Is your spouse taking you for granted? Well, you may be expecting us to pick on that nasty spouse of yours: but as we often point out, the only person you can change is yourself. Today we’re going to look at how a people pleasing personality or a codependent personality can lead you to feeling very much taken for granted, and what to do about it.

There can be a number of reasons why you may be feeling that you are being taken for granted by your spouse. I think all of us go through at least brief phases in our marriage when we feel that way. Often this comes up around the issues of fair distribution of household labour or emotional labour. If you think that this may be a shorter-term imbalance, those two episodes/articles are definitely worth checking out.

On the other hand, feeling taken for granted may be due to relationship or personality dynamics in yourself. That’s what we want to consider today as another possible explanation for how you arrived at a place where you’re feeling very taken for granted.

First of all, we want to consider marital roles and then two personality dynamics: the people pleasing personality and codependency as two possible explanations.

Codependency and people-pleasing are two tendencies that can make you more easily taken for granted by others, including your spouse. These tendencies are not the same thing. Someone is usually one or the other, though there are times when a person displays some of the attitudes of both codependency and people-pleasing.[1]

Roles in Marriage

Sometimes couples have a more traditional view of marriage: the husband makes a lot of the decisions and the wife is supportive of the husband. This isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s agreeable to both spouses, but you want to be sure that the arrangement is considered to be fair by both spouses, and especially that the wife’s needs and wants are not overlooked in the relationship.

The dominant vision of marriage in the twentieth-century was created during the interwar years. Before this period, husbands and wives were seen to represent complementary but separate natures and existences. Today, couples with a less traditional view of marriage generally negotiate household arrangements in a more “fluid and individualized fashion” than their parents’ generation had.”[2]

While old norms were based on separate spheres and an elevated appreciation for female self-sacrifice, modern norms are based on comradeship and self-expression.[3] For example, it’s more common in modern marriages for the wife to contribute financially to the family than it was in previous generations.[4]

A woman’s role in marriage was more set with the old norms, whereas women who adopt more modern norms have more expectations to manage than men because of the way things have changed. They need to “mediate tensions between experimentation and stability–between the old norms based on separate spheres and female self-sacrifice and new norms of comradeship and self-expression” in order to find a healthy balance.[5]

In marriages with a more traditional view of the husband and wife role, it can be easy to set up the expectation that the wife will always be willing to sacrifice her own needs and wants for those of her husband, and will always be supportive of what he does at the expense of her own needs and wants.

Having a traditional model certainly doesn’t always lead to the wife feeling taken for granted. But this model does set the stage for that possibility.

In any marriage, regardless of whether or not the wife is working or not, it’s important for there to be space for her own individual self-expression, as well as room to connect to one another as peers. This requires creating space for one another’s thoughts and feelings. For husbands, it means not dominating or controlling your wife and allowing her space to have her own voice.

The People Pleasing Personality

A brief definition of a people pleasing personality is that individuals often allow others to influence their decisions because they want approval, or may even be desperate for it.[6]

Understanding People Pleasing

If you may have a people pleasing personality, then this pattern will likely be present not only in your marriage but also you will see it happening with other people such as your siblings, parents, neighbours or church friends.

One way to describe this personality trait is that you are living from the outside in. You find yourself looking to meet others expectations predominantly rather than living from the inside out and really expressing yourself authentically in this world.[7]

The risk with living this way is that you can begin to lose track of your own identity. You’re so focused on those outside influences that you shift your personality to adapt to the group. This means you don’t have a chance to form authentic, deep, loving relationships based on who you are.[8] This can leave you feeling like, “What about me?” So much of the focus in your marriage has been on your spouse that you may begin to wonder, “When is it my turn?” And this is often a result of the people-pleaser being so focused on their spouse.[9]

Roots in Childhood

Often, the people pleasing personality is formed in a family system where the child’s inner needs for loving and bonding was not met. Perhaps you learned (subconsciously) that you had to earn love: maybe you sacrificed elements of an authentic childhood by being the “good boy” or “good girl.” You may have concluded that it was your own fault if you did not receive as much nurture. How do you compensate for that? You work harder to earn it. So as an adult, you continue to try to earn attention, approval and acceptance by pleasing others because that’s what you learned to do as a child.

That is how it becomes such an integral part of your personality and expression as an adult. In its more severe forms, you may feel a deep-rooted sense of shame. And at the extremes, you may not even believe you have the right to be alive, to be seen, to have a voice, or to take up space.[10] Now, not all people-pleasing personalities are going to feel this that deeply, but some will. It’s easy to see how a person can be so motivated to become a people pleaser, and how after some time of doing that in their marriage, they could become completely exhausted and feel very taken for granted in their marriage.

What to Work On

The problem is that in focusing on making other people happy, you’re trying to make yourself happy by making other people happy. It seems like you’re focused on the other person, but you’re actually focused on yourself. Researchers (Hiscox and Cantu, 2011) note “The people-pleaser is really intent on what can I do to make you happy. If they can turn it around and ask themselves ‘what makes me happy, what truly makes me happy,’ ‘what makes me get up in the morning?’ those are often difficult questions for people pleasers.”[11]

To be candid, changing the people pleasing personality is very difficult. It’s hard to break those old patterns. Heartwell notes “It is not about thinking of yourself first. It is a matter of identity. The People Pleaser is meeting the expectations of others as a long-standing identity pattern from childhood. You need to get to the root of the pattern; let go of the old self and grow into something new. It will take time.”[12]

It may seem counter intuitive, but the best way to take the focus off of yourself is actually by bringing more focus to the self. Ask yourself questions such as “what do I want?” “What’s important to me?” “What kind of life do I want to live?” Think of how you would respond to these questions independently of how your spouse would react to your response.[13]

It would be wise to have some people who can partner with you in creating change as you go through this process. If your spouse realizes that this is part of your personality, and also part of what happens in the dynamic between you and wishes to support your journey to becoming more authentic then that is also a huge asset.

You may also consider counseling: there are a number of effective approaches to helping someone who has a strong people-pleasing personality to learn healthy independence and to learn what it means to serve others from a place of acceptance and fullness rather than service out of neediness and a quest to feel complete or whole.

Is Your Spouse Taking You For Granted?

Once again, we’ve created a bonus worksheet for our much-appreciated supporters. This episode’s bonus guide is a conversation guide for you and your spouse. If you’ve been feeling taken for granted and feel that you may have somewhat of a people pleasing personality, this guide will help you have that conversation with your spouse where you can start to shift towards a more balanced dynamic between you.

Codependency and Being Taken for Granted

In order to understand codependency, one should understand that codependent tendencies tend to play out in marriage in that when something goes wrong, this spouse tends to assume responsibility for what has happened. They will take on too much responsibility (i.e., more than they should) in the relationship. If any work needs to be done, they will assume they are the one to do it.

Often these individuals have trouble with self-care because they are taking care of everyone else. They can very easily neglect themselves. They may also be very self-critical. Sometimes this can come out at self-deprecating comments in front of others. Even humorously — so loved ones may miss the more serious undertones or undercurrents of what is happening in their experience. If you struggle with codependency you may feel that you are too selfish or too immature or too childish. You may quietly carry a huge load of self-criticism.[14]

With codependency, you may attempt to compensate in your marriage by working super hard to take care of everyone else because of a deeply felt sense of inadequacy. It may come out in ways that on the surface appear to be strengths; you are super responsible, super organized, an incredible caretaker of everyone and everything. But, similarly to the people-pleasing personality, it’s not born out of a place of wholeness but out of deeper wounds and needs.

Roots in Childhood

Often, these individuals look like little adults. They take on the responsibility to fix problems even in relationships in the family. They may do an inordinate amount of housework. And this personality trait typically is born out of a family that lacks order or structure. The child takes on the responsibility of fixing the family and providing order.

Because this is such a huge task, they can only do so by neglecting their own needs and focusing on caring for and rescuing others. Predictably, when they get married, they continue the pattern of neglecting to meet their own needs and focusing on the needs of the spouse and children.[15]

What has happened is that the child has had to take on a parenting role at a very young age. They become super-responsible and act as caretakers instead of experiencing care and nurture and growth within a structured, supportive environment.

What To Work On

Our research provided four steps towards recovering from codependency. These come from Darlene Lancer (2016), a marriage and family therapist who has studied and written extensively about this subject.

1. Abstinence

The goal in this step is to learn to attend to your own needs and develop what we therapists call an internal locus of control. Meaning that your actions are primarily motivated by your own values, needs and feelings rather than those of your spouse. This could be a little frightening to think of: perhaps you are afraid of displeasing your spouse. You may even have come to a place where you have granted your spouse the power to control you. If you are in an abusive marriage, you’ll definitely want to review our episodes on abuse in marriage.

If your spouse is not abusive, you may just have given too much away. But the goal here is to step back from your dependency on the other person for what you think, say, feel, and do and begin to return ownership of these basic functions to yourself.

2. Awareness

Often, addiction is present somewhere in the codependent person’s life. Frequently, this is with their spouse. Denial is one hallmark of addiction and so you’ll want to start by really making yourself aware of the extent of this problem in your life.

Perhaps you have denied your own feelings and needs for a long time and neglected your own need for nurturing and genuine intimacy. This may have led to low self- esteem. Just becoming aware of how this has affected you is helpful because it starts the process of learning what needs to change and then moving toward that change.

3. Acceptance

Healing needs to involve self-acceptance. This is not just a simple step, but a lifelong journey. Acceptance always comes before change. Self-acceptance means that you don’t have to please everyone for fear that they won’t like you. You honor your own needs and feelings, you are forgiving of yourself and others, and, consequently, your self-esteem grows so you don’t allow others to take advantage of you.

4. Action

In order to grow, self-awareness and self-acceptance must be accompanied by new behavior. This means taking risks and venturing outside your comfort zone. It may mean speaking up, or setting a boundary. It also means setting internal boundaries by keeping commitments you’ve made to yourself, or by saying “No” to your Inner Critic or other negative patterns of thinking. Each time you draw out a new behavior or take a risk, you learn something new about your feelings and needs.[16]

This is the part where you really begin to move your awareness into real changes. Where you begin to address and to change the ways in which you have been taken or have allowed yourself to be taken for granted. We’re making the assumption here that you are not in an abusive marriage — again if you are please see our episodes on that subject.

If you’re not in an abusive situation, you may still experience some pushback from your spouse or even your children or your own adult family members. That’s OK — every family has this automatic tendency towards trying to maintain the status quo. So it may be hard work to do this, but it is something that you need to do in order to move yourself from codependency in your marriage towards healthy interdependency.

Note from BCACC: As podcasts can be subscribed to and accessed all over the world, psycho-educational podcasts should include a disclaimer to the effect that they are a self-help tool and do not replace individual counselling or represent an attempt to solicit clients from jurisdictions where the RCC does not have the legal ability to practice. Further, they are not intended for those experiencing severe symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, for which emergency help should be sought.


[1] George Heartwell, “People Pleasers and Marriage,” n.d.,
[2] Phyllis Palmer, Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1945 (Temple University Press, 1989),
[3] Palmer.
[4] Palmer.
[5] Palmer.
[6] Alan J. Hawkins, “Shifting the Relationship Education Field to Prioritize Youth Relationship Education,” Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy 17, no. 3 (July 3, 2018): 165–80,
[7] Hawkins.
[8] Heartwell, “People Pleasers and Marriage.”
[9] Kirby Hiscox and Cantu, David, People Pleasers, LIfe Coaching and Marriage Counselling Austin, 2011,
[10] Heartwell, “People Pleasers and Marriage.”
[11] Hiscox and Cantu, David, People Pleasers, LIfe Coaching and Marriage Counselling Austin.
[12] Heartwell, “People Pleasers and Marriage.”
[13] Hiscox and Cantu, David, People Pleasers, LIfe Coaching and Marriage Counselling Austin.
[14] Heartwell, “People Pleasers and Marriage.”
[15] Heartwell.
[16] Darlene Lancer, “How to Change Your Attachment Style,” October 2018,