'Fragilizing' In Your Relationships May Be Doing More Harm Than You Realize

No one likes to disappoint other people. In fact, many of us are inclined to stuff down our own opinions and desires just to avoid causing disappointment. It's the ultimate example of cutting off the nose to spite the face. Known in modern terms as "fragilizing," it seems like a really sweet, selfless type of behavior to exhibit. However, it can actually be extremely counterproductive and cause long-term problems in all types of relationships, including those with friends, lovers, co-workers, and more.

Fragilizing can show up in all types of iterations. For example, perhaps you really don't like to travel or don't have the funds but feel required to attend that girls' trip because a friend desperately wants you to be there. Or, maybe your partner wants to go back to the same vacation spot for the millionth time. Even though you long to experience something new, you don't want to let them down, so you fail to voice your own opinions to find a happy compromise. Both of these situations imply that the other person in the relationship can't handle the disappointment of not getting their way like they're some sort of overgrown toddler. While it's always nice to be considerate of others, it's actually a major kick in the teeth to both them and you because eventually, these innocuous situations will snowball into bigger problems. Maybe it doesn't do the same extreme level of damage as physical or emotional abuse, but it's still damaging, nonetheless.

These people are more likely to fragilize

People with anxiety are more likely to engage in fragilizing behaviors. This is because they constantly live on the edge, worrying about what may or may not go wrong here, there, and everywhere. To the anxious person, a minor slight like being too tired to keep that dinner date with a buddy has the potential to turn into a relationship-ruining event. So they go anyway, even though they don't really want to. This can lead to a lot of built-up resentment, which causes anger that can threaten to boil over at any time. 

Dr. Debra Kissen of Light on Anxiety tells Refinery29 that people fragilize not so much to protect others; they do it to protect themselves from any potential blowback, guilt trips, and so on. "We're doing it to minimize the other person's discomfort, in theory, but in reality, we're doing it to minimize our own discomfort," Dr. Kissen said.

Even though it seems like you're doing someone a favor by fragilizing, you're actually not. First, you're not being genuine, and that's never good in a relationship. Second, by avoiding their reaction, you're setting them up for a lifetime of selfish behavior. Relationship expert Dr. Yvette Erasmus says that it's perfectly all right for people to experience feelings of disappointment, surprise, hurt, or other negative feelings: "People will not fall apart if you let them down."

Here's how to stop fragilizing

Fortunately, the tendency to fragilize others is often fixable with some work. It's probably best to start small, say with people you know and trust like a partner or longtime friend. Then work up to more difficult situations that involve co-workers or a boss. Performance coach Jenni Schierman first says to be more direct in conversations. "Don't wait for days to find the 'perfect moment,'" she writes, noting that the other person will likely appreciate your honesty, as that is a clear indicator of mutual respect. She also says that, if the situation calls for it, it's critical to engage in healthy confrontation. Do not exhibit defensive behaviors. Listen to the other person's point of view, and be clear in your own opinions. If handled correctly with a rational person on the other end, this should all turn out just fine. 

Anyone who loses their mind over a broken dinner date clearly has control issues that you can't solve. In the end, all you can do is be conscious of your own needs and thoughtful of others. It might not always work out perfectly, but at least you're being true to yourself.