Easy to Please

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?

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4 thoughts on “Easy to Please

  1. I am also relatively easy to please and it has nothing to do with low standards, and everything to do with flexibility. I am also accused of being too optimistic (is it even possible?), but I simply prefer the glass “half full” perspective than “half empty”. My life is not perfect. My health is not perfect. My age is far from perfect. My relationships are far from perfect. Why are they relevant though? I have a life, I am alive (a distinct prerequisite for the former), I have number of years left (I hope), and I have relationships. I am happy …….. what more could I ask for? 🙂

    • I think that’s it— I’m tired of being branded a fool for feeling this way. I have a different perspective on what’s worth getting upset about— about situations in which I’d “deduct points” from a person or relationship— than some other people in my life. There’s no telling which of us is right (though there’s probably a way of telling which of us is nicer to be around), so let’s just chalk it up to different strokes for different folks. You and I fall on the sunny side of the street. Others prefer the dark clouds right where they can see them. But it’s a matter of preference more than of idiocy.

      • I think idiocy is in there somewhere. Who but an idiot would complain about the rain and totally overlook the rainbow. I have known people who have won money in a competition, and complained because it wasn’t more! Like you, I have experienced complaints at the cinema. The movie was great but the advertising spoiled it, or the coffee wasn’t hot etc. etc. I truly feel sad for those people because they must live an amazingly dismal life. Given that it is all a matter of choice, I must conclude that they are idiots after all, who but an idiot would voluntarily lead such an unhappy life?
        There is of course the pretentious male who will try and impress by surgically dissecting the restaurant service ……….. but I’ve never seen it done successfully yet so must again conclude …… he’s an idiot!

      • Nice. My choice betrays my bias in this situation, but given my preference not to be treated as a fool, I won’t go quite so far.
        Here’s hoping that the next guy I date sees the easy-to-please thing as a feature, not a bug. God knows that someone who can appreciate support and encouragement, and reciprocate in kind is on my list. I’m all for making each other better, in a relationship, but I think there’s a way to do it through positive reinforcement, not through criticism and nagging.

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