Hello, lovely beings 🙂 In the past we’ve talked about relationships and making room for both people. This week, let’s talk a little bit about how we can stand up for what we want and need. I see many women who have been married for years and have lost their voice in the marriage and are just exhausted. They’re looking for an escape because at this point it feels impossible to make space for their authentic selves. Boundaries, of course, aren’t limited to romantic relationships or one gender; it can happen in friendships and families and it happens slowly and often isn’t noticed until you find yourself resentful for an assumption that you’ll “just take care of it for me” made by another person. The old saying “Happy spouse, happy house” has some limitations.

So how do we get back to having a relationship where there is room for both people’s needs? Sometimes the hardest part is recognizing what we’ve silenced. Sometimes we’ve done it for so long, we’ve lost track of ourselves and our wants. This is, again, where mindfulness comes in. We have to pause and notice how we’re feeling. Start trying to think of your emotions as a signal or a clue: they are not something life altering and they shouldn’t demand attention, but they are a signal.

Just like pain or hunger pangs, it’s our body’s way of letting us know that something isn’t feeling quite right. Any time you feel hurt or angry (it may take some time to identify these feelings; some of us have been silencing them a long time with passive aggressive actions/using substances/shutting down and pouring ourselves into work, etc.) take note and think about what that signal might mean. Let yourself have feelings- they’re going to be there one way or another. Be patient- we tend to hang on to the perfectionist line of thinking: “I have to figure out why I’m having this emotion!”.

Be open to exploring rather than interrogating. “I wonder if I’m hungry? Did I sleep well? Am I in need of a mini-vacation? (think bubble bath, watching a video of someplace tropical, etc. It doesn’t have to be an actual vacation)”

Once you have some ideas about what’s frustrating you and making you feel like you don’t have a voice, take the time to determine what’s important to you. Please don’t cheat yourself by being dismissive. Often I hear “Come on, that shouldn’t be a big deal to me!”. Obviously, your emotions think it is. Make some time to talk to the other person(s) in the relationship. Startup soft- compliment them, let them know how much you value the relationship (you must or you wouldn’t still be in it, right?) but that you’ve noticed some feelings that you want to tackle as a team.

When we silence ourselves for a long time the temptation is to attack our friend for keeping us silent. We’ve been quiet and suffering! And the hidden message that we often take from their letting us stay silent is that we’re not acceptable as we are. That we’re only lovable if we’re malleable to their needs. They may or may not feel that way, but we owe it to ourselves to find out the truth rather than assume and silence ourselves to please others. Respect them enough to find out if they’re able to work with you to meet your needs, too.

Start thinking about the things you’ve told yourself aren’t a big deal that you might be resentful of silencing. Maybe it’s that you HATE meatloaf but make it once a week because everyone else seems to love it or that you really want to go out to the bar more or less often but feel pressured one way or the other. If it’s something that’s still hanging out as a resentment, it’s worth honestly exploring instead of “mindlessly” compromising without even thinking about how much it means to you. This is an excellent reason to seek out therapy- get some help sorting through this if you need it. Silenced needs become resentments and that’s a hard (but impossible!) road to come back from. Be well, friends.

If today’s post resonates with you, connect with Perspectives Therapy Services to explore further.

Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.