When we meet someone for the first time we look for ways we’re similar or for things we have in common.
“Oh are you from Minnesota too?” “I had a Great Dane when I was growing up!” or “Me too! I hate Brussel sprouts!”
This is a normal way to meet, greet, and get to know someone in a deeper way.
When we meet someone and fall in love we often feel like we’re one person. You could stay up all night talking and “blending together.” It feels comfortable and safe to share all the ways we are the same. It’s how we start building the relationship.
But then comes the No Thank You stage…
The next step of the relationship is more difficult: The No Thank You stage. The time when a healthy relationship evolves to hold two different people who have a common base. You begin to differentiate.
Many times people skip over this stage, so one person begins to lead the relationship with their needs and wants. The other person sees themselves as more flexible and accommodating, so they see their following the lead as showing up authentically.
However in a long-term relationship, the accommodating partner starts to disappear and even become invisible to themselves and their partner. But being visible to each other is incredibly important.
What’s the problem? They forgot to say no thank you.
Saying No Thank You is a way to say “I love you” – really!
Once I had a client who impulsively and recklessly had a one-night fling while in a long-term committed relationship. She said she did it because she felt seen by this other person.
Like my client, you could blame your partner for not seeing you but that’s a dead end really.
Better to ask yourself what you have been doing to become invisible?
My guess is you forgot to say, No thank you. It is the common and polite way to define who you are and make yourself visible again.
“Let’s share a dessert.” “No thank you.” “Come on I really want to have something sweet but not the entire thing, help me out here.” “No thank you, I really don’t like sweet things.”
“I need a ride home you can pick me up at 6:00 pm.” “No thank you. I am busy.”
Do those examples make you feel uncomfortable? Differences do cause controversy, so it’s easier to just go along. You can see why you might have avoided defining yourself through No thank you.
Maybe what you wanted was to be loved and not have controversy. You enjoyed pleasing others. That can work in short term but in the long run being invisible and not sticking up for what you want is misery in the making. Saying No thank you is saying “I love you” to the other person but more importantly yourself!
Take baby steps in saying No thank you
When you start showing up in an established relationship with No thank you, others will react, like I discussed here. Remain clear calm and confident in knowing what you want and get visible in small ways at first you can practice.
Take baby steps in saying No thank you. Do it intentionally, on purpose. Practice! As you say yes to this and no to that you become more visible. When you become more visible there is more for another person to protest AND there is more for the other person to love.
Practice your problem solving skills and communication skills while staying in your relationship. You’re showing up differently, so practice not getting in a huge reaction when maybe the other person does.
A healthy long term relationships includes both people, who both learn to negotiate differences along the way. When you show up to your partner as defining who you are, you become more visible. It is clear there are two unique interesting people in your relationship! Begin today to take off your cloak of invisibility before you even disappear to yourself. Start by saying No thank you.
“no thank you” by Flickr user popofatticus is licensed under CC BY 2.0.