to a lack of self-understanding. Recognising you are a 'people pleaser', can be difficult, but if you do, you've already made a first big step. The next stage is to discover your own self-worth.”
He expands on this by offering suggestions on how to discover your own self-worth: “Who are you? What are your beliefs and needs? Analyse your emotions. This will help you value who you are and what you have to offer, without it being detrimental to you.”
Aimee makes the decision to find who she is without Steve, leading to an emotional break-up but one that is a responsible decision in caring for Aimee's wellbeing long-term.
“People pleasers may seem great people to be around at the beginning of a relationship as they are very affable, trying to fit in with your life and keeping things happy," says Alex.
“But as the relationship develops, people pleasers find it hard to say no, so you may find yourself dropping in the pecking order of friends and family. This behaviour can originate from a fear of rejection, abandonment, or feeling uncared for and unloved, even failure.”
So these feelings of failure can stretch between both partners. While the people pleaser may fear failure in keeping all their loved ones happy, the person dating them can develop feelings of abandonment and rejection. Just think of how Steve develops insecurities in Sex Education. When Aimee starts avoiding him and acting strangely, Steve questions how attracted she is to him and can feel how their relationship is lacking.
Alex advises what to do for both a people pleasing partner and the other half who is starting to feel inadequate: “Believe in yourself, value who you are and learn to say no when you disagree with someone. It’s not being confrontational, it’s about knowing your own worth.”
While we loved Steve and Aimee together, making brave choices to end the relationship before it causes further hurt is a necessary one before things between the pair turn even sourer.
If you know you should break-up with someone, don’t delay for unnecessary reasons. Sometimes, you do actually have to be cruel to be kind.
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