I know. A lot of people get weird when you start talking about boundaries because it sounds like you’re setting up a wall between you and them. But all “boundaries” means is understanding what is okay to expect from another person, and what is unreasonable. And I can’t tell you how much our society and culture gets this aaallllll twisted up! So last week we talked about some things that aren’t okay in a relationship. This week, let’s talk about what is okay…
- It is okay to say “no.”
Our culture glorifies women who “always put others first.” But that’s actually not always healthy. Caring for those who are unable to care for themselves (like children) is going to mean we sometimes have to put our own needs aside. But doing things for someone who is capable of doing them, at the expense of your own needs? That’s called co-dependency. I love how Nicole LePera, the Holistic Psychologist describes this in a Facebook post:
“Co-dependency is the chronic neglect of self in order to gain approval, love, validation or self-identity through another person.”Nicole LePera, The Holistic Psychologist
It is okay to say “no” when something makes you uncomfortable, when you don’t have the resources to meet their need (you’re exhausted, broke, or out of time), when the need is something the other person should be doing for themselves, or when doing the thing makes you feel resentful. (Pro-tip: resentment is a sign that your boundaries are feeling violated.)
One more word on this: many women have a hard time saying “no” to sex. It can be a result of past abuse, fear of rejection, a need to hold onto the validation or other needs your partner is meeting, or feeling like your partner or someone else will think something’s wrong with you if you don’t do it. BUT… It. Is. Okay. to say “no” to sex. The partner who truly cares for you will be willing to hear and care for your needs.
Which leads me to the next point:
- It is okay to ask for what you need.
Here’s another one that culture gets wrong. How many movies have you watched where the guy just “gets” the girl, and is there with the exact thing she needs, without her ever asking? Could be a hug, could be a rescue, could be a tub of Breyers, but he’s suddenly just…there! Word to the wise? If it feels like a fairy tale, it probably is!
Sure, the people who love us will know us well, and a good partner might know your go-to cure for a bad day, a bad cold, or a bad hangover. But no matter how good they are, it’s not healthy to expect a magical, mind-reading genie. Sometimes you have to ask, and that’s okay. The vulnerability of asking was designed to help develop the closeness between you and that person, and a healthy person will honor the confidence you are placing in them. (If they don’t, see last week’s post!)
Just know that part of healthy asking is also hearing a healthy response, which is my last point:
- It’s okay to hear “no.”
Don’t freak out. We started this post by saying it’s okay for you to say “no” when something makes you uncomfortable, when you don’t have the resources to meet their need, when the need is something the other person should be doing for themselves, or when doing the thing makes you feel resentful. Here’s the catch to that: If you can say “no,” so can other people. For all the same reasons.
A lot of times, we hear someone tell us “no” and it feels like they are rejecting us. It feels like they don’t care about our needs. It feels like they aren’t there for us. And in an unhealthy relationship, those feelings might be worth considering. But if things are otherwise going well? Then maybe they’re saying “no” because they’re uncomfortable with what you’re asking. Or they’re tired or don’t have the resources to meet your need. Or they believe in your ability to take care of it yourself. It’s healthy for you to be okay with that. If you’re not, you might want to spend some time considering why not.
One last note: relationships involve humans. I know. Duh. But sometimes we want to be superheroes. Or we want other people to be superheroes. The ones who are always there, always have everything we need, and can always make it better. But real people will disappoint. They’ll let us down, they’ll hurt our feelings, they’ll leave. Or you will. Forgiving people is also okay. It hurts, but it’s healthy. The key is that when you have honored your own and others’ boundaries, you can deal with hurts from a healthier place, which means you heal faster and easier.