When we’re in unhealthy and unfulfilling relationships, we often blame others, and then ourselves, for the other person’s behaviour.

For instance, we claim that our romantic partner ex(es) ‘obviously’ didn’t love them right or give the right support or sex them enough or whatever, hence why they moved on to or are mistreating us.

When we then struggle in the relationship or this person moves on, we blame our lack of enoughness. We wonder what the new person has that we don’t. After everything I did for them, they replaced me! We’ll also tell ourselves a painful fairy tale that this person has spontaneously combusted into a better person in a better relationship. Our mentality speaks to that part of us that self-blames and shames when people are who they are.

Experiencing mistreatment, abuse, lack of fulfilment is not about our worthiness or deservedness!

The distraction of blame is only beneficial to those who seek to exploit our fear of having boundaries. We blame others, then we blame ourselves, and shady people continue avoiding confronting themselves. We’re so busy overcompensating and proving ourselves that we don’t recognise the issues in their behaviour and the relationship.

As a society, as individuals, we must stop peddling the lie that people wouldn’t do the things they do if other people’s deficiencies didn’t provoke them. Particularly for women, we have to stop telling ourselves that if a woman’s partner looks elsewhere or behaves badly, that it must be because she wasn’t enough, whether in physical appearance, sexually, or effort.

We have to stop blaming ourselves, but we also have to stop blaming each other. When we stop, we take responsibility for ourselves through healthier boundaries and we get to navigate to mutually fulfilling relationships.

The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon/HarperCollins) is out now and available in bookshops on and offline. Listen to the first chapter.

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