What do Beyoncé, Blake Lively, and Amal Clooney have in common? Besides being wildly famous, successful, and impeccably dressed, they are all also married to men who are at least ten years their senior.
While age gaps may have been a big deal thirty years ago, they are much more socially acceptable now (especially with A-list celebrities). Still, even if you aren’t likely to get as many judgy looks from strangers these days, are relationships with large age gaps really a good idea?
Do Big Age Gap Relationships Work?
Like many relationship issues, the answer is, “it depends.”
One thing that matters in relationships with age gaps is how much of a gap there is. For example, 5 year age gap relationships are quite different than 20 year age gap relationships. Five year age gap relationships say, “We just missed each other at UCLA” whereas 20 year age gap relationships say, “Were you in class with my mother?”
Of course, merely focusing on a number doesn’t take into account the really important factor; People’s personalities and maturity level. We all know forty-somethings who act like teenagers and teenagers who are as responsible as Mother Teresa. A 40-year-old, unemployed man who still lives with his parents is quite different than a guy who started his own company at age 25, owns his own home, and has traveled the world. No shade to the 40-year-old living at home – we all grow at our own rate. However, that guy might not be compatible with someone who has been living independently since college; regardless of age.
So, sometimes, it’s not so much the age difference that makes or breaks a relationship, but rather the MATURITY LEVEL of both partners.
Can A Big Age Gap Relationship Work?
So, what happens if you are much more mature than your partner? How will things turn out? Here are some pitfalls that might occur if there is too much of a maturity gap in your relationship:
- You might feel frustrated, like the relationship isn’t going anywhere
- You might feel like you are always making the decisions
- You could feel like an emotional garbage disposal – your partner looks to you to solve all of his/her problems
- You might feel like your partner never takes things (including you and the relationship) seriously
- You might feel like you don’t have much in common with your partner’s friends and maybe even that they are a bad influence
- You might feel like you will never get the type of commitment from your partner that you want
- You might feel like you take on the bulk of the responsibility and planning for your lives
- You might feel like it’s impossible to have a productive argument with your partner
- You might feel like you are always taking care of him/her financially
- You might feel like you are watching a train wreck, as your partner makes the same mistakes over and over again
On the same token, if you are the less mature member in the relationship, things might be tough for you too. For example, you might:
- Feel like your partner is always telling you what to do
- Feel like your partner talks down to you
- Feel like you are being pushed into a serious commitment before you are ready
- Feel like your partner never wants to just relax and have fun
- Feel like your partner sees you as a child instead of as a companion
- Feel like your partner doesn’t trust you to complete tasks but then resents you for not contributing
- Feel like you and your partner are in different life stages and want different things
- Feel like you have to rush your timeline for things like marriage and kids to accommodate your partner’s timeline
- Feel like you are missing out on crucial years of fun and freedom
So, you see, problems can arise from both sides of the fence.
Still, I’m not saying that age gap relationships can’t work. They can, as long as both partners are willing to put in the work.
Age Gap Relationship Advice
Here are some tips to help make your age gap relationship run as smoothly as a summer’s breeze.
Relationship Age Gap Rule: Recognize Your Partner’s Worldview
In couples therapy, one of the things I help couples with in sessions is recognizing that each person has a completely unique view of the world that is largely colored by experience, culture, and upbringing. However, this worldview can be very different when there is an age difference between each partner of a decade or more. The societal culture one experienced growing up in the 80’s, for example, is completely different than the societal culture of someone who grew up in the 2000’s.
Someone born after the year 2000 probably won’t get many 80’s movies references, or know the hardship of having to find a book in the library to research a project rather than Googling it. By the same token, someone born in the 70’s might have a hard time understanding what Snapchat is and why people use it.
Instead of coming down hard on your partner for what he or she doesn’t know, treat your different worlds like an exotic adventure. Have fun introducing your boo to new things, (like the word boo!) Recognize and honor your generational differences and take time to understand how each of you views the world.
Communication Gap In Relationship: Communicate As Equals
Nothing ruins a relationship like a power gap. Just because there is an age difference between you doesn’t mean that one of you should have all the power or have the responsibility of making all of the decisions. Talk to your partner as an equal. Don’t talk down, or up, to him or her. Believe it or not, age does not make one of you better or wiser than the other. It’s life experience that brings wisdom and that is not always gained with age. Someone of 23 who has traveled the world can have way more life experience and wisdom than a 45 year old who has never left their home state.
Read: Physical age does not equal spiritual age. Someone who is an “old soul” could have far more intuitive knowledge than someone who is more advanced physically. Try to see your partner in spiritual years rather than chronological ones. Notice what makes your partner light up with passion. That’s what makes them who they are, not the year that they were born.
Large Age Gap Relationships: Talk Openly About Life Goals
Don’t assume your partner wants the same things as you without asking. Older partners may be more ready for a serious relationship than younger partners or may have a more clear picture of what they want their life to look like in 5 years. They may have accomplished more of their career goals and be ready to get married and start a family sooner than their younger counterparts. Be specific about your intentions when dating and make sure you are on the same page from the get go.
This advice really goes for any relationship, but especially those with a significant age gap. If you are dating just for fun, without looking for anything serious, it’s best to let your date know that right off the bat. If one person is ready to settle down and the other is just looking for some company for now, the relationship isn’t likely to work out. And PLEASE, if he tells you that he doesn’t want a relationship, BELIEVE HIM! And if he tells you he’s not sure what he wants out of a relationship yet, take that as a clue that you aren’t on the same page. You don’t need to be the one who turns him around. Instead focus on finding someone who is at the same psychological place that you are.
Do Some Research: TV Shows With Age Gap Relationships
Sometimes, when you are wondering how to make this age gap relationship work, it can be helpful to do some research. You’re reading this article so clearly you’ve already started that process. Good work! If you know couples who have a similar age gap to you and your partner, I’d suggest chatting with them about how they are navigating the differences. Every couple is different but you may find some similarities and helpful suggestions. At the very least, It’s nice to talk to someone who understands your situation.
Don’t know anyone like that in real life? There are lots of TV shows that depict age gap relationships that you could watch as research too. Many focus on older men dating younger women after some kind of major life change. (Mid-life crisis, anyone?)
A great example is Modern Family. In the show, Jay is a man in his 50’s or 60’s married to a beautiful younger wife named Gloria. Sprinkled throughout the show, the couple has sporadic discussions about common concerns such as Jay feeling insecure that Gloria will leave him for someone closer to her age as he gets older.
A new-ish kind of age gap relationship to watch on TV is one where the woman is older and the man is younger. A classic version of this happens in “Gossip Girl” when Nate, one of the main characters, has an affair with a beautiful, older, married, woman. As you probably expected, this doesn’t end well, but it’s definitely entertaining!
Another show featuring an older woman and a younger man is appropriately called “Younger,” starring Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff. Not only does this show have an awesome cast and incredibly witty writing, but it also plays with the idea of age in a really big way.
The main character is a 40 something housewife from New Jersey who pretends to be 26 in order to land a New York City job in publishing. Her lie takes her all kinds of crazy places, including dating a hot, young 20 something guy who couldn’t be sweeter. Watching her pretend to be in a same age relationship, while really being in a 20 year age gap relationship is filled with hilarity.
Watching shows like this together with your partner will not only lighten the mood, but it might spark important conversations between the two of you about what your age gap means to you. Plus, it will help you remember that you aren’t alone in this world of age gap relationships.
Age Gap Relationships: Find Common Ground
The truth is, there is no ideal age gap in a relationship. Whether it’s a 20 year age gap relationship or a 5 year gap, there will be both challenges and benefits to your situation.
My age gap relationship advice?
Make the most out of the benefits!
You aren’t obsessing over your own age every minute of the day (hopefully), so why would you obsess over your partner’s?
While you may have some difficulty getting movie references or pop culture jokes from your partner, find something that you do have in common. Even better, make up your own private jokes and laugh your way into relationship bliss. Laughter is good for the soul and laughing together can make you feel, well, ageless.
If you would like to talk about how to improve your relationship, with or without an age gap, contact me. I’m here to help!
Do you worry more about your partner than you do yourself? Do you find yourself trying to control his or her behavior by manipulating him or her? Are you constantly making excuses for things that he or she does? Do you hide the things that your partner does from your friends, because you know that they would tell you to get the heck out of there if they knew the truth?
If so, you may be suffering from codependency.
What Does It Mean To Be Codependent
Codependency, or being codependent occurs when you are so consumed by what your partner is doing that you forget to focus on yourself. Many times, codependency happens in response to being with a partner who has some kind of addiction or a mental illness. The addiction could be to alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, food, the internet, or video games. It doesn’t matter what kind of addiction it is, only that the addiction takes your partner away from you and makes him focus only on themselves. The types of mental illness that often attract or create partners with codependency are personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and others.
Signs of a Codependent Relationship
Codependency can show up in many different ways. If you aren’t sure if you are in a codependent relationship, here are some checklist items to consider:
- Do you often cover for your partner so that he/she won’t face negative consequences of his/her behavior?
- Do you make excuses for your partner’s behaviors?
- Are you in denial that your partner has a substance abuse problem or mental illness?
- Are you aware that your partner has a substance abuse problem or mental illness but you are afraid to ask him/her to get help for fear they will get mad or leave you?
- Do you tell yourself things like, “Well, he only drinks after 5pm, so he’s fine,” even though he has to drink every night? Or downplay the fact that he watches porn everyday and there is a lack of intimacy between the 2 of you?
- Do you make excuses for your partner’s verbally, physically or emotionally abusive behavior towards you and others?
- Do you clean up after his/her messes, both literally and figuratively?
- Do you walk on eggshells so as not to upset your volatile partner?
- Do you find yourself worrying about your partner often? Wondering what he/she is doing but afraid to ask? Or snooping to find out.
- Do you feel unable to function and obsessing about your relationship when you and your partner aren’t getting along?
- Do you put your partner’s needs before your own?
- Do you have trouble setting boundaries with your partner?
- Do you find yourself giving your partner ultimatums that you never intend to follow through with because you are so desperate to get him/her to change their behavior?
Over Dependence In Relationships
If you are in a relationship with someone with an addiction or a mental illness, chances are you’ve experienced some of the behaviors above. You probably feel like your world revolves around your partner and their emotions and you are constantly walking on eggshells trying to manage their reactions. Just as the addicted person is addicted to alcohol, so the codependent person is addicted to the addict.
Let that sink in.
Being codependent means that you are addicted to your addicted person. Just like alcohol (or drugs or porn or video games) temporarily takes him away from his problems, focusing on him, temporarily takes you away from yours.
Think about it: If you are always focused on what your addicted person is doing or feeling, you can’t focus on yourself. You avoid having to be conscious of your own behaviors. Sure, you might be neglecting your own needs, or “not having time” to work on your own goals, but it would be selfish to focus on yourself and your problems when your partner is so much worse off, right?
The energy that you are spending trying to “fix” your alcoholic-addicted-liar-narcissistic-partner is going nowhere. Whatever problem your partner is having is not something that you can cure or control. In fact, the more you do for him or her, the less they will do for themselves. That’s why we call it enabling when a codependent person makes excuses or cleans up metaphorical (or literal) messiness for an addicted or mentally ill person. Even though you think you are helping, you are actually making it easier for the addicted person to continue his behavior without experiencing the natural consequences that should be happening.
Why Are People Codependent?
Many people who find themselves in a codependent relationship grew up in a home with a parent with an addiction or mental illness. They learned to tune in to that unhealthy parent’s emotions in an effort to predict when interacting with the parent was safe and when it was not. Addict and mentally ill parents are often unstable and unpredictable, both emotionally and physically. As a result, children of such parents learn to walk on eggshells and make their needs scarce in order to keep the parent calm and happy. This was an adaptive response as a child and often helps a child survive or stay out of danger in an unstable home.
Someone who grew up like that often becomes codependent. A codependent is the ideal partner for an addict or someone with a personality disorder because they have a much higher tolerance for abusive or unstable behavior, they are used to ignoring their own needs to cater to a difficult person, and they are often attracted to the familiar (albeit unhealthy) feeling of living with an unstable person. Recreating the environment of childhood in our romantic relationships is our unconscious mind’s way of trying to heal our childhood wounds.
How To Fix a Codependent Relationship
How To Stop being Codependent In My Relationship: Focus On Your Own Self-Esteem
Pay attention to the way that you talk to yourself. Replace negative self-thoughts like, “I am not good enough,” with positive ones like, “I am worthy of love just as I am.” Focus on your strengths instead of your limitations. Try to see failures as opportunities for growth, and for the love of llamas stop blaming yourself for what your partner does!! You are not their keeper.
If you find that it is a pattern for you to get involved with people with addictions, it’s okay to explore whether you might be a “fixer,” but do it with self-love. Try to be curious, rather than judgmental about your patterns. Most likely this is something that started in your childhood (as described above) and it’s not your fault. I know it can be scary to look at your own patterns, but it’s well worth it. If you want to start that journey, it’s definitely something that we can work on in therapy.
One of the things that I like to do with my clients is to help them learn to “re-parent” themselves. Basically, you learn how to relate to yourself as if you were the responsible, loving parent that you never had. It might sound kooky, but it really works.
How Do I Stop Being Codependent In A Relationship? Let Consequences Happen
If your partner is going to be late for work because he’s been pulled over for a DUI, don’t lie to his boss for him. Let the natural consequences of his actions take place. Sometimes, the only way an addict can get better is by hitting “rock bottom,” and that can’t happen if someone is always covering for them.
Sometimes, it will feel extreme to let these consequences happen. For example, if you have to kick your spouse out of the house, you might feel like a horrible person. You aren’t! I’ve even known mothers who have had to stand by and watch while their children go to jail. This isn’t easy, but the alternative is to continue to block the lessons that the addicted person desperately needs to learn to feel motivated to change.
How To Stop Being A Codependent Enabler: Know Your Boundaries
Realize that “NO.” is a complete sentence. Recognize what your limits are and stick to them. One way to do this is to scan your body for your own feelings. Know when something makes you uncomfortable and give yourself permission to put a stop to it, even if it might make your partner upset. Learn to give priority to your own feelings of comfort, instead of constantly trying to please your partner.
Setting healthy boundaries is one way of truly loving yourself. Many times people who tend to ignore boundaries are drawn to those who don’t know how to set them. Don’t expect your partner to know when your buttons are being pushed. You have to be willing to say “NO,” and mean it.
Stop Being Codependent: Focus On Yourself
This is a big one. Get to know yourself better. Find out what you like and what you don’t and take steps to fill your life with more of what you like. Make plans with friends and don’t wait until you know your partner is unavailable to make plans! Make sure that you are practicing self-care (eating well, exercising, getting enough rest, etc.) and allow time to find hobbies that you enjoy that don’t involve your partner.
It’s very healthy to have interests outside of your romantic relationship. Some people worry that this could ruin their relationships, but the opposite is actually true. Having individual interests makes each person in the relationship feel better about themselves, and this helps to make a healthier couple. Plus, when you have your own jam, you have more exciting things to talk about when you do spend time with your partner.
How To Stop Codependency: Reach Out
Above all, know that there is help available! Try reading one of Melody Beattie’s works like her groundbreaking book, “Codependent No More,” which has helped millions. Or, find an Al-Anon meeting, which is a sister meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, for partners and loved ones of those suffering with addictions.
Knowing that you aren’t in this situation alone is a very powerful tool. It can help you to feel less isolated, and it might even help you recognize others who do the same things that you do. This will help you become aware of why you think and feel that way that you do. It’s extremely healing to realize why you act the way that you do; this is what we call “becoming conscious,” and it’s the pathway to emotional freedom.
If you think that you may be in a codependent relationship, contact me. I’m here to help!
HOW TO GET OVER A BREAKUP. REAL ADVICE FROM A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST
Breaking up is hard to do. Whether it’s been a long time coming or it feels like a sudden crash and burn situation, the relationship that you put your heart and soul into has lost its heartbeat and that is rarely an easy pill to swallow. Maybe you expected to be with this person forever…or perhaps you knew it wasn’t permanent but you still weren’t ready for it to end. Or maybe you were the one that ended it. Whatever the case may be, you are probably feeling a whole lot of feelings right now that can be extremely hard to deal with, especially since you don’t have the one person you would normally lean on to talk to anymore.
The good news is, you will not feel like this forever. Let me say that louder for the people in the back. YOU WILL NOT FEEL LIKE THIS FOREVER. This too shall pass. I know that doesn’t make it easier right now, but it’s still important for you to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You are brave. You can do this.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET OVER A BREAKUP
Some common questions I get when I work with people who are going through a breakup, is “How long should it take to get over a breakup?” or “How long is too long to be sad about this?” or “What are some ways to get over a breakup faster?” The answer to all of these is; it varies. It all depends on how close the two of you were, how seriously you were taking the relationship, what your relationship history is like, what your childhood consisted of, and what your zodiac sign is. I’m kidding about the last one.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET OVER YOUR EX?
It’s hard to say exactly how long it will take you to get over your relationship. There is no getting over a breakup timeline. One equation I’ve heard is that if the relationship was less than a year, then it will take six months to get over it, and if it was more than a year, it will take at least a year until your heart heals. I’ve also heard that it takes 1/2 of the time that you were in the relationship to get past it. However, these are just ideas, and while they may be true for some people, they still might not be true for you. I’ve definitely never seen any scientific studies backing that up and anecdotally, I would say those timelines only hold true for some.
What IS true is that however long it takes, it’s important you let yourself grieve for what you’ve lost. This means grieving for the person, the relationship and the hopes, dreams, and ideas that you had about your future with this person. Sometimes, it also means grieving the idea of the person that you were with or the security of being in a relationship even more than the person themselves.
STAGES OF GETTING OVER A BREAKUP
The grieving process involves the usual stages of denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and acceptance. However, they don’t always go in that order, you may experience them multiple times, and you don’t always go through all of the stages either. Each person grieves in his or her own way and no one can tell you how long this should take. Also, sometimes, you may think that you’ve finished a certain stage but then find yourself back in it again. This is normal. You aren’t back at square one, you are continuing to heal in your own time. For more on the stages of getting over a breakup, check out this blog post.
STEPS TO GETTING OVER A BREAKUP (healthy ways to get over a breakup)
FEEL YOUR FEELINGS
As I’ve said, the grieving process is necessary to go through when you are trying to get over a breakup. As much as you might want to skip the anger or the sadness, these emotions are very important to go through in order to heal. In fact, if you try to skip over feeling your feelings, you will probably end just up prolonging your heartache. This means no numbing out (or at least try to limit that).
Some ways you may be tempted to numb out are by:
- drinking alcohol
- eating crappy food
- doing drugs
- sleeping around
- dating someone new right away or dating around with multiple people right away
- binge-watching TV
- working more than usual
- staying really busy so you don’t have time to think
None of these are terrible if done once in a while, but if they become regular habits and are being used to avoid feeling sad or to avoid any other feeling, you are not letting yourself go through the grieving process and need to slow down and really allow yourself to sink into those hard feelings. I know it hurts but the only way out is through. Anything else is just a temporary bandaid.
ACCEPT THAT IT IS TIME TO LET GO
When you finally get to the acceptance phase of your grieving process, it’s important to tell yourself that breaking up was not a mistake. Resist the temptation to play the game in your mind where you mentally go over all of the things that you could have done or said differently to make the relationship work. If it didn’t last, there’s a reason for that. You didn’t make a mistake and there is nothing that you should have done differently. You might not know the reason right now, but one day you will look back and thank the Universe that this didn’t work out. Sometimes rejection is the universe’s protection.
Garth Brooks sings a song called “Unanswered Prayers” where he tells the tale of a man who prayed for his high school crush to like him back but she never did. In the song, he ultimately thanks God for not answering that prayer because he ends up marrying the love of his life; not his high school crush. For those of you that follow country, you know Garth married a fellow country icon, Trisha Yearwood. Now if this song is an autobiography, I’d say he came out winning. I see this type of thing happen more often than not and it’s beautiful when you finally find out why the one you thought you wanted didn’t work out.
The moral of the story is: What is meant for you will always find a way. Even if it doesn’t seem like it right now, the Universe truly does have your back and everything is happening FOR you, not TO you. If the Universe is taking people out of your life, let them go! This is all part of your soul’s evolution and growth.
FORGIVE YOUR EX
It’s impossible to get over a breakup without forgiveness. Of course, this is easier said than done. Maybe your ex cheated on you, lied to you, or constantly put you down. All of these behaviors are really hard to forgive. Until you remember that forgiveness isn’t actually for the other person, it’s for you.
Holding on to anger for something that someone else did doesn’t hurt that person, it only hurts you. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to get sick. That’s why you have to let it go. Otherwise, the anger will fester inside of you and bring you down.
Getting to the point where you can feel grateful for what you learned from your ex is an amazing sign of healing and growth.
As hard as it is to forgive your ex, forgiving yourself can sometimes be even harder. Yet, it’s necessary if you want to move on.
The trick to forgiving yourself is to stop playing the tape of all of the things that you think you did wrong. Stop thinking that you should have known better, that you never should have gotten into the relationship in the first place, or that you somehow ruined a good thing. Remember, if this relationship was meant to last, it would have.
Look at this experience as something that you learned instead of something that you messed up. I believe that all relationships are learning experiences, whether they last or not because they help you learn more about yourself.
Sometimes, the thing you need to forgive yourself for is buying into the belief that you didn’t deserve better than the relationship you had. If you were in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, this is a big one for you to forgive yourself for.
GETTING OVER A BREAKUP WITHOUT CLOSURE
Sometimes it’s not possible to have the closure that you want with your ex. In fact, it’s often not a healthy and self-honoring choice to “seek closure” with someone who is likely to hurt you again by attempting to reach out to them. Luckily, you can still get the closure that you need without ever having to speak to your ex again.
HOW TO GET OVER YOUR EX
Write A Letter That You Don’t Send
Light a candle and set an intention for the deepest level of healing to come forward. Ask for grace and be open to feeling freedom and forgiveness in your heart.
Here’s a sample format that you could use. Write as much as you can after each prompt until you feel complete:
I’m saying goodbye because… or I’m letting go because…
I forgive you for…
I forgive myself for…
Thank you for…
Perform A Ritual
- Burn a letter that your ex sent you.
- Give away or give back any of their possessions you still have.
- Write down all the dreams you thought would be fulfilled with your ex, burn the paper, and as you do, say something like “I’m letting this go to make room for something better. Please allow whatever comes forward to be for the highest and best good for all involved.”
- Take a cleansing bath with candles, Epsom salt, and your favorite essential oils. Visualize or speak out loud all the positive and negative memories you can recall from your relationship. Let out any pain or mourning. Then let the water drain while you are still sitting in the bath and watch it go down the drain, imagining all of your pain and sadness going with it.
- Go on a solo trip somewhere you have always wanted to go or go with friends or a group travel company if you don’t want to travel solo. This is less of a ritual and more of an adventure, but hey, it helps.
BEST WAY TO GET OVER A BREAKUP
The single best tool I can offer for getting over your breakup is to remind you that some relationships were never meant to last. Most relationships have an expiration date after the relationship has served its purpose in your life. Your ex showed up exactly when he or she needed to in order to help you learn something, to help you grow spiritually, or to help you get in touch with a part of yourself that had been dormant for too long. He or she was necessary for your soul’s evolution, but now you don’t need him or her anymore. Believe it or not, you unconsciously drew in this experience so that you could heal deep wounds that you’ve been carrying around with you ever since your childhood.
THERAPY TO GET OVER A BREAKUP
Realizing that you unconsciously drew in this experience helps you to see why this had to happen. But sometimes that can be really hard to accept and it can be even harder to heal the wounds the breakup uncovered without the help of a counselor. Your wounds were uncovered so that you could see them and learn how to heal them. It wasn’t a punishment, but rather, an opportunity to learn how to do things differently this time. Sometimes we need a little help with this and if that is the case for you, I’m here to support you. This is such brave work, and I am SO proud of you for diving into it. You are a spiritual warrior and there is a valuable lesson buried underneath all this pain. If I can help you in this journey of growth, change, and evolution, I’d be honored to stand by your side.
How To Start Being More Assertive In A Relationship. Why Nice Guys Finish Last
Most of us have been taught the importance of being nice to others. We strive to follow “The Golden Rule,” of treating others as we wish to be treated. We try to be helpful, supportive, and positive to those around us. But, are there times when you are being nice just so others will like you? Do you sometimes hide your true feelings in your search for acceptance from friends and loved ones? You may not even realize you are doing this half the time because you have been so accustomed to ignoring your own boundaries and intuition, that you trick yourself into thinking you DO want what they do. If this sounds like you, we need to have a little chat about boundaries and assertiveness.
Of course, there are times when we are genuinely nice to other people AND that aligns with our true desires and intentions. We give a compliment or we offer to take a friend’s dog for a walk when said friend is sick with the flu. Yet, most of us have also experienced times when we’ve wanted to say “no,” but said “yes” or lied to someone to avoid hurting his or her feelings.
White lies aren’t so bad, right? Well, that’s debatable and it depends on your true intention behind the white lie. When we lie to someone to avoid hurting him or her, in many instances, we stop being nice and start being self-serving. I know this sounds backward but let me clarify. When we lie to make someone happy, we are often more interested in how we look to the person than in trying to have a genuine interaction with them. We aren’t acting out of real care or concern for our loved one and are actually trying to protect our own image.
In other words, being nice to please others comes with some major downfalls.
Being Too Nice In A Relationship
Trying too hard to be nice doesn’t allow you to make your own choices. Instead, you follow the lead of others and do what other people want you to do. Because of this, you become disconnected from your own dreams, wishes and desires and your life ends up being about what others want, instead of what you want.
An extreme (but very common) example of people pleasing, is choosing a career path your parents want you to pursue rather than doing what you really want to do. Another example might be staying in an unhealthy relationship way past its expiration date because you feel bad hurting your partner or leaving them during a hard time they are going through. Or perhaps you agree to go to a restaurant that you really don’t like rather than telling your friends you aren’t a fan and making it more difficult for the group. Regardless of how big or small the sacrifice, you lose a little piece of yourself every time you try to be nice at the expense of what you really want.
Speaking Your Mind In A Relationship
Constantly trying to please others leads to superficial relationships that only exist on a surface level. They don’t have the depth that true partnerships need to succeed because you never let them see the real you. Trying to be who someone else wants you to be, causes you to lose who you really are, and this takes away your ability to feel your true feelings. This can lead to you feeling lost and alone, which is exactly what you were trying to avoid by being nice in the first place!
People cannot respect you or truly connect with you if you are fake with them. Always saying “yes” to someone will eventually cause that person to look down on you or feel like you aren’t being honest with them. In order for a healthy relationship to exist, both people have to be honest about what their needs and wants are, and it can’t be one-sided.
Being Assertive In A Relationship
Being fake or being a people pleaser in relationships also leads to them ending somewhat abruptly, often around the 3 to 6 month mark. If you have had a string of relationships that start out hot and heavy and then end unexpectedly just as you start to let your guard down, this is a good indicator that you might be acting genuinely in your relationship.
The reason your partners leave as soon as you get comfortable and let your guard down is because the real you starts to come out once you feel comfortable. Now it’s important to recognize this does not mean the real you isn’t lovable! I promise you are. It’s just that you entered into this relationship under false pretenses and the person you truly are, is not the person your partner signed up to be with. Had you been your authentic self from the get-go, you could’ve saved yourselves both time and heartbreak because one or both of you would have realized it’s not a great match before getting too invested.
Though it’s scary to put your true self (flaws and all) out there and face rejection, it’s easier if you realize that somebody’s opinion of you does not determine your worth. Just because you aren’t a good fit for somebody (or vice versa) does not mean you or they are not worthy of love. It just means that particular relationship wasn’t a good fit. You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea!
Just as others can’t respect you if you are constantly saying “yes” to them, you also can’t hold true feelings for someone when you are not being your true self with them. If you are constantly afraid that saying “no” to someone will make them stop loving you, then you aren’t in a healthy relationship; you are in a fake one.
I realize some of what I have said here might sound harsh. Believe me, I understand wanting others to like or love you. Still, I believe that you deserve to be loved for who you are, not for who you are pretending to be. I promise, being in a relationship as your true self is way more rewarding than simply trying to be nice.
How To Speak Your Mind In A Relationship
So, let’s say I’ve convinced you that being nice isn’t always the answer. Okay, then what is the answer?
Well, if you’ve ever been within spitting distance of a therapist or self-help book, you’ve probably heard the answer. It’s assertiveness. Still, do you really know what that means? It’s okay if you don’t. Many people confuse assertiveness with “being rude” or “getting what you want.” The truth is, it’s neither of those things.
How To Be Assertive In A Relationship
Psychologists believe that assertiveness is a teachable social skill and that it’s very important to be assertive in relationships. In fact, research has proven that higher levels of assertiveness are linked to higher levels of happiness in a relationship so this isn’t just opinion; it’s facts. Being assertive means that you stand up for yourself and speak your mind but without being rude or aggressive toward anyone else. It also means that you clearly state your opinions, goals, values, and boundaries without becoming angry or withdrawn. While being assertive, you may try to influence another person’s opinion, but you wouldn’t disrespect or be mean to that person while doing so. That’s just flat out aggression and is nowhere near as effective as assertiveness (unless your goal is to scare and alienate others.)
Learning To Be Assertive In Relationships
The biggest reason that so many people struggle with being assertive comes down to low self-esteem. If you don’t feel good about yourself from the inside, then you look to others to fill that void. You want everyone around you to like you, and because of that, you will hold back from saying what you really mean, or how you truly feel about things.
Whether you are outright lying, or just withholding the truth, keeping things to yourself because you are afraid of how others will react is bad for your relationships. You aren’t giving people the opportunity to know the real you, and that’s a shame!
Another reason that some people find it hard to be assertive, is that they judge themselves too harshly. If you are constantly trying to be perfect and always say the right thing, then you might stop yourself from sharing your true feelings and opinions. You might tell yourself that your opinion is “stupid,” or “wrong,” and silence yourself. Again, this is sad for your relationships with others because other people don’t get to hear your wonderful and unique ideas.
Assertive Communication In Relationships
One of the best things about assertiveness is that it can be learned! This means that even if you don’t think you have it mastered right now, it’s okay! We can work on it!
First, we would work on your self-esteem or the way that you value yourself. By helping you to see that your opinions, thoughts, and feelings have worth, you would have an easier time expressing them directly with others.
Next, and this one may come as a surprise, we would help you value others more. Think about it, if you aren’t sharing your true self with someone, do you really care about that person? If you can’t tell your friend that you were hurt when she didn’t come to your birthday party, are you really committed to repairing the rupture and being her friend? Real relationships require honesty, and you have to care enough about the other person to be willing to be honest.
Finally, we would help you build courage. Remember the cowardly lion in “The Wizard of Oz?” He knew how important it was to have courage! Courage allows you to do what you need to do, even when you are afraid. It allows you to feel the fear and do it anyway. That means that you might not want to bring up a controversial topic, or tell someone that they hurt you, but you do it anyway because you know that you are strong enough to handle whatever happens next. That’s the kind of courage that helps you, your relationships, and ultimately the whole world!
Examples Of Being Assertive In A Relationship
Alright, now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. I’m going to teach you a foolproof way of making an assertive statement. The recipe for this kind of statement looks like this:
Use “I” Statements – Speak from the first person about how you feel. This helps to lessen the defenses of the person you are talking to.
Describe Specific Behaviors That You Find Problematic – Instead of criticizing the person, you are criticizing his behavior. Again, this helps to lessen the chances that he or she will feel attacked and attack you back.
Put It All Together – Use the “I feel _______ when you _______” sentence structure.
Let’s look at an example of how this recipe works. Say your boyfriend has a habit of picking up his phone when the two of you are out on dates and it really bothers you. You might want to say something like, “You always ignore me! Why are we even together?!”, but that is probably more aggressive than assertive. An assertive statement would look like this:
“I feel ignored when you answer your phone during dinner.”
Then, you might add a request, like:
“Could we please make dinner a phone-free zone? It would make me feel so much more loved and like a priority that way.”
Does this sound like something that you could do? If it sounds hard to you, I’m happy to help support you in gradually learning and integrating assertiveness into your life. Book a free 30 min consultation today!
Signs You Need Look For In a Healthy Relationship
It seems like everywhere you look these days, there’s advice on how to know when you should call it quits and end a relationship. That’s very useful advice, but how do you know when you’ve got a good one on your hands? Is it, as the popular meme says, when you’ve found someone who likes to leave parties at the same time that you do? Is that just an urban dating myth? How can you tell if you are in a healthy relationship?
WHAT DOES A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP LOOK LIKE?
How much time do healthy couples spend together? How often are they having sex? Is it true that couples who pray together, stay together?
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all when it comes to what a healthy relationship should look like. Just as every person on this planet is unique, so is every couple. However, I’ve come up with some common characteristics of healthy relationships. Of course, this isn’t a complete list, but here are a few qualities that make a relationship worth its weight in gold.
Traits of a Healthy Relationship: A Feeling Of Trust
Trust is an extremely important part of any relationship. Without it, you can never know if your partner is telling you the truth, which obviously causes major insecurities. If you can’t trust that your partner will remain faithful to you while you go out with your friends, or spend some much needed alone time, then you will force yourself to be with them at all times, and that just isn’t healthy! You deserve to be with someone who is faithful and does what they say they will do so that you can feel free to do your own thing.
There’s a saying that if you pay attention, people will tell or show you who they really are. And once they show you, believe them! Someone who is untrustworthy will almost always show you their true colors eventually. If you find yourself confused by your partner’s explanations about mundane things, pay attention to those inconsistencies. First, he told you that he was at his mother’s house but later the story is, he was at his best friend’s place. If you mention the discrepancy and he tells you that you are crazy or too possessive, this is a red flag and could be gaslighting. A truthful person, on the other hand, is consistent. Not just in the stories they tell you but in keeping their word in general.
However, trust isn’t just about being faithful and it isn’t just about lying or telling the truth either. It’s also about being able to count on someone to do what they say they will. That’s called being reliable and it’s probably the #1 thing women need from a man to feel secure in a relationship.
Do you want to know if you are in a healthy relationship? Take our quiz now to find out!
Healthy Boundaries In Relationships
Brene Brown has an amazing video where she describes the Anatomy of Trust and one of the first things she talks about is boundaries. A major component of trust is respecting your partner’s boundaries and holding your own. I have another blog post on the topic of boundaries, which is a whole topic on its own.
It’s far easier to have a strong relationship with someone who is truthful, so if you’ve got yourself a reliable truth-teller, that’s one sign that you are in a healthy relationship.
How Often Do Couples Fight In A Healthy Relationship?
Have you ever asked yourself if the amount of fighting in your relationship is healthy? If this question has crossed your mind, you are not alone! The answer, though, has more to do with how the conflict is handled than how often it happens. Conflict is a healthy and normal part of any relationship if done well. There is an analogy I love to tell my clients that has to do with the way bridges are built. According to engineers, the strongest part of a bridge is the part where the metal has been broken apart and then welded back together. This is such a beautiful analogy for conflict in relationships because, if done lovingly, resolving conflict together will actually make you stronger as a couple than you were before you had the fight. Really!
How To Be In A Healthy Relationship: Learn To Apologize
Let’s face it – If you are with someone for an extended period of time, both of you are going to make a mistake at some point. That’s okay, as long as you both know how to apologize. Being able to say you are sorry shows maturity and confidence because it means that you realize you are not defined by your mistake; it’s just something unfortunate that you did. Anyone who has been in a successful long-term relationship will tell you that practicing apologies and giving forgiveness are both things that you will get very good at.
Healthy Communication In Relationships
Speaking of having your feelings hurt, it’s important that you feel like you can bring up hurts and disappointments with your partner. You need to be able to say when something bothers you, without fear that your partner will turn the situation around and blame you. In a healthy relationship, an exchange like this might take place:
You: It hurt my feelings that you didn’t seem that excited when I told you that I’d be taking a photography class. I’m very excited about photography and I’d like to be able to share my excitement with you.
Your Partner: I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was that important to you. I will be more enthusiastic from now on. Can you show me some of the photos you took?
For contrast, an unhealthy response from your partner might look more like:
“Well, you find a new hobby every week, so how am I supposed to know when to take you seriously?”
Yikes! If that’s his response, you two may want to talk to a therapist right away.
In a strong, healthy relationship, you will want to share your feelings with your partner, because you expect him or her to react positively to what you are saying. In healthy relationships, each partner wants the other person to grow and be his or her best self. You don’t try to hold each other back or rain on each other’s parades. Instead, you are there for each other during both the good and bad times. It’s like having someone that you can count on, no matter what.
As I said earlier, this doesn’t mean that you will never fight or argue. It just means, as one healthy relationship quote says, “Even when you don’t really like your partner, you love him anyway.”
What Makes A Relationship Strong: Mutual Respect
Partners who respect each other have each other’s backs. They don’t talk badly about each other to their friends and they encourage each other to grow. It’s so important to be with someone who wants you to be your best self; someone who will stand up for you when you’re not around, and who will help you believe in yourself even more than you already do.
If your significant other discourages you from taking a class or bettering yourself in some way, chances are he or she is afraid that if you grow too much you will leave the relationship. This is toxic! Healthy partners want each other to grow and be the best version of themselves that they can be.
It’s much easier to want your partner to grow if you feel good about yourself. Part of the reason why some relationships are unhealthy is that one or both of the people in them have low self-esteem. This can cause a person to be jealous, possessive, manipulative, or downright nasty in a relationship. In contrast, if both partners feel good about themselves, then the chances that they will treat each other with respect are much higher.
What A Healthy Relationship Looks Like: The Ability To Laugh
Laughter really is the best medicine, and that’s not just a saying. Studies have shown that laughing releases endorphins, our feel-good chemicals. Couples who laugh together report having higher-quality relationships than those who don’t. Laughing can even make disagreements seem less serious. Plus, sometimes, laughing leads to sex, which causes even more feel-good chemicals. So, if you’ve found someone who can make you laugh, you’ve won the relationship jackpot! If you feel like your relationship could use more laughter or positivity, check out this blog post on how to be more positive.
Benefits Of A Healthy Relationship
Research by The Gottman Institute has shown that being in a healthy relationship does more than make you happy. It also helps you stay healthy. This is particularly true for men. Men in long term relationships typically earn more, are happier, are less stressed, and have fewer health issues than their single counterparts. To learn more about this research (and how to have a happy relationship), I highly recommend reading The Man’s Guide To Women.
Healthy Relationship Quiz
This article should give you a good idea about some of the components of a healthy relationship but there is so much more that we did not cover in this blog. That’s why I created this Healthy Relationship Quiz to help you determine once and for all if you are in a healthy relationship.
I know it can be scary to take an honest look at your relationship to see whether it is healthy or not, but if you read all the way to the end of this article, I believe you have what it takes to face this head on. Whatever your situation, if you’d like to talk more about your relationship, contact me. I’m here to help!