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 meant 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. To say 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 that your needs and your partner’s needs are equally important. Here are five impulses that caused me to say yes when it would have been honest to say 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 felt obliged to do. What do you say yes to out of duty and obligation?
All those times when I said yes out of the wrong reasons, I used to say no to being me. I used to say 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.
How about you?