I’m going to ask you a really tough question.
Here it is.
Your guy has asked you to do something you REALLY don’t want to do. Do you:
- Say yes … but end up feeling resentful?
- Say no … but end up feeling guilty?
It’s impossible, right? Either way, you end up feeling bad.
In an ideal world, you’d be able to say no without guilt.
Or, if you said yes, you’d feel at peace with your decision.
But we’re only human. We weigh pleasing others against the inconvenience it will cause us. We’re not always good at setting healthy boundaries.
If you grew up being told that it was selfish to say no, then it’s even harder. Any refusal will make you feel guilty. You’ll worry you’re not giving enough or doing enough. You may even feel like saying no makes you a bad person.
As a result, you may find yourself saying yes more than you say no…
With grave consequences for your relationship.
The Problem with Saying Yes
When you’ve just met someone, you WANT to go out of your way for him.
You want to show him how much he matters to you. You want to show him what a wonderful partner you are.
So you go along with him as much as you can. You think of extra things to do for him. You get great pleasure out of it.
But as you settle into the relationship, things change.
Your attention returns to your everyday life. You’ve got other things on your mind. You don’t have as much time or energy to spend on him. You’ve got to juggle the relationship with work, friends, family, and self-care.
So you start to set limits on what you can and can’t give to the relationship.
That isn’t always easy…
Especially when you rarely said no to him before.
How is he going to react when you start turning him down?
Balancing Your Needs with His
It’s hard to disappoint someone you love.
You feel responsible for their happiness. You want to do whatever you can to make them happy.
Have you ever found yourself doing things for your guy that make YOU unhappy…
But you do them anyway because they make HIM happy?
Surely that’s what love does, you might think. Love is self-sacrifice. Love is selflessness.
But that’s not in alignment with what we know about healthy relationships.
In healthy relationships, both individuals have boundaries. They take personal responsibility for their own happiness, rather than outsourcing their happiness to each other.
Taking personal responsibility for your happiness means making difficult decisions.
Sometimes, you’ll need to look after yourself even though he wants you to do something for him. You’ll need to disappoint him to protect yourself.
It’s easier to have those tough conversations when you’ve made it a policy from the get-go to balance your needs with the needs of the relationship.
But for many of us, the choice is excruciating.
Do we say no to the person we love and feel guilty? Or do we say yes and end up feeling resentful?
Choosing Between Guilt and Resentment
Physician and author Dr. Gabor Maté was once told by a therapist: “If you face the choice between feeling guilt and resentment, choose the guilt every time.”
Dr. Maté goes on to say, “It is wisdom I have passed on to many others since. If a refusal saddles you with guilt, while consent leaves resentment in its wake, opt for the guilt. Resentment is soul suicide.”
But why is resentment so dangerous?
Because it poisons the very reason you said yes in the first place:
Your love for your partner.
Those tiny resentments build up over time. You begin to feel as if your guy is demanding. He’s always wanting something from you. You’re losing yourself. His needs are threatening your emotional health and happiness.
That can ultimately destroy the relationship.
But if you choose guilt, something else happens. You experience a struggle between how you want to be seen and how you feel inside. You want to be a good person who’s selfless and always giving, but you know that it’s unsustainable. You have to take time for yourself.
That internal conflict can be enlightening. You may find that you have to rethink what it means to be a good partner. You may find that you haven’t been valuing yourself as much as you should. Healthy love doesn’t ask you to sacrifice yourself.
So if you avoid saying no to your guy for fear of seeming selfish, try a different tactic. Ask yourself:
“Will saying yes to this make me feel any degree of lasting or recurring resentment?
If so, then say no for the sake of your love. See it as one small step on the journey of embracing healthy boundaries.
This honestly helps me with ANY relationship. I need this with friendship, with family, with literally anyone — acquaintances, coworkers, strangers, you name it. I resent life and people in general because of my inability to say no. Thanks, James. Binging your articles xD