Saying NO in Relationships


As short and as simple as that word is, many of us hate hearing the word no, and even more of us don’t like to say it. It can be especially difficult to say in relationships and downright uncomfortable to say it to someone you love. However, despite how challenging it can be, learning to say no in your relationship is important.

So, WHY is saying no in your relationship important?

People often think that going along with everything your partner wants and requests will be good for your relationship. That is not always the case. Saying no is equally as important as saying yes in a relationship.

  • Saying no allows you to create a boundary. Boundaries demonstrate what you are willing to accept and how you expect to be treated and having boundaries that are appropriate are essential for a healthy relationship. In fact, by setting a boundary, you can help your partner to understand you, your needs, wants and opinions better – thereby strengthening your relationship.
  • Saying no can reduce your stress in the long run. Saying yes and taking on too much can create excessive stress. Whether it’s setting a boundary or just needing some alone time, having the confidence to say no allows you to speak up and protect your well-being and sense of self. This empowers you to give yourself better control and navigation in your own life, as well as encourage your partner to do the same.
  • Saying no can limit regret. Saying yes when you don’t mean it leads to inauthenticity and regret. By having the strength to say no, you are making room to say yes for things that truly matter to you. This this is a form of self-care that gives you the opportunity to nurture and build a fulfilling and meaningful life with the things you value.

And WHAT happens if you can’t say no?

When we are unable to say no in a healthy way, signs of trouble can develop in your relationship. One partner (or even both!) may begin to feel lonely and unheard in the relationship. One can feel like they are constantly being the caretaker, while the other feels belittled and oppressed. One might feel frustrated and the other might feel like they are constantly walking on eggshells to not upset the other. These differences and power struggles can ultimately build resentment and hurt. Finally, you can become enmeshed as a couple and start to become less of your own person.

OK but HOW do you say no in your relationship?

Fortunately, saying no is an important skill that can be developed upon.

  • Learning to say no begins by knowing what you want and don’t want. If you are not sure what you want, give yourself time to sort things out. And when you are sure, make it crystal clear what you are saying in order to avoid confusion and further awkward conversations.
  • Be polite but firm. Speak with love, care and empathy, especially when dealing with difficult and uncomfortable conversations. When saying no, you can offer an explanation, but keep it short and sweet. Remember, saying no is a complete sentence itself and at times, that is all that is needed to be said.
  • Sometimes it’s not about finding the right words to say or how it’s going to be said. The hardest part to saying no might be managing your feelings after saying it. It’s not always easy to balance your feelings of angst while trying to remain calm and sensitive towards the feelings of someone you care about. Just remember, the more you practice saying no and making room for difficult feelings, the more natural it’ll start to feel.

In difficult situations such as a toxic relationship, if it’s too complicated to say no directly, utilise text messages, e-mails, calls or voicemails when you know the other person will be away. You can also get help from others and say you have to check with someone like your friend or boss before making a decision. It’s important to discuss when you’re both calm and if the conversation escalates, suggest a time-out.

Remember, saying no is about honouring your own feelings and needs. This can lead to a healthier you and an even healthier relationship. You are not saying no to your relationship, you are just are saying no in a specific situation.

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