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  • Writer's pictureHolly Wood

Is People-Pleasing Ruining your Sex Life?

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of passion, your mind racing not with desire, but with worries about whether your partner is enjoying the moment as much as you hope? Is the need to please overshadowing your pleasure? You're not alone.

How Does People-Pleasing Manifest

People-pleasing, at its core, is the propensity to prioritize others' needs, desires, or expectations at the expense of one's own well-being or personal preferences. It's a behavior pattern rooted in the longing for acceptance, fear of rejection, or the desire to avoid conflict. In everyday life, this can manifest as an inability to say 'no,' a constant agreement even when it contradicts personal beliefs, or an overextension of oneself to meet the needs of others.

Who is Most Likely to People Please

While people-pleasing behaviors can be found across various demographics, research suggests that they may be more prevalent in certain groups. For instance, individuals with a history of emotional neglect, those who have experienced conditional love in childhood, or individuals with lower self-esteem might be more susceptible. Moreover, cultural and societal expectations can influence these behaviors, with some studies indicating that women, historically encouraged to be more accommodating and nurturing, may exhibit people-pleasing tendencies more frequently. Historically, women have been socialized to prioritize the needs and pleasures of others above their own, often sidelining their personal desires and satisfaction. This notion is even more pronounced for women of color, who face additional layers of societal expectations and pressures.

Signs of People-Pleasing During Sex

During sexual encounters, people-pleasing behaviors might be less obvious but equally impactful. Here are some signs that might indicate people-pleasing during sex:

  • Prioritizing a partner's sexual satisfaction over one's own, often ignoring personal discomfort or preferences.

  • Difficulty in communicating one's desires or boundaries for fear of disappointing a partner or disrupting harmony.

  • Engaging in sexual activities out of a sense of obligation rather than genuine desire or mutual consent.

  • Exhibiting excessive concern about one's performance or attractiveness to the extent of neglecting personal sexual needs or experiences.

Being mindful of these signs can help individuals recognize when their behavior is more about pleasing their partner than fostering a mutually satisfying and consensual sexual experience.

The Impact of People-Pleasing

The impact of people-pleasing, particularly during sex, on mental wellbeing can be profound. It might lead to feelings of resentment, loss of sexual autonomy, and diminished self-worth. The suppression of personal needs and desires in sexual contexts can also contribute to increased anxiety, depression, and a disconnect from one's sexual identity and pleasure.

How Can You Stop People Pleasing During Sex?

  • Self-awareness: Recognizing and acknowledging one's people-pleasing tendencies is the first step towards change.

  • Communication: Cultivating open and honest communication with partners about desires, boundaries, and expectations can foster a more authentic sexual relationship.

  • Assertiveness training: Learning to express one's needs and desires assertively, without fear of repercussions, is crucial.

  • Self-esteem building: Engaging in activities and practices that bolster self-esteem can reduce the reliance on external validation from sexual partners.

  • Professional guidance: Consulting with a sex therapist or counselor can provide personalized strategies to navigate and overcome people-pleasing behaviors in intimate relationships.

While people-pleasing can stem from a well-intentioned place of wanting to make others happy, its impact on one's sexual life and mental wellbeing can be significant. Recognizing and addressing these tendencies can lead to more fulfilling and authentic sexual experiences, where the needs and desires of all involved are valued and respected. Take care, and remember, exploring sexuality is a personal journey.

About the author

Holly Wood is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT), an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, and Certified Sexologist with the American Board of Sexology (ABS). This unique combination of credentials enables her to focus on clients’ sex lives as well as their overall mental health and trauma recovery.

Holly works with individuals and couples who have been looking forward to meeting their own sexual desires both individually and in relationships. She works from a trauma-informed, sex-positive, and holistic approach to help clients to get past their past and develop the necessary skills to achieve lifelong change and improve their quality of life.

When she is not counseling clients, she is holding seminars and workshops, conducting sex research or, or utilizing social media to disseminate accurate, up-to-date information to a wide range of audiences hoping to improve their sexual wellness. Holly's mission is to spread education, empowerment, and self-love. She is committed to helping people heal themselves and live a life full of pleasure and connection.

Visit to learn more and request a consultation.

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