Many people hate hearing the word “no”, and many don’t like saying it either, especially to a partner. And it makes sense. In a relationship, there is a strong desire to please and demonstrate love, and never to appear mean or careless.
Often, people think going along with their partner’s requests will be good for their relationship. Fewer disagreements, less conflict, right? Some even have a hard time voicing their opinions or needs in fear of losing their partner.
While saying “I’ll do anything for you” might sound romantic in Disney movies, the truth about not being able to say no is that it takes a toll on people’s well-being and sense of satisfaction by making them feel drained and detached from their needs and desires.
From the traditional mental scoreboard, commonly known as the “I did this for you and you wouldn’t…”, to the loss of individuality and lowered self-esteem, not being able to say no does more harm than good. However, the reality is maintaining a level of self-honesty by saying no can ultimately contribute to relationship satisfaction.
“Relationships are about comprise and priorities. Your priorities shift when you enter a committed relationship, which can end up comprising things you used to easily say no to. Now you have to consider the implications”, explains Yasmin Razack, a personal and professional life coach from Toronto, Canada.
But not saying no doesn’t only have negative effects. Sometimes, it can be beneficial as it can lead to an exploration of oneself outside of the usual comfort zone and bring unexpected pleasing and meaningful life experiences. “You are stretching yourself to try and experience the things that you would not experience otherwise”, says Razack.
To reach a healthy balance, the key is to lose sight of one’s personal needs and boundaries. However, it’s easier said than done. Such a skill takes self-awareness, conscientiousness and the ability to weigh out the benefits regarding the situation at hand and the honest feelings concerning it. In addition, a compassionate outlook and empathy for one’s partner’s needs are necessary to achieve this.
Leaning how to say no
The negative aspect of not being able to say no is risking neglecting one’s values and the essence of who you are, as Razack explains. For any interpersonal relationship such as family, friends, or work, maintaining a level of Balanced Self-Determined (BSD) behavior can lead to more fulfilling lives. BSD behavior is a skill taught by life coaches, which comprises any behavior that helps people to take a course of action for their best interest, standing up for themselves without feelings of anxiety, and to act in accordance with their rights as an individual, without neglecting the needs and rights of others.
“Learning how to say no is very important, continues Razack. You need to set these boundaries early. Talk about what are the things you are not willing to give up. For example, how many children, where you want to live, sexual expectations, etc.”.
Methods can be used to practice these skills and master the heart-to-heart with oneself; that of being honest. It will bring greater harmony, understanding of one another’s needs, acceptance, and respect for each other’s individuality, giving more room for enjoyment of the time spent together and mutual gratefulness.
Amongst the methods used, Razack lists doing a value inventory to assess one’s values and set them straight, reading about and practicing self-efficacy to work towards self-actualization, utilizing metaphors and affirmations, practicing visualization, possibly attending life skills coaching to insightfully determine one’s life goals, thereby obtaining a sense of clarity and minimize obstacles from interfering.
When partners in a relationship can accept one another’s feelings, needs and rights, the flow of lovingness within the relationship becomes smoother and moving forward easier. It involves daily practice and a willingness to love and respect oneself and one’s partner’s feelings.