Okay, I won’t hold the suspense. The two secrets to a healthy relationship are: 1) tell the truth; and 2) be you. Sounds simple, right? However, this is one of the most common conversations I have in my office each day. Why do we struggle with this so much? Why do we throw ourselves under the bus and abandon our core values and beliefs so quickly and easily?
Many of us were programmed early on by society, our families, school, or religion to be good, to please others, to not rock the boat, or to deny our true feelings for the betterment of the greater good. The primary person we lie to is ourselves and consequently to another anytime we ignore that nagging tug in our gut and say “yes” when we really want to say “no,” or when we really want to say “yes” and we deny it, sabotage it, or stay stuck in fear and say “no.” As an experiment, begin to listen to yourself as you talk to your partner, friends, co-workers, and children. What are the little (and not so little) lies that you say about how you are feeling, what you choose to agree to, what you want, or what you say is okay?
So herein lies the key to how you measure the health in your relationships. How do you tell the truth and be you in your life? The goal is to bring you more into alignment by establishing within yourself a clear “YES” and a clear “NO.” In doing this seemingly simple task, you will remain in full integrity at all times because what you say out loud will match the conversation going on inside your head.
If you are telling the truth at all times and presenting yourself 100% as you truly are, your relationships will improve because the people you are connecting with will have the opportunity to experience the real you. This is especially helpful when establishing a new dating or romantic relationship. If a new relationship is not going to pan out long term, this becomes much more clear early on because you are not sacrificing yourself to “make it seem” like you are the right combination together. You either are, or you are not. End of story! As a result, it becomes easier to let go, move on, forgive, and accept because you have not abandoned yourself and the other person has done nothing to you except be true to themselves. Its tough to argue with that. It does not mean we won’t have sadness, disappointment, or loss in our lives, but there will definitely be more opportunity for understanding and less opportunity for drama. What a world it would be if we could all interact this way!
So, what does a clear “YES” and a clear “NO” look like?
First of all, note the exclamation point. This is how you want to say “Yes” in your life. If you can’t say it with that much clarity and enthusiasm, you may need to re-evaluate your answer. I once had a client share with me a great litmus test (I will edit the language a bit for you, but feel free to use your imagination!). He said, “If my answer can’t be ‘[HECK] YES!’ Then it is ‘NO.'” How clear is that?
Now, this does not mean that you never stretch yourself by going out of your comfort zone, or you don’t ever try anything new, or give of your time. But what is important is that you evaluate within yourself, BEFORE you agree, as to whether or not you can give your “Yes” as a FREE GIFT, with no resentments, attachments, expectations, or leftover discomfort inside of you.
So before you say “Yes!,” take a deep breath, and check in with your body. We tend to feel these conflicts in our solar plexus area (just below where our rib cage meets). This is the place of integrity and personal power and often referred to as our “gut.” Is there a heaviness there, a shaking, a queasiness? If there is, tune in and see if there is a message there for you. So the key is to listen to and follow that “inner knowing” that arises for you. If you say “Yes,” when your body is saying “No,” you have just abandoned yourself. However, if after your evaluation the “Yes” comes through clearly, go with that. You are then participating from your 100% authentic self.
If you say “No,” and you ignore that screaming voice inside of you telling you, “Go for it! The time is now! You are ready!” you have just abandoned yourself again. But if the messages are, “This isn’t right! This goes against everything I stand for! Maybe if I just do this now, my partner will change,” and you don’t honor your “No,” you have again abandoned yourself. See how easy that is to do?
Telling your partner, friend, child, or parent “No,” may be uncomfortable, but in the end they will handle it to the best of their ability (you are not responsible for how they respond) and you will feel relief. When you listen to your inner knowing and follow it through your fears, you will feel relief and a deeper trust in yourself that you have your best interest at heart. This is the true meaning of courage.
PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!
This way of being takes practice. Especially if your have been disconnected from your true feelings for as long as you can remember. It is possible to create more awareness of these patterns and begin to make changes. Tell your friends and family that you are working on this and ask for support. They can be great in helping you to hear yourself. Counseling can also provide you with tools to deal with more deeply embedded patterns. I have included below two great books that discuss taking responsibility for your life and establishing healthy boundaries. Have fun with this, and along the way, the gift you give yourself and those around you will far outweigh any initial discomfort.
“Breaking Free from the Victim Trap” by Diane Zimberoff
“Boundaries” by Cloud & Townsend