Friday: Covert Contracts With Sexist Men

Most men are sexist either consciously or subconsciously. If you’re turned off, good. Go read a book and come back when you’re ready for unfiltered honesty. If you’re still with me, let’s keep going, shall we? Considering the fact that most men grow up in a patriarchal world, modeling their behavior from sexist fathers or receiving messages from their mothers and family that reinforce sexist behavior and beliefs, it’s hard to make it to adulthood without some sexist beliefs.

Women also come of age beneath heavy patriarchal conditioning with desires, expectations and attraction shaped immensely by social messages. While I’m blessed to have women in my life who thoroughly interrogate our sexist world (it’s just as likely this blessing is fueled by impatience, I might add), it’s an unfortunate truth that most women don’t.

Dating (as a heterosexual woman) and clinging tightly to patriarchal beliefs whether consciously or unconsciously, is a recipe for disaster since sexist cover contracts are established. When these contracts, which do sometimes have apparent short term benefits for women, make unappealing demands, women find themselves quagmired by the myriad of small decisions and perceptions that have ultimately contributed to their position.

How do women cope with these covert contracts and expectations? Resentment is certainly one way, but certainly there’s another way that doesn’t involve tearing away at ourselves from within. It won’t hurt (much) to hold men accountable for their behavior. When you recognize a covert contract, some aspect of your relationship that exists solely because of your sex, rather than holding onto resentment, isn’t it much easier to draw this out and bring it to the foreground? Speak about your experience and don’t allow a fear of being "assertive” press you into submission.

We are much better off finding out if we can bring our issues to the table early on rather than stuffing our feelings until we feel too emotionally involved to tell a man to get his act together.

Wednesday: Why You're In Toxic Relationships... 9 Essential Skills For Cultivating Healthy Long-Term Relationships

Every relationship changes or evolves. Over time, we grow closer or further apart from various people in our lives and through each “season” of our lives, we find ourselves surrounded by some of the last people we may have imagined. During certain points of your life, the seeds that you plant eventually flourish and individuals are left to reap what they sow.

Relationships that last don’t do so because of fate, God’s grace, or through wishing them to last. We cultivate skills and values during our lives and what we’re left with is a series of relationships — either good quality or bad. We’re either “surrounded by toxic people” and dissatisfied, or contented and stable.

These 7 skills weave the fabric of relationships that last, and most relationships in your life need these ingredients or they will unravel quicker than a cashmere sweater. Most of these skills play off of each other — you often can’t have one without the other and together, they make your relationships an impenetrable force against hard times.

1) Respect For Boundaries

No relationship truly exists without boundaries. A respect for boundaries doesn’t only refer to setting boundaries but respecting others boundaries as well. If you believe that only your boundaries are worthy of respect and you routinely trample over others, disrespect their space or react negatively when confronted, you’re experiencing a breakdown in the most fundamental part of forming relationships. A healthy set of boundaries also influences the pacing of different relationships which enables you to have both friendships and romantic relationships that last longer.

 
“The only people upset when you set boundaries are the ones who benefitted from you having none.”

“The only people upset when you set boundaries are the ones who benefitted from you having none.”

 

2) Support

Boundaries create the foundation of all healthy long-term relationships, but support is the blood that keeps a relationship alive. Supporting other human beings in a social context is one of our biggest drives as social creatures. It’s in our nature to aid those around us and provide support to people within our communities (Kropotkin). Mutual support is what’s critical. If relationships are one-sided, this leads to problems later on and resentments. Of course, different people support each other in different ways and show their love in different ways. What matters is that we find people we are compatible with who understand how to give and receive support the way we need them to.

“Support” doesn’t mean uncritical, blind agreement with every decision another person makes. Sometimes support refers to the way you challenge people and help them grow. In unhealthy relationships, one person does not give genuine support or is unable to receive unpleasant feedback. This ties into having healthy boundaries because if you have healthy boundaries surrounding what actions you will and won’t accept, you will learn to seek supportive relationships that reflect the way you wish to be treated.

 
A relationship is where two people make a deal that they will help the other person become the best version of themselves.

A relationship is where two people make a deal that they will help the other person become the best version of themselves.

 

3) Consideration


Many people want a partner or friend who can “anticipate their needs”. Unfortunately, this way of viewing things is codependent in nature, as it expects an element of mind-reading that most people aren’t capable of. (Hello, Miss Cleo? You there?) Perhaps instead of seeking mind-readers, we need a little more nuance. Consideration covers this general principle and makes far more sense. You don’t need someone to guess what you want to eat for dinner (ladies, we really don’t) but you might want a friend who offers to grab you coffee when you’ve forgotten your wallet at home, or someone who takes your feelings into account when making decisions that affect your life.

Cohabiting with my fiancé forced me to acknowledge how important consideration is. This is one of the actions that adds up slowly over time but if there’s no consideration for another person’s feelings, the results are catastrophic. A lack of consideration is one of the hardest relationship problems to bounce back from because this behavior usually leads to many small frustrations piling up over time until issues and resentments are insurmountable. Consideration can be a form of support and also an expression of healthy boundaries. For example, if you’re armed with good boundaries, you are more likely to consider someone’s feelings and behave in an appropriate manner because you understand and respect that values of another person. People behaving in an inconsiderate manner are less likely to have an appropriate response to boundaries being set and are rarely available to offer support at a time when it isn’t convenient to them.

 
Be mindful of others and their feelings. Loyal, easy going people have their limits too. You never want to push people to a point where they no longer care.

Be mindful of others and their feelings. Loyal, easy going people have their limits too. You never want to push people to a point where they no longer care.

 

4) Coöperation

Coöperation and support are similar, complementary traits, but cooperation requires a little more depth than support. Coöperation refers to hands-on problem solving in a given moment. You may need support from your friends when you’re going into a job interview, but when it’s time to clean up your apartment after a huge rager, you don’t only need support, but coöperation.

In all relationships, problems arise. Shutting down or behaving in an unproductive manner is uncooperative behavior that eventually degrades relationships over time. Problem solving in relationships requires both parties to have a vested interest in building up healthy boundaries, solving issues that arise, and maintaining peace and harmony. A toxic person will refuse to cooperate to find a solution that works for everyone and maintains a “my way or the highway” kind of attitude. This goes beyond stubbornness and refers to someone whose overall attitude towards relationships means they would rather lose a relationship than cooperate to find a productive solution that works for everyone.

Cooperation is the antithesis to “compromise” and far more important to healthy relationships than compromise as cooperation implies both parties get their needs met without one person sacrificing.

 
Cooperation is the thorough conviction that no one else can get there unless everyone gets there. — Virginia Burden

Cooperation is the thorough conviction that no one else can get there unless everyone gets there. — Virginia Burden

 

5) Assertiveness

Assertiveness empowers individuals to bring up problems as they occur and involves direct and honest communication. So many people rely on passive aggressive communication to get their needs met in interpersonal relationships. Tactics such as the silent treatment, avoiding confrontation at all costs, allowing too much time to pass before addressing conflicts, and avoiding honesty, are all examples of common passive communication that’s completely ineffective at maintaining long term healthy relationships.

Assertiveness is not the same as rudeness and I’ve written on this blog a bit about how you can cultivate assertiveness in your life. Assertive communication at its core is honest. Without honest communication, it’s nearly impossible to have a relationship at all, much less a good one. If you avoid assertive communication, this will definitely create problems. Assertiveness can be cultivated through practice, and is the only way you can truly get your needs met in any relationship, friendship or otherwise. We need assertiveness to set boundaries and to ensure we are co-operating rather than compromising. Assertiveness can also encompass offering support as sometimes offering support means bringing up honest and unpleasant truths. Assertiveness never violates the rights and needs of others, one of the many ways its distinguished from being “mean” or “harsh”.

 
Assertive people communicate honestly and directly; they express feelings needs and ideas and stand up for their rights, but do so in ways that don't violate the rights and needs of others.  -- LINDA ADAMS

Assertive people communicate honestly and directly; they express feelings needs and ideas and stand up for their rights, but do so in ways that don't violate the rights and needs of others.

-- LINDA ADAMS

 

6) Integrity

Integrity is ultimately the glue holding any individual together and a person without integrity is liable for relationships around them to fail and they will make no changes to their behavior, doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again — likely to blame everyone around them for it too. This Brené Brown quote on integrity summarizes this value perfectly, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”

This quote encompasses all the facets of integrity but most important is the aspect of practicing our values. We can’t wake up one day and exist as perfect people. When you have integrity, you acknowledge this. You acknowledge that anyone is capable of screwing up, even if you think you’re a good person and try to do the right thing. Someone with integrity doesn’t fear getting called out or critiqued for their behavior. Someone with integrity practices what they preach when it comes to their values and practices in the traditional sense too — getting better with each iteration over time.

 
Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them  -- Brené Brown

Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them

-- Brené Brown

 

7) Accountability

Accountability and integrity can’t exist without each other. Accountability is a bit more specific because it refers to not just maintaining our values, but taking responsibility for your actions. Accountability doesn’t mean taking the blame for everything and it’s dangerous to see accountability as the equivalent to blame. Accountability allows us to humble ourselves when we’ve done wrong and take action to make amends to people we’ve hurt. Accountability reminds us that there are others outside of ourselves and that our actions affect them.

Accountability is more meaningful than a simple verbal apology because it is connected to taking responsibility for the way our actions impact others. A lack of accountability in relationships can be extremely damaging because it involves one person either not taking responsibility for their actions, or the inverse, assuming that their actions and emotions are caused by someone else’s behavior. If someone never takes responsibility for their behavior and always blames other people, this person will not be able to co-operate.

Without accountability, you cannot have integrity because choosing to be accountable to someone else is not always easy or fun. Someone may avoid this “inconvenience” and destroy relationships along the way. Accountability can take you far in problem solving and lends itself to healthy assertive communication in a way that blame does not.

 
Accountability feels like an attack when you aren’t ready to acknowledge the way your behavior harms others.

Accountability feels like an attack when you aren’t ready to acknowledge the way your behavior harms others.

 

8) Interdependence instead of codependence

I grappled with not putting this on, but avoiding codependent behavior is so important that I added it despite the similarity to earlier points of cooperation and assertiveness. This point isn’t simply about cooperating or asserting yourself and your boundaries when occasions arise for you to do so. Interdependence refers to the entire culture of an interpersonal relationship. Is this a relationship where it is acceptable to address problems? Is this a relationship where individuals can maintain their real identities? Can you have different thoughts and different beliefs from the other person? Are there appropriate boundaries within this relationship in the first place?

A relationship built on a foundation of codependency will have poor boundaries, poor respect for boundaries, and the underpinning belief that enmeshment is equivalent to intimacy and closeness. Codependent people often cannot see the difference between codependence and interdependence, which is why it is so important to establish these boundaries early on. It’s easier to create good habits than to break bad ones.

 
A good relationship has "interdependence" not "codependence" where two independent individuals have mutually agreed upon standards of behavior and hold themselves and each other accountable for that behavior.

A good relationship has "interdependence" not "codependence" where two independent individuals have mutually agreed upon standards of behavior and hold themselves and each other accountable for that behavior.

 

9) Self-reliance

Interdependent relationships require two individuals with a healthy set of separate identities from each other. Self-reliance made it to my list because it’s so essential to bringing a fully formed person into a relationship. When you’re self-reliant, this doesn’t mean that you do everything on your own or you do not allow friends, family, or other people to help you. Self-reliance means taking responsibility for your life choices, your actions, and ultimately your happiness.

Self-reliance is a philosophy defined by not needing another person’s behavior to change in order for you to be happy. Self-reliant people don’t think that they need a man or woman in their lives to find happiness. Self-reliant people recognize that their choices have consequences and they are responsible enough to face these consequences. Like many traits, self-reliance can have a shadow side where some people intentionally misinterpret this to mean that they should neither help others or receive help. This is fundamentally against other principles that make relationships healthy like cooperation and support.

 
self reliance.png
 

These skills are not innate and fixed. Neither are these skills independent of each other. You cannot be self-reliant, yet never cooperate with others and consider yourself a healthy person. Well, you can, but you might still have some work to do. When we participate in toxic relationships, and continue to wonder why we are not happy, or why we always seem to find ourselves repeating the same mistakes, often times we could refer to some of these skills and improve our ability to have healthy relationships.

Which of these skills is the hardest for you to maintain? I tend to struggle with assertiveness and also fear some types of boundary setting due to my fear of being considered “a bitch”. I have also been less than self-reliant at various points in my life. If we are honest with ourselves and face these unpleasant truths, we’ll have a chance in hell of improving our relationships and sucking toxicity from our lives.

This isn’t simply about accusing others of being “toxic”, but identifying our own troubling behavior, and having the bravery to hold ourselves accountable for the outcome of our lives.

If you like any of these quotes, I invite you to pin them to your favorite board for motivation and relationship advice!

Tuesday: Top 5 Quotes I Loved On Pinterest Last Week

Each week, I like to save some of my favorite quotes to Pinterest boards for motivation and inspiration. It’s easy to take in a lot of negative messages on social media, so I enjoy taking the time to internalize something positive.

These are my top quotes last week from Pinterest.

What do you think? Comment below which quote inspired you or touched you the most. 😋👇🏼

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Thursday: ❌ Thoughts On Boundaries 💭

Like most of my Thursday posts, this one will have a less formal structure even if I’m talking about a BIG topic which women everywhere can stand to improve on — yes even me. Saddle up divas and hustlers, we’re going to learn why our boundaries suck and how we can fix this so that we can:

  • Get what we want

  • Feel less guilty

  • Gain confidence in sticking up for ourselves

OK, let’s get started. 💖

  • I talked about this in my assertiveness blog post but boundaries aren’t a zero sum game. You can have great boundaries with friends but let your partner get away with murder. How do you identify your weak spots?

  • Recognize that there are six different boundary types: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, material & sexual. You may have stronger boundaries in one area than in another…

  • Boundaries are often conflated with being “mean” or “bitchy”. If you think “no” is a bad word, you may have trouble setting boundaries and if you don’t change that, making progress on your boundaries will be difficult.

  • One thing that will guarantee you suffer from poor boundaries is not knowing what you want. As a woman, you want to be crystal clear on what you want so that anything that doesn’t match up with the way you deserve to be treated gets eliminated from your life. This includes how you treat yourself. Poor boundaries can mean treating yourself poorly too.

If you want to save my boundaries cheat sheet, use my 📌 graphic and pin to your favorite board on psychology, motivation and self-help.

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Monday: 7 Assertiveness Tips For Women

Many women struggle with assertiveness. In the patriarchal society that we live in, women smother their needs in favor of more passive and less effective forms of communication. When “niceness” is a greater priority than confidence, honesty and directness, it’s no wonder women struggle with standing up for themselves when the time comes.

We all do this in some way or another and assertiveness exists on a spectrum. You might feel assertive with your family but not your friends, with your friends but not your partner. These tips can help you bring a little bit more directness to your interpersonal relationships…

1) Face problems right away

The longer you wait before approaching someone with an issue, the more time you have to get in your own head, lose track of the details and build up a lot of excuses for not taking the direct and assertive approach. Deal with issues in the moment they happen to you. If someone says something inappropriate, you may be tempted to stew before approaching them. The assertive approach involves dealing with the problem right away before there’s any bad blood.

2) Get your facts straight

One of the best ways to improve your assertiveness skills is to feel confident in what you are saying. Stick to the facts of a situation rather than character attacks. Of course, your feelings are important too but when you know exactly what you want, sticking to the facts of the situation makes speaking up for yourself easier. When no one can cast doubt about a series of events or your feelings about those events, you can better assert your needs in a situation.

3) Know what you want

This is an addendum to the second point. You have to know what you want not just as it pertains to a situation but in general. You decide what kind of treatment you will accept. When you know what you want, you can ask for it in a clear and direct manner.

4) Practice assertiveness

As with any skill, you can improve your assertiveness through practice. Start small. Do you struggle to send drinks back when someone makes you the wrong order? Start there. Find the easiest place to make improvements in your assertiveness and start there.

5) Identify your weaker spots

Once you start practicing assertiveness you will realize where you are incredible at sticking up for yourself and where you need a ton of help. Start noting moments where you have been successfully assertive and areas where you wish you stood up for yourself. What pattern do you see? Find your weaker spots and give those areas extra attention.

6) Eliminate black and white thinking

There is no one who is 100% assertive or 100% a doormat. This isn’t a zero sum game! Stop thinking of yourself as either one or the other. Assertiveness is an ongoing process and it takes time. If you fear “backsliding” or making mistakes this can slow down your progress. Assertiveness takes time and it takes practice. You don’t have to be perfect to consider yourself a strong, assertive woman, even if you’ve made mistakes in the past.

7) Surround yourself with assertive women

Are you surrounded by people who guilt trip you into being “nice” as opposed to supporting your growth as a person? Many of us have friends who encourage us to “take the high road” and enforce the notion that a woman standing up for herself is akin to a cardinal sin. Sometimes, you have to switch up your friend group. No, I’m not saying dump all your old friends. Simply add a few more positive relationships to the mix by interacting with women who support your journey to become more assertive and to express your needs. You shouldn’t be afraid of judgment from your closest friends, so if you need to, surround yourself with women who understand how important assertiveness is for all women to become truly empowered.

When was the last time you wished you were more assertive but it didn’t work out? Can you remember any thoughts that went through your head? Comment down below if you can. Every comment matters because it’s an opportunity to spark conversation and discussion.

If you liked this list, don’t forget to use my image below to 📌 pin this to your favorite board for motivation, inspiration and STRONG women. 💪🏼

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Saturday: Assertiveness & Conflict

Women are trained from early in life to avoid conflict. We are the ones who make peace, the ones most often tasked with forgiveness. The labor of virtue falls on women while men, who are still upheld as more virtuous since Eve are the apple and all that, are allowed the freedom to leave that box of politeness and engage in both assertiveness and conflict.

Despite our conditioning, women must survive in a world where a lack of assertiveness can kill you. Just read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker for first hand examples of assertiveness saving women’s lives while “politeness” and a fear of being disliked became some women’s undoing.

I would love to live in a world where women didn’t have to expand a Herculean amount of effort not to get trampled on. Yet that’s not the world we live in…

Where can women draw the line between assertiveness and aggression? Should our primary concerns be drawing this line at all before we have achieved our full potential of assertiveness?

Being a strong and assertive woman comes with so many labels. One of my favorite women who speaks about some of these labels is Tabatha Coffey, celebrity hair stylist and entrepreneur who has reclaimed the word “BITCH” which has been weaponized against her in a male dominated world. Her philosophy is that a part of assertiveness is being unapologetic about who you are.

If women spent more time asserting ourselves instead of hiding our needs and fearing being disliked, would our lives be any different? Would your life be different? Assertiveness saves women’s lives. Assertiveness empowers women in a real way to take control of our lives and embody the true strength which comes from self-efficacy in looking after your own interests.

Are you an assertive person? What scares you most about being assertive? Drop a comment down below. Seriously, every comment makes a difference and I want to hear your thoughts. Don’t worry about having something “good enough” to say, your opinion is enough.

📌Pin my “assertiveness reminder” graphic below to your favorite Pinterest board for motivation. 💪🏼 Us strong women can only make progress by sticking together and talking about these issues.

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