it's not just about using boundaries to communicate what's acceptable to us; we need boundaries to guide and direct ourselves so that we know our values and our line

Many of the struggles and questions that I’m asked by BR readers, revolve around the issue of how to know when to say no, especially when we have people-pleasing inclinations and wrestle with feeling bad if we’re not able to oblige everyone who asks or expects something of us no matter how unreasonable.

Really, when it all boils down to it, there are three key factors that should influence your answer when you’re faced with the task of potentially saying no (or yes) or when you’re feeling all guilty and ‘obligated’: Fairness, your motivations, and the consequences.

Fairness

If it’s implied or stated that you will experience negative consequences from the person if you don’t comply, that’s unfair never mind unreasonable. If you fear that you’re going to experience negative consequences, that’s also a code red alert because to say yes would involve you being unfair to you, especially if your issue is about your general lack of no as opposed to the situation and person at hand. Basically, consider it unfair and unreasonable if it affects your wellbeing and involves you giving your power away. Know your boundaries. Don’t make authorities out of people and put them on pedestals. Evaluate the situation in reality so that you don’t project or run solely on your feelings.

Remember, it’s not just about the request and ultimately what the person wants, needs, and expects is fair; it’s about whether in the process, you are treating you fairly.

Motivations

A great way to keep you out of trouble is to ensure that you don’t give or help with an agenda. Whatever you do, do so because it reflects who you are, not because you’re trying to generate an IOU.

Ask the question: If the outcome/reward that I’m predicting didn’t materialise, would I still want to be or do whatever I’m intending?

If the answer is no or a whole load of shoulds pop up such as, ‘Well if it were me, I would show my appreciation by….’ or ‘Well, surely they couldn’t expect that I would do that without me expecting….’ or assumptions like, ‘They obviously realise that in me doing this, this means that we’re back together / they understood my position…”, halt. If you’re motivated to do what you’re intending because you hope that by doing this and being ‘pleasing’ that you will be able to control that person’s feelings and behaviour, freeze. Back up. In fact, reverse, sit yourself down and plant your mind and feet firmly in reality.

You either need to voice your expectations with the person in question and gain clarity (and if you’re reluctant or in fact refuse to do so, you have your answer right there), or you need to step away from The Disappointment Cycle.

This is a good time to to point out that you have to own your own and let others own theirs. Even when we are the Absolutely Most Well Behaved and Pleasing Person That Ever Graced This Earth TM and we don’t make waves, we ‘fit in’, and basically put everyone’s needs, expectations, wants, feelings, and opinions before ours, we still cannot and never will be able to control a person’s feelings and behaviour (unless we try the aggressive, abusive route), so don’t waste your time trying to be or do Yet One More Thing to create a tipping point or to create a debt that you can ‘call in’ at a later date. That’s not authentic and it’s also exhausting.

Consequences

Is the benefit, whether it’s the short-term high from their reaction or from the sense of having pleased that person temporarily – you do know that people-pleasing only gives you temporary relief and then it’s back on the hamster wheel of pleasing aka The Disappointment Cycle, don’t you? – going to outweigh the consequences of what you will have to deal with?

If there’s no particular consequences other than potentially temporarily inconveniencing you in order to do whatever it is, but beyond this, your self-esteem and basically your life remain intact, knock yourself out (not literally obviously).

If you’re exchanging the temporary high(s) – very short-term and instant gratification – of being or doing something for more than that level of inconvenience and pain, halt. If you’re going to be plunged into a cycle of berating you, obsessing, blame, shame, regressing, and wondering why you doing X didn’t make a person do Y so that you could have Z outcome, halt. If what you do today (or whenever it is), is going to have a negative ripple effect for the next few weeks, months or even years and actually, you know this because it’s your pattern, you’re familiar with The Disappointment Cycle plus you’re engaging in relationship insanity (or any other insanity) of thinking and acting similarly yet expecting a different result, it’s just not bloody worth it.

It would be great to just do stuff on autopilot and not have to think about decisions, but actually, we know what kind of trouble that can get us into. Considering the fairness, motivations, and consequences of what we’re intending keeps us not only grounded in the present and self-aware, but it also limits the ‘reacting’ and chasing short-term thrills that snake their way through many a toxic pattern of unhealthy behaviour and thinking.

Ever since I learned to consider these factors, I don’t lose sleep over saying no nor do I have an overactive guilt thyroid. On occasions when saying yes doesn’t work out too well, holding the decision and outcome up against the fairness, motivations, and consequences benchmark provides invaluable insights for me to grow from. Ultimately, having no in your vocabulary is a fundamental part of treating you with love, care, trust, and respect and also communicating via actions and words what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Know your line, know yourself.

Your thoughts?

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52 Responses to How to know when to say no (AKA How to dodge The Disappointment Cycle & getting tangled up in guilt)

  1. Lydia says:

    Great article Natalie! Thank you! Yesterday I had a great example of just this issue. I have been interviewing and starting to work with a peer who I’ve just gotten to know recently. We have both been in the same industry for 20 plus years. She was treating me as an equal but now as I was becoming an employee, she wanted to know more and more about me and my past. Her questions (the interview) became almost abusive they were so personal. I felt I needed the job so I kept engaging, but I said to her “no one has had an interview as personal as this one.” It really felt like a violation. She was talking to me almost daily for an hour each time. Then I started working a couple of days for her this past week. She phoned me yesterday at home and was very agitated. That seems to be her personality – high maintenance! Again, I felt I had to take her volatility because I need the job. But as the conversation WORE ON, I got more and more fed up. I did say twice during the conversation, “this is not a match.” But she ignored me and said, “think about it! I’ll plan to see you Wednesday but if not, call me on Monday so I can get in more staff.” It was like a dance, and she was manipulating me to stay in contact. After she’d been talking to me (ranting really) for almost an hour, (and I’m not getting paid for this mind you – I’m sitting at home on my Sunday) she said, “we can get to the heavy stuff when I see you.” I said, “we’ve gone this far, what is the heavy stuff?” She proceeded to ask for even more personal information about my life and insisted she had to know or else she couldn’t go forward with me in her employ. I felt violated and said so. I said this “is way too much information and I am not comfortable with this.” She insisted and said “You think about it. This will be the last thing I ask.” Yeah right. You are all now scratching your heads wondering what the hell I’m talking about but I really don’t want to discuss it publicly and I certainly don’t want to keep discussing it with her. She is like a dog with a bone and talking to her is violating. A friend had said to me that employers are getting away with murder these days because so many people are out of work and they ask the most out of line things. And we just have to take it if we want the job.

    I was really upset about it and just happened to talk to a girlfriend about it last night. She said if this is how she (my new boss) is starting out after just a week, it’s going to be horrible! And she’s the kind of personality that has to have you under their thumb and always make you feel bad. We agreed I needed to cut bait. This woman is out of control.

    “…the issue of how to know when to say no, especially when we have people-pleasing inclinations and wrestle with feeling bad if we’re not able to oblige everyone who asks or expects something of us no matter how unreasonable.

    Really, when it all boils down to it, there are three key factors that should influence your answer when you’re faced with the task of potentially saying no (or yes) or when you’re feeling all guilty and ‘obligated’: Fairness, your motivations, and the consequences.

    Fairness – If it’s implied or stated that you will experience negative consequences from the person if you don’t comply, that’s unfair never mind unreasonable.”

    This woman is just unreasonable and even though the job might have been a great opportunity, the price is too high to pay. I let her know that today. I thanked her for considering me but it’s not going to work out. And that I hope she finds her perfect match. Killing her with kindness! But My God! When I went to bed last night, I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I was her punching bag. And after what my boyfriend did to me, his crazy rant out of nowhere, it seems like everyone is taking a turn at trying to make me feel bad and blame me for something, even when it’s not my fault. And I am sick of it!

    So for once, I saw it earlier on and put a stop to it! Whew .. . . back to looking for another job in hopefully a much more professional and RESPECTFUL environment!

    Thank you Natalie! And everyone else on these boards : )

  2. Refusing says:

    I’ve been feeling really bad about a few things that I’ve felt taken advantage over and where I’ve said no. This post is a much needed slap in the head. One “friend” has borrowed money so many times that it’s embarrassing to admit it. I finally said no and they’re not speaking to me and making out I’m unreasonable and a shit friend. Reading this, I realise that it would not have been unreasonable to ask if it were the 1st or 2nd time but this was probably the 30th!!!!!!! time and my gut’s been screaming at me since around the 2nd time. I cannot believe how bad I’ve been feeling. Must stop and own my own. Thank you! I’m even feeling better about my mother who expects me to drop everything including work to cater to her latest drama. I have some growing up to do.

    • lynn says:

      Refusing – don’t feel bad anymore! Your friend was using you for the money. If they can’t understand your no at this point then they weren’t the friend you thought they were. Maybe this is someone that you need to cut out of your life to make your life more drama-free? Sometimes we have to evaluate the people in our life and demote them.

  3. ReadyForChange says:

    Wow, this post is so timely, thank you!
    I have just been through this cycle with a ‘friend’. I use the quotation marks because I met this person by chance at a seminar at my university two years ago, she happens to be from my Country of origin (in fact, from the next village). Her English was poor, she was feeling lonely and lost in the Country, and immediately saw me as someone who could give her some relief. She was also hoping to apply for a PhD in the same department where I’m doing mine. So bit by bit she started asking me for help with her English (in terms of proof reading emails, essays, etc.), visiting me at my house and staying over, and offloading all her anxieties, her relationships woes, etc. on me. It was gradual and a totally new experience for me, so I did not realize the extent of the boundary busting that was going on for a long while (even though I was always a bit uncomfortable around her). She was always commenting on how alike we were (which I did not think we were) and she kept in constant contact with me even when she went back to Italy for a year. When she came back last August (having obtained access to the PhD and a scholarship)she stayed at my house for 10 days, I helped her in any way I could, in finding a house, sorting problems with university, the embassy, etc. I’m a solitary person, very private, so her constant contacting me, 4-5 times a day, was taking its toll. And it was always one stressful event or another. I felt like a dustbin. I started keeping awake at night with a sense of oppression. To make a long story short, it all came to a head in January, when a good friend of mine told me that his girlfriend of six year had left him. He was very upset and came to me to talk and for a bit of comfort. He happened to come for dinner one evening when this ‘friend’ was staying at my house for the weekend. While they were outside the house smoking, he told her that he was going to Dublin (where she lives, and two hours away from where my friend and I live) for a course the following weekend, and if she wanted to meet for a drink. He had told me before that he dreaded being on his own since he was getting panic attacks, so I knew his invitation meant he wanted to be surrounded by friendly faces. (I should add that years ago my friend had found his ex girlfriend after she hung herself, she had asked him to get back together the night before, and he had said no. He was haunted by guilt for years). But she interpreted otherwise. I said nothing, till the night out came and she called me the following day at noon with no voice and in a state of agitation. She said she really liked him and he really liked her, and asked me what she should do to have him. At this stage I had had enough (consider that for two years almost daily she had been talking about a non-existent romance with her professor in Italy and how she could never get over him). So I simply told her two things: a) that my friend was just out of a relationship and needed time for processing things and healing and b) that I was the worst person to give advice on this matter. That they were two adults and could do whatever they wished as long as she did not involve me. She got really angry, and started protesting that in similar situations her girlfriends in the past had always been supportive, so I replied, ‘These are my boundaries, and nobody can question them.’ ‘I understand’, she said, and with doom in her voice, she hung the phone on me. I haven’t heard from her since (three weeks). Apart from a couple of times where I felt guilty (maybe I had treated her unfairly?), I’ve been feeling progressively better, back in touch with my more contemplative, quiet self. And also a bit proud (I had never in my life asserted my boundaries like that). She’s obviously trying to punish me with her silence, but in truth I’m at peace again.

    • Tinkerbell says:

      RFC,

      You may feel a little guilt after standing up for yourself, but you did a helluva lot for this woman. Now with the angry attitude she is currently displaying she looks like a user. If you feel more at peace now, you did the right thing. We have to learn to take better care of ourselves and not sacrifice so much at our own expense. My story is below. I wish I were stronger is saying “No” to my daughter.

    • CC says:

      I agree, this woman is an energetic vampire and a user, after all you did for her, she is angry??? somethings not right, also, I hope your friend doesn’t date her, becasue she will be a huge problem for him too…but, that’s not your problem.

      • ReadyForChange says:

        Thank you CC.
        Yes, I think you are right. I am really hoping for his own sanity that my friend stays away from her. All her relationships, from what she has told me, have been full of drama and erratic, crazy behaviour on her side. A few days before going out with my friend she had even told me that she thought one of our lecturers at university (who – incidentally – has a fiancé)fancied her. When I asked what gave her that impression she said it was from the way he looked and smiled at her once when they were smoking outside the university building! I tried to offer her alternative interpretations, saying that maybe she had been looking at him and he just responded, or maybe he recogmized her as one of his students and simply smiled at her… She became irritated and proceeded to tell me how naive I am about men, whom I obviously don’t understand (notice that I’m 7 years older than her, have been married, and only had serious relationships in my life. The reason I started reading baggagereclaim is because I fell in love with a EUM last year, I told my story here a while ago, but I’ve been NC and slowly processing things, learning, and getting to a better place). I think it was at that point that I realized the extent of her deluded thinking.

  4. Lorraine says:

    This was a perfect article for me. I really needed to read and reread this. Just two weeks ago, I fell into the “can you help me trap” with the ex AC. I, of course dropped what I was doing and tried to help him with his “urgent” problem. My motives were wrong (on some level I thought by helping him it would bring us back together to live out the “fairy tale”) haha!

    The consequences for this latest interaction was a ride on the disappointment cycle and having to jump off and re-live some pain and disappointment, however, I ended up with yet another much needed dose of reality which is what is bringing me to learning more about myself and seeing this bottom-dwelling AC for what he truly is.

    Since two weeks ago when I had agreed to help him, things happened that made me realize what the hell I was doing and I ended up not helping him a second more and telling him that there will be no further interactions between us. He, of course, took the martyr roll and thanked me for my help and apoligized for any inconvenience. As alway, it was poor, poor him, always surrounded by unfortunate misunderstandings.

    I’m almost done reading the NC Rule Book and gaining strength every day. My mantra right now is, “Look at something beautiful like the ocean or the stars and MOVE THE HELL ON!!!

    Great article today, one that should be read often by us “people pleasers”…

  5. SoulFull says:

    So needed this today…Im having a bit of shit time concerning my ‘friend’ a man and my boundries. Short story…go to see friend who moved away an in with her fella. Her fella has a mate and when I went to see my friend, this mate was there, as he has had a rough time. We got on great, he really is lovely and respectful and dislikes men mistreating women. He likes me alot and wants to date me.

    However…he has a harem as he prefers women over men as friends. And from what he tells me its not a healthy harem, one gets pissed and flirts with him and other men, ones a maneater who shags men but its ok cos shes upfront and tells the men shes not interested in a relationship, and his best female friend is 27 and a burlesque dancer (hes 39 in cpl months)

    Ive had enough woman and depression drama with my ex AC, and so naturally my guards up and im thinking “err no thanks”. Now this guy has been staying with my friend and its going on for three weeks now…her bf goes off to work and its them two forming a deep friendship. Am ok with this, but it seems shes ‘switched sides’ and joined his harem because Ive been getting long texts after long texts as to how im wrong and not seeing it right about this wonderful man, that I am basically akin to throwing away the winning lottery ticket by not wanting to take things further. I told politely last night that she needs to let me and this man sort this between oursleves, in other words back off. Well, I got quite a text for that one, felt like an attack about how judgemental I am and other shit, with the odd smiley face thrown in. Ive not replied and dont intend to either. It was bitchy pure and simple, when all Im trying to do is work out whether my feelings are based in fear or are actually my gut saying get the fuck out…and I aint ever gunna ignore my gut ever. And Im jus not comfortable about the situation. This guy has spoke with me about it and he listens, he talks and is great and Ive seen him with other females and he is cool, but doesnt mean I have to get over myself and my feelings and jump in before Im healed or ready…I dont have to like it just because ‘i should’.

    I also pointed out to them both that because my friend really wants us to be together, make a coupley team, and she hopes/thinks I should move 200miles away from my 16 year old son and 76 year old mother, that she has told this guy all about me, my past, my hurts, my ‘issues’ and fears….so I feel I cant trust what he says as being AUTHENTIC because he has a slant on me and will talk to me with insider knowledge if you will, and how do I know if its him coming at me with his true thoughts or a script that ‘my friend’ has told him what to say…they dont get it. For example, he says should we encounter problems, he would rather have a females point of view to mull things over, than a blokes. But these women are not healthy women with awareness and have dubious ways of being as it is, are these really the kind of people you want advice from, on a long lasting committed relationship? I mean, really???

    I dont feel comfortable with it, and maybe if I was allowed to have the time and space to sift through my feelings and experiences and weigh it all up (which I have explained I was doing) then maybe this dramarama would have been much less problematic, but no, my feelings have been railroaded and palmed off as being purely my unreasonable issues and its my problem and I cant expect to sort my issues out by remaining single deliberately “kiss kiss kiss”

    Im taking some time out from this and I know I have a right to my feelings even if they dont tie in with others agendas. Im not ready and if I remain single for the rest of my life because i am happier, then thats my choice, deal with it. But seriously, wheres the rush, and wheres the frikken sisterhood these days??

    Namaste ladies and gents on here x

    • SoulFull says:

      Ok, so 23 hrs after I sent this guy a text (before the fallout with my so called friend) he replies with something blase. No biggie, but when him and this friend spend all day together, the issue of the fallout will have cropped up in convo one way or another. So, here he sends me a “water tester” text to see if my silence towards my ex friend applies to him also, and there was no asking if im ok or even an acknowledgement of me and my friends spat. Why would he? shes done alot in the line of championing his cause to me so shes up there on the cool female friends list. I dunno, Ive just lost some respect for him because he let my friend interfere and pressure me to the detriment of our friendship, for the sake of his wants, whilst playing the “im a nice guy who just wants to be with soulfull bahwhah”. I would have respected him if he had asked her to butt out and leave us to work through this ourselves (jus like i did)

      He also ommitted in the text that another female friend joined them when they all went out last night, yet mentioned others. Again no biggie but it would have made a cosy foursome as hi and this woman hit it off straight away apparently. Makes me distrust him and the friendships feel incestuous like im in big brother or something (when i love my privacy) so im feeling to respectfully opt out. I sense this is not my fears now, but def my gut alerting me. Gunna heed it.

      Im thankful for this blog to be able to voice this, feel much better and peace is restored, and empowerment and self trust off tha scale ;)

    • A says:

      Soulfull,

      These are red flags. Having female as well as male friends is one thing, having only dramatic female friends who flirt with him and a “best friend” who is a significantly younger burlesque dancer? Come on.

      • SoulFull says:

        Thanks A for your reply. This guy does have some male friends but he admits he prefers his female friends, and I have concerns as they come across as wild yet damaged, which ties in with his admission that he thinks he is small in the manhood department, so I think he keeps these types of women to bolster his own insecurities. He also says he likes the pvc look and mentioned this pretty soon on and how he likes the tease, which for me questions his values on no full sex unless in a committed relationship. Basically feel id be waiting around and being told that this is out of respect when infact hes prob getting off more on the waiting. Still, least I also wanted to wait and so cutting this one loose is less complicated.

        I am also really naffed off at my so called friend who has usually been a good, well adjusted friend. She has told this guy all about me when it should have been me opening up to him, organically, when I felt the time was right, and what I felt needed to be said at the time. It is a building of intimacy and trust between a couple and she robbed me/us of that in order to get us together so id move down near her. And hes just spineless for allowing this to get overly cosy. I would not have felt like a significant other, or a priority above these women (now including my ex friend) but jus some bint who gets the prize of the title of gf.

        I am gunna have to take the hit of being made scapegoat for this distasteful scenerio, and let them pin this on ‘my’ issues, when theyve busted my boundaries, not listened, controlled me and tried micro-manage a dating relationship which really has fuck all to do with her. She really needs to look at herself and her own messed up relationship before meddling in others, and this guy needs to look at his life because his harem is blocking him from a true intimate relationship with a healthy woman, that he claims so badly to want.

        And I can now be free of being in a state of permanent face-palm, and instead shall continue to focus on my health and career and pat myself on the back for dodging a bullet and sticking to my values xx

  6. rewind says:

    I didn’t say no last night. Slept with him again. And it had been a very, very long time and I was doing so well. It was a selfish need on my part. But then he always has to let me know that he feels “so guilty” because he can’t be true to me only. I tell myself that I can handle it, which is kinda true because I am doing a better job of enjoying life with or without him in it. I guess where I feel rotten is that he gets away with it while hurting multiple women. However, this time I wanted to be in his bed and have his arms around me. Not sure how to get past that need.

    • Mymble says:

      It’s like smoking. The more you do it, the more you want to do it. The cigarette you’re having now, will make you want one tomorrow. There will never come a time when you just naturally feel like stopping.
      Or dieting.
      Urge control & delayed gratification are the key to success in most areas of life.
      Exercise your “willpower” muscle, by saying no, and it will get stronger. Also you will feel great about yourself.

      • Stephanie says:

        Believe it or not ladies, its not the sex you are craving its the emotional connection. Because if you really saw these men for who they are you’d probably wouldn’t want them to touch you and the sex probably wouldn’t be as good as you think. Believe me when my feelings for my EUM/AC diminished so did my desire to have sex with him. This is because I started to look at him different and felt disgusted by him so I didn’t want him to touch me in romantic way. I didn’t want a hug. Yuck!

    • CC says:

      rewind – take up latin dancing. I go dancing twice a week and it helps.

    • lynn says:

      rewind – I fear that this will happen to me someday. I’ve been NC for 4 months…but he contacted me awhile ago to let me know that his relationship was over and was ‘joking’ about fwb. He thought I stopped talking to him just because he was seeing someone. He’s so dumb. Anyway – the sex with him is like a drug for me and I know this…but I know in the future he will be single again (he’s dating a separated woman who already broke up with him once within 2 months so…yea, thats not going to last)…and I will stay away from him but there will be the temptation. And sometimes my hormones just don’t give a crap and this is when I have caved in the past.

      • lynn says:

        oh – I did clarify this but they got back together after a week since she ‘worked’ through what she was dealing with in her head. yea right.

  7. visualgirl says:

    Navigating situations when we know our emotions are likely going to be involved and making better grounded decisions upfront when we can – another great article!

  8. rachel says:

    Such a valuable piece of insight.
    I wish I had known these things as clearly as you have written, years ago.
    I will re read these points and consider them carefully.
    The mistakes of having my boundaries broken has left myself with consequences that are very unsatisfactory.

  9. Sparkle says:

    My brother didn’t acknowledge my birthday last month. No text, call, tweet, FB. I ran into him a while later and he flippantly said “oh, wasn’t it your birthday recently?” Fast forward to last week and he sent a last minute text invite to a fancy dinner celebrating his wife, niece and sister in laws birthdays. BWAHH, really? My response was, thanks, have fun, but I already have plans.

    What bothered me most was his disrespectful attitude. When I looked at the ROI with him, it’s deficient. If I give, we’re all good. Otherwise, expect crumbs. So, resetting boundaries and putting in my NO.

  10. Stephanie says:

    One thing I have learned over the years is that I have no problem saying no. I refuse to let myself suffer in order to apease anybody. Whether it loaning money or doing a favor. If I don’t have it you won’t have it. Something about saying no and meaning it, but in a sincere way is empowering.
    I remember when I finally told my EUM/AC no that I didn’t want to meet with him after not seeing or talking to him after 1 year! LOL and not feeling an ounce of guilt or reget.
    Its the same when it comes to loaning money. My belief is I don’t loan people money. If I have it to give I will give you what I want and I will be money I won’t miss. This applies to my mother on down to my friends.

    No is not a dirty word if you are looking out for your best interest. If saying no will cause you hardship and pain, no is the only option you have and you shouldn’t feel guilty for looking out for yourself.

  11. Linden says:

    I have a written agreement with my ex that says he won’t take our children to his house or to meet his roommates on his custody time. He lives in a communal house where he and the roommates all share and engage in certain sexual practices, and I don’t want the kids in the middle of it. Though he agreed to this, every time his “house family” has an event, he asks me if I will agree to bend the rules and allow him to take the kids to it. I’ve told him “no” many times now. He says he will continue to ask me EVERY SINGLE TIME it comes up. I want him to STFU. I guess there’s no real way to make him, but I’d like to make it clear, beyond just saying no each time, that asking me each and every time is unwelcome and harassing, without giving him too much satisfaction, because I think one thing he gets out of this is a perverse enjoyment out of making me address the issue over and over. Any ideas?

    • A says:

      Linden,

      Either make it clear that the answer will always be “no” and that you won’t bother responding to the request in the future (and proceed to ignore his requests) or respond each time with one word only “no”.

    • Sunyata says:

      Linden, the fiendish little pixie in me imagines getting creative with it and making up a thousand business cards that say “no”, maybe in different languages and in different styles, “Not no but hayelllll no!”
      “Not even if Jesus were chapheroning.”
      “Not even if Moses came down from the mountain with a new set of commandments in stone.”

      so you don’t even have to say it, you can just hand it to him every time. :D

      He’s already told you the deal, I’d make my peace with it and have some fun with it. I don’t think I could face a lifetime of feeling pissed every time he asked.

    • SoulFull says:

      Linden,

      Yeah he prob does get off on this, because no self respecting parent would put their children in this situation. But you dont have to keep bringing it up, just a firm, constant NO and if he persists with being awkward, then its time to get some legal advice, and as much as I despise social services for the damage they do to many innocent families, you may have to involve them as he is putting his demands and games before the welfare and wellbeing of the children.

      What adults get up to is their business, even if its tacky, but dragging children into it for point scoring is pathetic and needs to be addressed.

    • oregongirl says:

      They sound creepy to me. Keep your children far, far away from that group, no matter what you have to do. What a jerk.

  12. Lou says:

    Yesterday I had an epiphany moment with my ex EUM who I have been wasting time and energy on for almost three years.
    On/off/hot/cold, he wanted me then he didn’t, he was scared of commitment and didn’t want a relationship then ditched me for another woman before deciding he wanted me back. He’d chase me relentlessly then disappear, I’d tell him I wanted to move on then he’d turn up the heat before lowering it when I fell into the trap again with the usual old tripe “I don’t want to hurt you, I just can’t commit and risk getting hurt”. Round and round we went.
    I cut contact in December and lasted until January when he got in touch- he missed me, wanted to see me. While I was musing over it, two days later he texted me to say maybe it wasn’t such a good idea because “we know how things end up with us”. I then find out he has a new girlfriend- mr I don’t want a relationship. I felt broken again, why her and not me, that familiar road.
    A month later, yesterday, he texts me for no good reason (I hadn’t even contacted him) to tell me things are going great with her, she’s a really nice girl and he’s really happy- “Please don’t take it personally, I guess things weren’t meant to be with us.”
    And just like that, the yearning for him stopped. All I could think was, you complete and utter jackass. The tears and turmoil he has caused me over the years and for what- for him to take up with some other girl just weeks after wanting me back. It felt like a black veil had been lifted and I suddenly saw him for what he truly is- a self centred, thoughtless, insensitive, arrogant little man. All of the excuses id made for his behaviour disintegrated and all that was left were his faults and I finally recognised the nasty way he has used me to fulfil his needs on the sidelines of his life for so long.
    He is with this girl because she is very young and easier for him to manipulate (he always said I gave him too much “grief), she has no prior knowledge of his dog-like behaviour, he’s incapable of being alone and he loves the novelty of the chase. It has nothing to do with me not being enough for him, it’s because I’m actually too much for him- too much expectation and standards that he can’t meet. And if this girl feels he meets her standards, perhaps she is the right one for him!
    I’m sharing this because I feel amazing today, I feel free for the first time. And for anyone who is thinking they can’t ever get over their EUM or move on you CAN. Up until recently I felt this pain would last forever but when I finally started looking properly I realised that what I saw was something deeply undesirable. Time to move on :) x

    • Lorraine says:

      Lou,
      I enjoyed reading your post. I wonder if the AC was finally being honest with you by letting you know he was with a new person so you could move on, or trying to hurt you. I only wish my ex AC had the courage to admit he’s with someone else, I would have been able to move on so much sooner.

      But besides that, isn’t it great to finally have that “aha” moment, when you literally just snap out of the spell you were under. Addiction suddenly over!

      I recently had that moment too, unfortunately it wasn’t because he had the courage to be honest with me, I had to hear horrid things from him mother that made me realize what a pathetic loser he really is. It does feel like an enormous weight is being lifted. I haven’t felt this good in months. I just started reading NC Rule book and still working on me so this never happens to me ever again.

      Good luck on your journey!
      Hugs,
      Lorraine

      • Stephanie says:

        Lorraine,

        Believe me he did do it because he was being sincere! Especially, since she wasn’t even talking to him. There is no excuse for this behavior.
        You know why he did it besides being a jerk, is because he wanted to feel like less of a jerk because he knows that he did not treat her right. He just didn’t want to look like the bad guy because he knew how long she waited for him (albeit her mistake) and for him to get into a relationship after time telling her did not want one was messed up. He just wanted to resolve his own guilt. If he truly cared about her he would have just moved on and let her be. If she found out he had a girlfriend fine, but he didn’t need to volunteer this info. It’s amazing how they get “honest” when its convenient for them. I been there so I know how she feels, he is a a@%hole and a insensitive jerk.

    • Stephanie says:

      I know how you feel. I’m not sure what goes through their mind when they feel the need to call you to tell about them with somebody else. Their lack of empathy is amazing and all it does is verify what you already knew that he was a jerk and a%*hole. He could have just moved on peacefully, but noooooo! he had to be a jerk-off and call you to rub it in. You are so much better off without him. Good Luck on your journey!

      • Chutzpelady says:

        Thanks for sharing, it helps. I just came back from dinner with a man from my past, who was my unfulfilled first love. While ordering he told me nonchalantly that he had started a relationship. I was dumbstruck – he knows that I had feelings for him. We remet two years ago. We are both 60. He could have informed me before meeting me again tonight. I would not have met him, of course. I feel sad and stupid!

  13. dancingqueen says:

    @Linden

    That seems like it could be potentially dangerous. How old are the kids and what do you know about his “housemates”?

    • Linden says:

      The kids are almost 11. I know little about the housemates except what he tells me and what I have been able to discover online. They all seem to be part of various “alternate” sexuality groups (kink, polyamory, orgasmic meditation). They all seem to be substantially younger than the ex, barely employed in hippie-type occupations (midwife, herbalist, massage therapist, yoga instructor), and some have their own small children in tow. Lots of granny skirts, patchouli, tattoos, white-girl dreadlocks. The typical marginal new agey trash you find in a California beach town, in short.

      I’ve done everything I can do legally right now to keep the housemates out of the picture. I can’t totally keep their dad out of the picture, unfortunately.

  14. noquay says:

    Dealing with this very issue right now. Dude whom I had firmly placed in the friend zone (I am not physically attracted to him and many of our values are incompatible) and have treated accordingly lays a coupla whammies on me within about ten minutes of each other: he wants to be more than a friend and due to taking early retirement to be a ski bum, has found that his financial future is shaky and may soon join the ranks of older men here that depend on a local charity to keep food on the table. Helluva thing to spring on a chick you want a relationship (or a meal ticket) with, especially one known for being uber responsible. This is the fourth one of these this year, must be the thin air. Now he always looks for reasons to come over, help with shovelling (have a serious arm injury) among other things. No. No. No. Shovelled last night for four hours, sore arm and all, rather than feel guilt for allowing him to help knowing nothing else was going to come of it. I always try and help others without any expectations in return especially romantic ones. I also do not understand pursuing someone when you know your future is iffy. When life was on the lean side, I took on summer work to make ends meet, sent out job apps in quantity, and didn’t consider myself in a realistic place to date until I fixed my situation.

  15. Tinkerbell says:

    On the subject of knowing when to say “No”, I think it depends on who it is and what is the reason. My daughter recently graduated with a BS in Social Science. Her utmost goal was to increase income by furthering her education, what with two kids, a house and dog funds are very scarce. I help her financially as much as I can but I’m retired and on a fixed income, I actually should be getting help from her instead of the other way around. My grandson is going to enter college in September, so I feel like I will never be free of this obligation to help out and there’s still his little sister who has needs also.I hate to say “No”, but have found myself in the red several times by being so generous. It is really costing me. Her husband has a masters degree, but he is not a motivated. He won’t bother to try to better himself and his family. I’m ready to just throw in the towel with the attitude, “sink or swim”. Oftentimes,when you stop helping so much people manage on their own. But this is my only daughter and she has always been a real gem.

    Stephanie, I’d like to cultivate your attitude. I don’t really have it to give, but I still do it and then I’m behind the 8 ball. One of the reasons I have trouble is because I still buy what I want, so I feel guilty if I don’t help my daughter. But I also feel that I’ve reached the age that I should have the right to put ME first. She her and her husband need to work out better ways of managing financially without me. I won’t be around forever.

    • Stephanie says:

      Believe it or not they will get help from somebody else. If you die tomorrow, you think they don’t have anybody else to ask! I refuse to go broke trying to help somebody if I don’t have it. If you look it like unless it is life or death they will be okay! You can’t help everybody and you shouldn’t. Don’t feel guilty and don’t let other people make you feel guilty. If I can say no to my mother I can say no to anybody! LOL

      • EllyB says:

        I agree with Stephanie. @Tinkerbell: If you still want to support somebody in your family, I think you should find a way to give the money directly to your grandchildren (preferably in such a way that it can only be used for their education or something like this). Unlike their parents, the kids are probably still too young to take care of themselves entirely. But in any case YOU shouldn’t end up broke!

        • Tinkerbell says:

          So true EllyB.

          I recently decided to take out $10,000 life insurance policies for each of them. It’s late for my grandson who is already 17, but obviously he would not be using it for college and would have a fortune later in life. His little sister is only 11, so she have money for the first year of college at least. I think this is a better way of helping out, since the key to my assistance is to benefit them, first and foremost. When they each turn 21 they have the option of assuming the ownership and cost when they are solvent. This is a legacy that will continue after I’m gone. That’s it. My daughter and her husband will have to get it together and plan better. I can’t do what I’ve been doing any longer. Unfortunately, I’ll have to have a discussion with my daughter and lay my cards on the table so she won’t expect to be able to come to me, but I’ll still be helping significantly.

  16. happy b says:

    Saying no is often a gut thing for me. Sometimes it just feels wrong to agree to something, it gives that sinking feeling. I recently agreed to collaborate with someone I didn’t want to work with, and that felt wrong, but I went ahead because I knew why it felt wrong and my head told me it would have good results, which it did.
    But I’ve said no to other collaborations, even if they’re closer to my interests and agenda, because the people I’m meant to work with don’t listen or they push the boundaries.
    I’m much more aware now of that feeling of being compromised, of being pushed or cornered by people, and I know that sometimes you have to bail. A few times I’ve had to quit projects because I don’t like the way they’re heading, and I’ve felt released, not shamed. One ‘value’ I was brought up with was to be dutiful and see through commitments, but I’ve since learned that following this blindly serves no one. Doing things grudgingly makes people bitter and in the case of my family, virtually breaks people so they are not much use to anyone anyway. On the other extreme, I see selfishness as a rejection of this way of being. It is my aim to mean everything I do, to put my generosity in the right places and to rebel when necessary.

  17. Able says:

    I just let a client go yesterday. the ex and he client have known each other for years. I met the ex during a client event a couple of years ago. That client was high maintenance, entitled, manipulative and I’ve heard many people want nothing to do with his person . Reputation for being difficult is the most polite description I heard. But I though I could handle it. And I did. And then the client either forgot or didn’t care about a policy I had to put in place a few weeks ago. (Txtd and emailed me at all hours any day of the week when I only saw them one or two days). It wasn’t urgent. It just fit their schedule better to not wait for the day I normally go see them. Or some bs excuse.

    I see this as a pattern: they either forgot or don’t care.
    This time I said no, it’s not urgent so you will see me on the regular day and btw, that’s my last day working with you.

    Yes, I have to tighten up an already tight budget, but it was / is effecting my health. Not worth it!

    I appreciate the break it down into three questions, but for me, this “no” was relatively simple. I’m not letting anyone push back on me just because they’re used to getting their way all the time.

  18. noquay says:

    Tinkerbell
    Tough love time: it’s good to help others in need. Where things get iffy is when they are in a needy place due to their own life’s choices and living a lifestyle beyond their means. Your daughter and her husband chose to do the kids, house, dog lifestyle when clearly they cannot afford it. At some point, folks get used to you giving, giving, giving, and resent it when you don’t. My remaining brother chose to no longer be in my life because he expected me to support him (chose to not get an education, is minimally employed) and his non working wife and their two kids. I tried to show him how to live with less, grow food, etc but he insisted upon having his four television, fast/convenient food, cable TV, electricity sucking lifestyle. My husband and I, both academics, had no TV, no refrigeration, cooked at home, and wore used clothing. I understand your need to help your grandkids: perhaps a system where they have to get loans, earn their way thru school (builds motivation); when they show you their diploma, you pay off their student loans, not before. Given the breakdown of society, an age of diminishing fossil fuels and other resources, teaching the young to reject middle class consumption, resiliency, and self sufficiency are the greatest gifts we can give them. It sounds like your daughter has some tough choices to make because the husband is not going to step up.

  19. Tinkerbell says:

    Noquay,

    Thanks so much for your input. I needed that. My daughter and her husband had a nice house. When she became pregnant with the girl, she decided that the family needed a bigger house – 5 bedrooms. The first home could have been adequate with 4 bedrooms. It was beyond their means( the larger home) but they somehow managed with my help when they were both working. My daughter got laid off from Sprint after 12 years. It was systematic and was done yearly and she knew her turn was coming soon. She’d never had a degree but -get this- her income was always more than her husband’s. She’s very smart. Her husband is a selfish dreamer, does what pleases him and doesn’t think about the future or about anyone else. Now my daughter has her degree, but getting a job has been another story. She only works 2-3 days /week depending upon whether they can use her or not. She was better off when she was collecting unemployment. It’s sad. But, I’ve dug a hole for myself helping them from the day they got married. And, I’m talking about thousands of dollars up to now. I’ve been hoping for a better day when I won’t have to do this (no, I don’t HAVE TO) but that day never comes. I’m feeling oppressed at this point. My daughter is such a strong woman, a go-getter, and has worked steadily since she was 15 years old. I’m so proud of her. But I wish she could be stronger and lay down the law with her husband. I left her father when she was 18months old. She doesn’t see herself raising the kids alone. However the day is approaching when she can feel less responsibility as her son will be away at college so she just have her daughter at home full time. I can’t make any announcements that I can’t help anymore, but it is going to be extremely difficult to begin saying “No”, although I have plenty of reasons to do so. I’ve been doing this for 20 years! Why must life be so damn complicated? My own life is sunny and bright, but that is being overshadowed by my daughter’s troubles. She’s my only child.
    Thanks, Noquay.

    • oregongirl says:

      Go to Dave Ramsey’s website. He gives solid financial advice. I listen to his radio programs on the internet. He would say that by giving her money you are teaching her to be dependent. You are teaching her that she can’t take care of yourself. If you said no I won’t give you money, she would figure out how to fix the problem and gain more self-respect. You can help her in other ways that are more positive: babysit for her, have her over for dinner, buy clothes for the kids, etc. But let her grow up AND take care of yourself at the same time by NOT giving her any more money.

    • flcc says:

      “I hate to say ‘No’, but have found myself in the red several times…”
      “I feel guilty if I don’t help my daughter”
      “It was beyond their means (the larger home) but they somehow managed with my help

      There is a whole lot of enabling going on. This is hurting your daughter and grandkids. They don’t have to do anything or figure out anything.
      Why should they, you are doing it for them.

      You say the son-in-law is not motivated to help. He never will because you prop up their unaffordable lifestyle. This also allows the two of them to continue treading water in a marriage that may or may not be meant to last.

      A true test of marriage or commitment is how everyone works together (or not) during a crisis. It’s easy to stay together when things are good, how are people going to act and respond when things get tough? You may also be enabling a bad relationship to continue when it should have died a natural death years ago.

      Try an al-anon meeting to find out why it’s going on, what the payoff is for you.

      Is it a pride thing (see how good a mom I am)? Is it a guilt thing (I am a single mom, I must make up for not having a father figure to my children)? Is it still people pleasing? It’s definitely boundary busting behavior, threatening your future financial security.
      No pronouncements or grand gestures are needed to break this off.

      I told my kids they were spending their inheritance now and there will be nothing for them when I die. They don’t ask anymore, they got better jobs.

      Use your words. Tell them they are doing better and it looks like they have their stuff together and you are now putting money into a savings account or annuity for the grandkids, then do that. $25 a week for each or whatever you can afford. Be oblivious to passive aggressive attempts to wheedle money out of you. Set your boundaries, non shall pass. This is your line in the sand.

      We can tell how much we have progressed and learned and changed by how we react to crisis, adversity. Do we do the same old same old? If so, we haven’t learned a thing. Did we change our reactions, how we responded? Good for us, we are getting there.

      The only thing we can change is us and our reactions and responses. Good luck.

  20. Peanut says:

    Lydia,

    In the states, this is a legal issue. Potential employers can’t just ask anything.

    Several years ago upon chatting with a friend I came to find out her boss had questions regarding potential employee religious beliefs on the application (ballsy and stupid if you aske me).

    This was such a cool, hip place and gave excellent product with wonderful service. Yet, I would have only worked there to save my life. I was a people pleaser then, and even I wouldn’t have stood for that.

    The best I can say is research your laws in your country/state regarding these issues so you can more effectively deal with this and go in prepared next time. I’m not saying take legal action by any means; that choice is always yours.

    What I am saying is unless you must (I get it; we have to eat) take this job, don’t. It is mind crushingly stressful working for shady people who have no respect for legality or personhood.

    No rigid bosses aren’t best, but at the very least you need to work for someone who practices basic deceny and respect.

    It is your human right to say no to an employer, lest you be an indentured servant. We all have the right to say no in our jobs whether we be entry, CEO, or owner. If she doesn’t respect your no now, she never will. It’s only going to get worse the longer you stay.

    You really need to set firm boundaries and look elsewhere.

    I have worked for serious boundary busters and it is hell. And there are authority figures (bosses and such) who are great, respectable people. But authority figure boundary busters can be real monsters and make people’s lives a living hell.

    Some bulldoze so much you can’t help but get away for good because setting boundaries with these people will be impossible (they will just push harder).

    You deserve a respectable boss and a thriving, healthy and happy (they do exist; I promise) place of employment with an appropriate supervisor.

    Bosses aren’t there to be your friend and peruse your personal life (they have no right quite literally); they are there to problem solve, delegate, supervise and pay you. It needs to mean more responsibility for them, not abuse of power.

    Stay strong,

    Peanut

  21. yoshizzle says:

    Timely as usual.
    -Just mustered up everything I have to exit a “casual” relationship. I don’t need to go into details.

    If I can muster up the same determination for self-care in the future every time the warning bells go off (and before I’m caught up in it) – I wouldn’t need to be reading these articles. (I probably still would though)

    It’s all so simple — if from day one it’s not reciprocal – bail. If it becomes one – sided — BAIL. I hope when I get through it THIS time I will be strong enough to BAIL sooner and sooner until eventually the message I put out is clear: I am not here to be used.

    Thanks again Nat. You’ve helped me and a few of my friends immensely.

  22. Peanut says:

    The dynamic in my family is this: A member with power (money) strings someone in the victim type passive role (passenger) along with gifts, promises (oftentimes unfulfilled), and advice.

    When the passenger gets sick of not driving their own life (soul sucking) and wants to act like the adult they are, the power person turns nasty (emotional and physical abuse with the threat of entire family rejection and ensues.)

    The power person (driver) has a blood lust for control and domination to epic proportions in my family. The individual (passenger) is not allowed to have needs other than ones decided and delegated by the driver.

    No wonder my entire childhood and teenage years were riddled with consistent suicide attempts. At any age, that is not a life, so I thought I might as well be dead anyway and at least that’d mean I’d be free of the abuse.

    With the ex, I chose a financially dependent grown man, who just didn’t care about money either way. I thought this was safe. No. He turned out to be the most expensive man I’ve ever dated. And he still found a way to abuse me and keep me under his thumb–severe psychological abuse–the only proper effing that man gave me was a serious mind fuck.

    I’m healing. It hurts. It’s exhausting consistently asserting my needs and sometimes I get it wrong by being too agressive then veering to passivity. But I’m just trying to move forward.

  23. Grace says:

    Thank you so much for your helpful and insightful postings.You are so eloquent and translate feelings into words so well. I have said no to 3 people about three things that would have impacted me negatively.It feels so good especially because I feel good. They are still trying to coerce me and I just say no and offer no excuses or explanations.thank you Natalie

  24. […] and so far this year, that theme is obligation and entitlement. We’re either feeling duty bound even when we’re not, or we’re cycling through a thought process that rests on this sense that we’ve been […]

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!