Learning to say ‘no’ was one of my greatest obstacles for having a joyful and authentic relationship. My struggle originated from my childhood where I had experienced dysfunctional relationships. As an adult, I repeated these unhealthy patterns in my romantic relationships. I often said ‘yes’ when I should have said ‘no’ and I gave in easily if my partner expressed different needs.
How often do you say ‘yes’ when you should say ‘no’?
Initially, I thought that it was the only way to show my partner that I loved him. However, I paid a price for being nice and submissive: I abandoned myself and lived up to my partner’s expectations. I also felt increasingly resentful towards my partner and myself. The longer the relationship lasted, the more frustrated I became. I lost self-respect and my sense of worthiness and my partner lost respect for me.
Do you experience a similar dynamic in your relationship?
Over the years, I noticed the negative impact of my behavior and decided to change this. I set my intention to become assertive and to be authentic in my responses to my partner’s requests. Achieving this goal wasn’t always easy. There were many voices in my head that motivated me to say ‘yes’ for the wrong reasons. It took me some time to understand the differences between saying a heartfelt ‘yes’ and saying ‘yes’ out of the wrong impulse.
Can you differentiate between a heartfelt ‘yes’ and a ‘yes’ out of a wrong reason?
If we grow up in dysfunctional families, we are likely to have learned a distorted truth about saying ‘no’ and we tend to say ‘yes’ due to the wrong reasons. Saying ‘no’ is often labeled as unloving, so we learn to deny us and put the other person first. This imbalance causes major problems in our relationship. The truth is you’re your needs and your partner’s needs are equally important. Here are five impulses that caused me to say ‘yes’ when I should have said ‘no.’
- Saying ‘yes’ because I wanted to receive more love.
My inner child had learned that she would only receive love if she did what people asked her to do. She learned to say ‘yes’ to receive the love and attention she needed. As an adult, I learned to give my inner child the love she needed. I also understood that I can’t influence whether my partner loves me or not, I can just show up as I am and allow him to get to know the authentic me. Do you say ‘yes’ because you want to be loved and accepted?
- Saying ‘yes’ because I feared punishment.
In my original family, there was a constant threat of being punished if I didn’t do what the adults wanted. As an adult, I had to use courage to say ‘no’ despite my fear of punishment because it was deeply rooted in my inner child. Do you say ‘yes’ out of fear of punishment?
- Saying ‘yes’ because I wanted to avoid conflicts.
In my childhood, I experienced conflicts that were perpetuating and unsolvable. As a result, I avoided any type of conflict and gave in immediately if my partner wanted something different. It seemed an impossible task to stand up for my needs and find a solution. The first times that I stood up for myself I did it with shaking knees… but once again, to respect myself I had to learn to go through a conflict and to trust that we would find a solution that fits us both. Do you say ‘yes’ in order to avoid a conflict?
- Saying ‘yes’ out of guilt and shame.
My family relationships were manipulative and based on guilt and shame to keep the family functioning. It took me many years to get completely rid of this dynamic. Guilt and shame are destructive emotions. If we say ‘yes’ based on guilt and shame, we tend to over-give and to deny ourselves by putting other people first. It took me some time to learn to say ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ when I felt guilt or shame. However, it was an important step to fully reclaiming my power. Do you say ‘yes’ out of shame and guilt?
- Saying ‘yes’ out of any sense of duty or obligation.
In my past relationship, I became a perfect cook even though I dislike cooking. I mainly did it because I thought it was my duty as a woman. What do you say ‘yes’ to out of duty and obligation?
All those times when I said ‘yes’ out of the wrong reasons, I said silently ‘no’ to being me. I also said silently ‘no’ to my power and my joy. I now say a heartfelt ‘yes’ for the joy of giving, and I say ‘no’ whenever my inner voice tells me so.
What experience do you have with saying ‘no’? I’d love to read your comments.