I woke up this morning thinking about an exchange with an ex-boyfriend from years ago. He asked me, in kind of a carefully neutral tone, if I weren’t pretty easy to please.You could tell it was a bad thing when he asked it, so I denied it— said that I wasn’t that easy to please, but that he just really knew me well enough and we connected such that he didn’t see how hard it could be (some truth to that— when I’m not in love, I’m much more aware of what’s not working)— but that whole interaction struck me as a little strange. Even if I am easy to please— why is that a bad thing?
I’m still stumped about it, even now. I think what he was saying was that he’s used to having to work harder to win a woman’s approval and affection. And I get the appeal of a victory not easily won. But this wasn’t that early in our relationship— we’d been together for at least four or five months when we had that conversation. We’d just said our I love yous that week, I think.) I wasn’t easy to win, but the fact that I wasn’t more of a handful seemed to be a disappointment to him. And it wasn’t that long after that when I noticed he’d stopped trying to please me at all. We lasted almost a year, in all, but his effort dropped off pretty precipitously starting right around then.
The thing about this is that I am deliberately easy to please. I deliberately try not to pick nits. I deliberately give As for effort— not just with boyfriends but with friends and relations and coworkers and so forth. I feel like it’s a better life if you’re generous with forgiveness, if you don’t hold people to impossible standards, if you make room for the differences we all bring to the table, so I try to act accordingly.
I accept that this guy’s damage is his own— he’s working out his life the best way he knows how. I could tell that some of what I brought to the table wasn’t what he was looking for— he was going through a period of unemployment and financial difficulty, and having trouble with his family, and my supportive and encouraging thing seemed to land wrong, for him. With everyone in his life telling him where he was failing, I just couldn’t join in, though. I needed to cheer him on— to remind him of what I saw in him that led me to believe he’d come through to the other side. To the extent that was a problem for him, I feel like it’s a matter for him and a qualified therapist to discuss.
I don’t want to give you the idea that I was Pollyanna, always pointing out a silver lining for every grey cloud. I was also going through a difficult time professionally— I was employed, but very unhappy in my situation. He wasn’t that understanding or supportive about what was going on with me— he’d listen a little, but would pretty quickly change the subject if I talked about it. He wasn’t a fight-through-it kind of person. He washed his hands of situations once they reached a certain point. That’s definitely what happened with us.
I think I could let this go (I let him go more than five years ago, without much regret), if I didn’t keep running into it. People who are as determined to be hard to please as I am to be easy to please, and who need to correct me for it. No, that meal wasn’t tasty, it had these flaws. No, the movie wasn’t good— there was that guy and his noisy snack three rows back and it positively ruined the experience. No, it’s not okay and here’s why.
I understand about being discerning. I understand about applying standards. But is it really such a bad thing to give a little more grace than is strictly necessary, in situations?