Relationships are places where you can let down your guard and show your true self.
Relationships are places where you can open your heart and let love in.
But relationships are also places where you can be hurt…
Where you can experience betrayal.
That’s why you need relationship self-defense.
Even in Love, You Need Protection
Relationship self-defense is based on the premise that in love, just as in life, we’re going to get hurt.
So it makes sense to learn to protect ourselves.
This doesn’t mean anticipating the worst.
It doesn’t mean acting aggressive or hiding behind thick armor.
It’s simply about knowing how to protect yourself emotionally if you need to.
When you take a self-defense class, you hope you’ll go through your entire life never needing those skills.
But you can take comfort in knowing that, if you do need them, you’ll have them on hand.
Relationship self-defense skills are there for when you need them.
You may not use them often, but you’ll always have them in your toolbox.
The 3 Self-Defense Skills
The art of relationship self-defense starts with three foundational skills:
- The Simple No
- The Truth
These 3 skills build on and reinforce each other.
If you don’t have boundaries, you will find it hard to say no.
If you can’t say no, you will find it hard to be honest.
If you can’t be honest, you can’t express your boundaries.
In good relationships, there is a learning period. You don’t know what feels good to the other person or what makes them uncomfortable.
As soon as you find out, of course, your behavior immediately takes your partner’s boundaries into account.
But not all relationships are that easy.
Sometimes you express a boundary, and your partner continues the behavior anyway. So you have to be able to say no.
Other times, when your partner has done something to hurt you emotionally and doesn’t realize it, you have to be able to share your truth with him.
Let’s look more closely at each of these skills and how they work.
The Art of Setting Boundaries
When you fall in love with someone, you don’t want there to be any boundaries between you.
Setting a boundary feels like pushing him away.
So you pick up his call even when it comes at an inconvenient time.
You let him come over, even though you’re tired and want to get to bed.
You agree to do something you don’t want to do, because you’re doing it for him.
And resentment builds, because he never seems to appreciate how much you’re accommodating him.
You’re not making your relationship better by ignoring your boundaries. You’re letting him believe a lie about you: that you’re okay with certain behaviors when you’re not.
When you’re in love, you want to know each other’s boundaries.
You want to know what’s okay and what’s not.
So it’s a gift from you to him, when you tell him that you’d love to see him but can’t right now…
Or when you let his call go to voicemail because you don’t have the energy to talk at the moment (though a quick text can reassure)…
Or when you tell him that you don’t really want to do what he asked.
Those conversations can be hard. That’s why you need the next skill.
The Art of The Simple No
Having boundaries aren’t enough.
You need to be able to enforce them.
That’s where the power of no comes in.
When someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, you simply say no.
Based on the work of Byron Katie, the simple no doesn’t require explanation. If you get into a long explanation, it suggests that your decision is open to negotiation.
You can soften your no by acknowledging the other person first. For example:
- “Thank you for the invitation and no.”
- “I hear what you’re saying and no.”
- “I can see the dilemma you’re in and no.”
Katie recommends using the word and. If you say, “Thank you but no,” it can sound passive-aggressive.
Even in good relationships, our partners can sometimes push us to do something we don’t want to do. That pressure can make things uncomfortable unless we’re strong in our boundaries and clear in our no.
The Art of Truth-Telling
Telling the truth to someone you love can be terrifying.
You don’t want to offend him. You don’t want to cause a fight.
The truth has a way of changing things. Your truth can bring you closer in a moment of vulnerability, or your truth can trigger his defensiveness.
But your truth also protects you from a relationship that was never right in the first place.
When you set boundaries and you’re able to say no and you’re able to speak your truth, you will scare some men away.
Anyone who wants to take advantage of you will break it off. They can’t play their normal games with you.
But the reward is that the relationships that remain will feel real and authentic.
Relationship self-defense helps you create safe, honest, respectful relationships. The kind of relationships that feel good. The kind of relationships that last.
Thank you, James🙏 I find this article helpful and love the practical suggestions how best to implement the 3 emotional self defence skills. So I’ve saved it and made my own notes for future reference:)
Hi – I have read your advice in the past on this but cant find now . How ti get man to do what you want without asking or creating a fight.. my ask…. Leave his phone ringer on when i sleep over – we are exclusive over a solid year now and both very very happy following 3 rough years of finalizing divorce on my end – which was his reason to not commit before then. He’s 44 very handsome and has lots of oppertunity if he wants . He’s literally my best friend friend we speak 50 times a day and spend every moment together we can because I have three kids. He claims that we are soulmates forever and I know he’s happy. But it’s fixing my mind this feeling of the stress and I can say mainly because he turns his phone silent not vibrate And leaves it on his nightstand before I even get there. I know that’s a red flag this has been a habit of his that he probably developed because when we initially got together he was in a relationship. So there’s an irking feeling about it it has come up and we fight about it he leaves it out bit more often but still on silent at night… he wants my trust I don’t want him to feel that I don’t trust him because it doesn’t help the truth is I would feel better if he just left his phone on. Any recommendation?
Arrien, I recommend you and he both leave your phones in “do not disturb” mode in the evenings. Being constantly available to pings from anyone and everyone is really bad for our emotional wellbeing. It’s important to disconnect from the digital world from time to time. If you need him to be able to respond to you at any moment to prove he is not with another woman, it’s not a relationship worth pursuing… because it indicates he has done or said things that make you unable to trust his word.
Arrrien: Why is turning your phone to silent a red flag for you? I am single, female, usually sleep alone and my phone is automatically scheduled to do not disturb every night. Personally, I don’t want my phone, or any one else’s phone buzzing and waking me up all hours of the night. Sometimes it has nothing to do with anything other than the basic need to sleep.