My first post on this focused mainly on learning to recognize warning signs in the form of behavior patterns and attitudes of other people. This relationship, which turned into a nightmare at the end, taught me some things that I need to work on for myself as well. So let’s examine other side of the coin, so to speak.
Probably the most important thing that I learned is that I need to speak up more often. I have a tendency to remain silent out of courtesy sometimes. For instance, someone will do something, and I will feel offended or hurt by what they’ve done, but I will decide that I shouldn’t say anything about it RIGHT NOW, because they are currently really stressed out and busy due to problems with their work, family, or something else. I think to myself, “I’ll wait for a better time. I don’t want to add to their stress right now.”
It’s something that I really need to stop doing. Courtesy is all well and good, but when I stay silent, I allow the offensive and hurtful acts to continue. I’ve written something about this before. The same principle applies. Life doesn’t insert convenient breaks for us to discuss troubling issues. Sometimes there simply IS NOT a good time and NEVER will be. Holding my tongue until a ‘good time’ comes along may mean that the issue will never be addressed.
Waiting a few minutes or a few hours… waiting for a private moment… that’s okay. Waiting days and weeks is not good. The immediacy of the situation might be lost. The details might no longer be remembered clearly. The offense may have been repeated several times by then, or gown worse. It’s a LOT better to speak up sooner than later, both for myself and for the other person.
The same applies, by the way, to letting behavior slide for similar reasons. “Well he is working 12 hour days right now, so although he’s treating me like crap, I know it’s the job, so I won’t complain.” WRONG WRONG WRONG. No matter what else might be going on in the other person’s life, it doesn’t give them an excuse to treat me badly. By staying silent, I allow it to continue, and I passively give off the message that it’s fine to do this. Speaking up ensures that I am not passively saying, ‘It’s okay to treat me badly.’
Be assertive about setting boundaries and making clarifications.
One of the most troubling things about the recently ended relationship was that boundaries were often vague, and trying to clarify them was always awkward and uncomfortable. This was in part due to the other individual, who didn’t like discussing things. The other half of it, was my own hesitation and awkwardness at bringing the subjects up, or at insisting that they be discussed once I had brought them up.
I read a couple of posts today that made me feel that I need to stop being so hesitant to insist on firm and clear boundaries. (Note: Lots of language in those posts.) (Here’s another good post about boundaries, too!)
The subject they’re writing about has tons of different answers. The one common theme: Insist that your boundaries be respected. This isn’t a ‘female’ thing. This is a ‘RESPECT YOURSELF and DEMAND that anyone you partner with ALSO shows you respect’ thing. Without that respect, it’s almost certain things are not going to turn out well. It’s obvious from Sady’s post that I’m not the only woman who’s ever been hesitant to say things, or unsure of what I want. This is definitely something I intend to be more assertive about in the future.
The fear, of course, is always that we’re going to make things too awkward for the other person by insisting on discussion. FORGET THAT. If they can’t handle a discussion of boundaries, then they’re not ready to be in a relationship. If they don’t want to discuss boundaries and make them clear, then they’re not interested in respecting those boundaries. Timing is bad? Scroll back to the top of this post.
Communication is KEY.
This is something that I KNOW, but still don’t always apply as well as I would like. Even what I’ve written here isn’t as easy to put into practice as it may sound. It’ll take practice, and determination, and most of all: BELIEF that I DESERVE the respect that I must sometimes demand from others. For someone whose childhood was surrounded with abuse and all manner of people trying to convince me that I was completely unworthy and that what I wanted was completely irrelevant, I don’t imagine that it will be EASY. In fact, I KNOW that it is NOT easy.
This post isn’t about an easy topic. It’s about learning what I need to improve on in order to have healthy relationships with other people… be they friends, lovers, or co-workers. Improving yourself? That’s never easy. First, you have to admit you’re doing something wrong. For some of us, this is the hardest step. Admitting that we’ve made mistakes. We’re not perfect. Not me, not you, nor anyone else that we know.
Once you’ve admitted to making mistakes, you have to take the time and energy to determine what it is you’re doing wrong. This isn’t always clear at the first look. Sometimes you need outside opinions. Sometimes you need to be okay listening to criticism that you REALLY don’t want to hear. Once we’ve figured it out, we can come up with steps to take to fix it.
Fixing it is rarely something accomplished overnight. It’s something you work on continuously and strive to keep improving at until you get good at it. Change is rarely easy. We’re creatures of habit. Still, while change may be difficult, it’s incredibly worthwhile. I hope to NEVER stop changing, learning, and growing.