Yes! I mean NO! Do I mean no?

If saying “NO” is not an easy thing for you to do, join the club. It’s like we are wired from the beginning to say “YES” to everything. It’s the polite thing to do, right? So, once we start doing that from the get-go it’s a habit and then by the time you’re in your mid-twenties and you are overcommitted and can’t figure out how that happened. I feel like I could be the president of the club most days. And I’ve improved. You don’t want to let anyone down and they need you. Well, who is the affecting more, them or you? My guess would be you because you’ve taken on more than you can chew and it very well could be affecting your other relationships. Your boss asked you to take on another huge project that keeps you after work late, which consequently prevents you from getting home to your spouse or family. Who is taking the hit? How can you confidently say no and not forsake losing your job, friends, family, or peace of mind?

First, check out the book “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud (he’s got books on all sorts of boundaries for all sorts of relationships). He covers everything you need to know to protect yourself while still keeping friends. I recommend it to 90% of the people who walk in my door. We all need it.

Practice saying no. Say it to yourself in the mirror. Say it to your dog. Tell your cat no. Do not be afraid of the word no. You can say it politely, “Thank you for the offer but…”, “How about we revisit this next week…”, “No, I don’t think that’s a very good idea…” No is in the language for a reason. If you give in and you don’t want to, that will lead you to resentment.

Reverse the roles. So, Sally wants to go to drinks and you’ve already committed to Donald to go to dinner. No need to overbook yourself. You might be worried Sally will never ask you to drinks again or her feelings will be hurt. Change the scenario. You ask Sally for drinks, Sally says, “I wish I could, but I already have plans to eat with Donald tonight.” Easy. You understand, so Sally will understand as well. I am sure you make great company, but your friend will be okay if you can’t make it to everything they ask you to.

Does it make you happy? If all of the running around and pleasing other people is exhausting and you find yourself more annoyed than enjoying what you’ve agreed to, take a time out. Do something for yourself. Turn your phone off. Go to a movie alone. Do something you want to do because you want to do it. Not because someone has asked you to or you’re expected to. You can’t always be the volunteer that chairs every event your local college chapter has, the classroom parent who plans all the holiday parties, or the go-to man in your office that gets all the projects. You will burn out.

Remember, NO is not a bad word.

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Settling…and I don’t mean what the settlers did

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a change. Unfortunately, this is what many of us do in relationships. We repeat the same routine time after time and expect the outcome in our relationships to be different. Each time we wind up feeling like things could be better, it’s better than being single, or a number of other excuses for why we are settling on this one individual. Well, until we change the pattern of settling, nothing will change. You are living in insanity.

Take a look at yourself. You’re the one in the drivers seat. You do not have to stay in this relationship, you are choosing to. Why you are choosing to? Maybe it’s because you feel this is the best you can do? It is because it’s your best option right now? If this is what you’re choosing and you know something is better out there, look at the way you view yourself. I once had a supervisor tell me, “Who we date says more about us than it does about them.” In the recent movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, this question is addressed so simply and beautifully between two of the characters:

Charlie: Why do nice people choose the wrong people to date?

Bill: We accept the love we think we deserve.

Charlie: Can we make them know they deserve more?

Bill: We can try.

 

The simple answer is, we date who we think we deserve and if you feel like you deserve someone who treats you poorly, then it’s a matter of learning to like yourself enough to make a change. Not settling, not worrying about what ifs, and not being afraid to stand up for yourself.

What to do with a smothering partner

Remember that time when you were a teenager and your parents wanted to know everything; who you were with, where you were going, if parents were going to be there, how long you would be gone, what you ate, how many words you type a minute? They had good intentions, but the questions were non-stop. You survived that, barely. Well, it can feel similar to that now but you’re not 16 and it’s not your parents being overly concerned, it’s your partner. And it’s 1000x worse.

First, distinguish if it is a matter or control or if it’s grounded in good intentions that are a lot too much? It may even be difficult to tell. If you’ve ever seen The Hangover (I hope so!), Stu’s girlfriend, Melissa, is classic control example. She breaths down his neck and he has to lie about anything that might rock the boat. If you fall into that camp, it’s not just smothering it’s power and control and you want no part of that. If you’re still not sure, the best gauge is if your friends have made comments about it…or if you don’t really have your own friends anymore. Move on.

So, it’s not Stu’s girlfriend bad, but it’s pretty irritating and you can tell they have good intentions but it’s a little much and it’s driving you away. TALK ABOUT IT. Not an easy conversation to bring up, but it is easier than a break up conversation. They won’t know something is wrong unless you tell them. How do you tell them? That’s a million dollar question. I can’t really tell you what to say but I can give you some tips:

  • Be direct: Sugar coating it might make it more sensitive, but it also makes it more confusing.
  • Be concise: No need to be verbose. Shorter the better and, again, less confusion.
  • Give examples: If you don’t cite anything they won’t know what it is they are doing and what you are asking for them to change.
  • Provide some alternatives: The other person may feel attacked and get defensive and be sure they know you know it’s coming from a good place by providing some solutions that would please both of you.

It’s not an easy convo to initiate, but I encourage you to do it if the person is someone you care about and value.

 

Interview: Part 9

What would your top 3 tips be for women who feel like they are doing all the work in the relationship or don’t know where they stand in their relationship or they are not getting the kind of commitment from their partner?

Every relationship is going to have it’s ups and downs, but also remember a relationship is a two way street. If you feel like you are putting all the work into it, there is something that is off and either needs to get fixed immediately or you need to hop on out. Three tips for those of you who are in that situation would include:

  1. Have a little bit of patience with him. Is there a reason he has pulled back? Is work going well? Is he under family stress? Did he experience something out of the ordinary that has shaken him up a bit? If so, give him some time and allow him to heal or seek help to move past this stumbling block. Figure out how you can come alongside him and support him in the way that is best for him. What would work for you may not be what works for him.
  2. Talk to him. A relationship is based on communication. If you’re not letting him know your needs he won’t be able to provide you what you’re expecting. He’s not a mind reader, even though that would be what every woman wants.
  3. Let it go. If you’ve done your part, you’ve talked to him, laid it out, and he’s still not getting it, it’s going to take a lot more than your patience for him to get things sorted out. You also don’t want to wait around for him if you’re sure of what you’re looking for. This won’t be the easy thing to do, but sometimes it takes losing something great to realize what was there. That may be the case for him, and if it’s not there are other men out there that can provide you with emotional support and commitment.

Interview: Part 8

Another common question we frequently get asked from our readers is when they should talk about marriage in a relationship. Some of our subscribers would like to get married soon, start a family and are quite wary of a ticking biological clock. For them, time is crucial and they don’t want to waste their time with the wrong men. Some men when asked about marriage respond “Maybe, some day I want to get married” or “Yes, I want to get married some day in the future.” Women are not quite sure whether they should wait or if they should move on when they hear this response.

What would your advice be for women in this situation?

Marriage and a family is something many people desire, not just women. While women are often more forthcoming with that information, men know what they are looking for and if they want to get married. Obviously, it’s not something to dive into the first few dates, but probably in the first couple months it’s a good idea to be sure you are in fact on the same “Life Page.”

There are opportunities the first couple months where you can slide subtle questions in to find out where he lies on the topics of marriage and children. If he’s talking about his niece or nephew, you can say something as simple as, “I love kids. Do you want children one day?” Gives him a chance to reveal something but in a non-confrontational way. Or marriage, which is trickier, but it’s not hard to find something wedding or marriage related and slide an unassuming question in the conversation. No need to harp on his response, if he’s worth keeping around you can do that later. And if those innocuous questions freak him out, he’s probably not on your page.

For the sake of keeping it simple, if he doesn’t know what he wants or thinks “maybe eventually down the road”, and that’s not lining up with you, cut bait and get out. It’s nothing against you, but if you were “the one” for him he wouldn’t be wishy-washy. He’d be ready to give you some pretty firm answers. It might not mean marriage in the next month, but you at least know you desire the same things. If you wait around you are just spinning your wheels on a guy who is indecisive and not committing to you. There are men out there (lots of them) who want to get married and have families, and if you stick around Joe Shmo you’re missing out on someone who wants to settle down and share a life with you.

Interview: Part 7

Some of our women subscribers feel that their masculine energy tend to intimidate men and drive them away. This is a common problem especially among successful professional women and entrepreneurs that require them to be more masculine at their workplace. However they find it difficult to transition to their feminine energy in their personal relationships.

In your opinion what does it mean to be feminine and can you provide insights on how women can embrace femininity without losing their identity?

People expect a lot from you, and you expect a lot from yourself. These are great qualities and ones that should be admired in a woman, but in the same way, it can also become your greatest weakness. These qualities can cross over into your personal life and that is where it will take a conscious effort to make a shift in the way you relate to men outside of the workplace. This can be a challenge and also one where you may not feel like you are being true to who you are, but there is a way to maintain that but allow the man to be the man in the relationship. He wants to feel like he is in charge and when a woman steps in and takes that role it can be incredibly emasculating. I’m not saying be submissive, but I am saying generally, there is a role a man wants to play in a relationship and you want to allow him the role.

There could be a few things holding you back from being able to connect with men on a deeper level.

  • One of those may be a fear of showing weakness or failure. That is difficult for anyone to do, but especially someone who is typically “in charge”. Your pride is on the line and an inability to let your guard down can keep things at a surface level that won’t let a relationship progress.
  • Remembering you are not at work. You can let your hair down and not feel the pressure to perform. You should be able to feel relaxed and let loose a little bit.
  • When there are too many chefs in the kitchen, what happens? Everyone leads and no one can take orders. Figure out how you can find that balance. Let go of the control.
  • Reserve those work clothes for work and do not bring them out for dates. If you’re going on a date after work, bring some make up and a fresh shirt or skirt to change into. And maybe a saucy pair of heels. Feel the part of pretty. You might feel very restricted in your work clothes and not even know it.
  • Practice not talking about work outside of work. It’s obviously a huge part of who you are, but it can drive people away when they aren’t able to figure out other interests you have.
  • Passion and drive are incredibly attractive qualities and if your job is important you won’t have to explain that because it will naturally come out, but no need to force it.

Interview: Part 6

Can you share your thoughts on delaying sex until women get to really know a man? Some experts I have talked to especially warn against having sex on the first date because it creates a sense of pseudo-intimacy that prevents women from seeing things objectively. For women who are interested in having a long term committed relationship, would you recommend that they delay having sex until they get to know the man and have him commit to exclusivity?

I cannot emphasize holding off on sex enough. As much as we would like to be able to disconnect from our emotions and engage in a good romp, we really can’t do it the way we would like especially if we desire a long term relationship. Our bodies won’t let us. We release a hormone called Oxytocin when we orgasm and that hormone is responsible for attachment. Oxytocin will give you the feeling that there is something more there than is actually there—circling back to the pseudo-intimacy. It’s like an illusion. You are allowing a man to engage in something very intimate with you and unless you are in a committed relationship he has nothing to lose.

Take the time to get to know him and feel safe in the relationship with him before the physical commitment comes. You will probably find the longer you wait, the less likely you are to start flying off the radar on him because you are secure in the relationship because of the foundation not being based on lust.

If all you take from this is “Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it” then that’s all you need to remember. Don’t do it. Be patient.

Interview: Part 5

I have read a few experts that recommend playing hard to get as a means to woo men and retain their attention. Can you share your thoughts and talk about your views on playing hard to get to attract men?

This is a million dollar question. Thinking about it on the surface, it makes no sense. Why would someone you are intentionally ignoring be interested? But for whatever crazy reason it works. I have a few ideas between what I have heard from others and what men have mentioned to me.

It’s in their genes. Men may be hardwired in their chemical make up to want to chase the woman. Take the hunter-gatherer example, it’s what men have been doing since they first showed up on Earth. They hunt and the thrill seems to be in the chase. If we make it too easy for them, they lose interest. Peculiar, but it’s how the game works.

Everyone likes a little mystery, so revealing too much about yourself too soon takes away the mystery. Men like to have things to figure out, it keeps them intrigued. Tell him just enough but leave him wanting more. Think about a good book, the chapter ends and you’re so curious what happens next you keep reading. You are the book, and he is the reader.

It may be that “playing hard to get” is actually a woman being confident and secure in who she is. She isn’t consumed with when she’s going out with him next because she has other things on her plate she is excited about. She doesn’t need to take time to craft the perfect witty text back because she isn’t paying attention to her phone but to the people she is with. She knows she is enough with or without him. That’s attractive.

While I don’t agree with making up excuses and always being “busy”, you do want him to know you have a life, but you should squeeze him in somewhere. Guys like a challenge, but they don’t like games. Give him something to work for, but don’t mess around with him and play him like a puppet. That’s not fair and it’s manipulation to get what you want. The flip side, as a woman, there are things you should expect which include him planning dates in advance, following through with plans, and being intentional in spending time together. If he’s not doing those things, he’s probably playing his own game with you. Be smart, confident, play it right, and he will be intrigued. From the intrigue, only time will tell…

 

Interview: Part 4

We get a lot of emails from our readers who often worry about losing the man that they are interested in. This can be ranging from issues like the man blowing hot and cold to a man communicating with them only via text messages to him taking her for granted and not making any plans ahead of time for a date to being hesitant to talk about how he sees their relationship progressing or discussing his thoughts about marriage etc.

I guess it’s quite natural for people in general to avoid serious topics or conversations especially when they are first getting to know the person. But for a relationship to progress and for a couple to build trust and feel emotionally connected, it is important to talk about what’s on your mind and discuss important issues.

What we see many women do is that they either avoid talking about these issues or pretend they don’t matter because they don’t wan to “risk losing him” or they have this hope that they can change the man later on as the relationship progresses In the process, they set a dangerous precedent by avoiding conflict altogether or by sweeping issues under the rug early on in the relationship.

So how can women overcome this fear of losing their man and cultivate the habit of openness and honesty early on in their relationship?

Losing a romantic partner is scary because of what has been invested into that person. Thinking about it can give you a pit in your stomach. So, in relationships, we do what we can not to rock the boat. Relationships can be like Seahaven in the movie The Truman Show–the sun always shines, people are always “good”, everyone smiles, and there is never any traffic. Pure bliss. And that is what we try to maintain in relationships. The problem comes when we can’t force the smiles anymore and we are looking for something real, just like Jim Carey in The Truman Show.

It’s not normal to dive into the nitty-gritty on date one—this is a chance to hit the surface and figure out what kind of person you are working with. The first few dates can be like Seahaven, putting your best foot forward and feeling the man out. However, there comes a time when facing the nitty-gritty is necessary to take a relationship to the next level. It’s relatively easy to keep things on the surface, especially if he isn’t willing to dig deep. What I see many women doing is compromising themselves because they are afraid of what direction tough conversations may take the relationship. But ask yourself this, “Am I staying true to who I am and my values or am I sacrificing part of me so I don’t lose him?” What happens if the relationships ends? Will you be able to say, “I have no regrets and I didn’t compromise who I am.” That should be an end goal.

Having real life conversations isn’t easy, but they are crucial to a relationship and should be discussed on the early-ish end. It is much better to find out that you and Bobby don’t line up with the idea of children in month 2 rather than in month 9 when much more has been invested emotionally. And truthfully, I believe many of these conversations should be had even before the boyfriend title is thrown around. Others may believe that is too early, but I think once you’re on that track, it’s much harder to turn back when core values are not lining up. It’s those values that make you who you are. Be bold. In the end you want someone who respects you, not someone who you’re living in The Truman Show with. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work out with his wife because it’s a relationship that never left the surface.

On the issue of changing a man, don’t hold your breath. The only thing a woman can (maybe) change about a man is his clothes. Do not get into a relationship with the idea you are different and you can tame the beast, you can’t. He can change, but it’s going to be because he wants to, not because you want him to.

 

ON WEDNESDAYS WE WEAR PINK!

My phone is sitting no more than 3 feet from me as I write this post. I am constantly attempting to figure out ways to become less dependent (is that even possible at this point?) on my phone use and the apps that come accompany it. A little over a year ago, I felt like I spent too much time scrolling on Facebook, so I removed it. A little painful feeling FOMO (fear of missing out), but it lessened overtime. It’s constant re-evaluation of my use and when I think maybe I’ve gotten better, I catch myself in the same habits of picking up the phone only to see my home screen. With that, I removed notifications from popping up from my Instagram account and SnapChat. There is always something I can be doing better.

I came across an article this morning on Psychology Today that is a little longer than a really short read (about 10 minutes) that can help anyone take an honest reflection on their social media use and how to break some of those pesky habits and be more present and live a more authentic life in relationship with those around you.

Are You Self-ie Absorbed?