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  • Stephanie Gilson

Listening To Your No

Since my breakup last fall, I've been seeing a therapist that is helping me with my relationships with men. I've spent a long time unwrapping the trauma that was growing up with two deceased brothers younger than me, the emotional impact that had on my relationship with my Mom and my Dad, the feelings of grief that I carried the disease and I would likely never have kids of my own. There were lots and lots of layers to this onion and although there are still some unexplored layers, they're pretty thin at this point and I've got a good handle on what I made all of this mean about me, who I was/am in this world and where to heal and go forward for healthy connections with, especially my Mom.

I was not prepared to have the universe throw me into a new onion looking at my relationships with men. I thought I was doing well and that with learning how to show up vulnerably in relationships that was all I needed! Oh Boy! I was mistaken and how much I have to learn. I have dated a narcissist, multiple alcoholics, a man with OCD, a man with a gambling addiction and in each relationship I wanted to bail far before they broke up with me. Why did I stay? Why did I fight? Why did I think that is what I wanted? Why did I ignore every time I thought, end this now? Get out. This is not what you want for your life.

I’ve begun my foray into dating again and it’s been an interesting and enlightening process, especially in the middle of therapy to help me sort out my relationships with men. How often do I ignore my internal no? Violate my own boundaries both emotionally and physically? More than I ever knew it seems!

Growing up, when men in my family violated a boundary, I remember being told that they were already sorry before the apology happened. This left me feeling that no matter what I had to say, “it’s ok”. Being told I had to just make it ok were not words actually told to me but it was the way that I felt about. I don’t really remember feeling like I had a choice in the middle of this. I remember feeling that this person already felt sorry, guilty and I was to make them feel better instead of worse. I didn’t learn how to set healthy boundaries and say no… actually that wasn’t ok. That hurt me. That made me sad. That made me scared. It makes so much sense now why I would not know how to say no it’s not ok with any man that I’ve dated.

This past week was one of the most eye opening and enlightening weeks of my journey into this new onion of me. My system tells me that men are unsafe, or underdogs to be helped. That women know better and that we have to make things work and happen. My system tells me that no matter what happens, if a man has a good heart under the actions, then that means you stay. No matter the boundary violation. Because he didn’t mean it in his true heart. Some of the things I’ve allowed myself to do all because a man asked me to, well disgust me. They fill me with internal rage why I treated myself with such little self-respect.

On Thursday last week, I had a man neg me. I felt the immediate EW. Then…. I actually felt my system pull me into it. I felt my need to want to say, aww thank you. Like the put down was some sort of compliment. Because I knew what he meant. But I sat with it for a couple of mins and said, “that comment actually made me feel icky and was not a compliment. It was a put down and not ok”. He got upset and said he didn’t mean it that way, and yet I stood my ground and said no. He still didn't understand so blocked me instead of listening.

Then I had a man who I had been on a date with, ask me for something I was uncomfortable with. I expressed my uncomfort and said no. He would not let it go. Even after I expressed it was a hard no, he still would not let it go. Then he proceeded to tell me that I was being silly and dumb because HE didn’t view it as a big deal. I got that it wasn’t a big deal to him, but it was to me and it was not a flexible no. Yet still he pressed and put me down for it.

Another man that I had been on a couple of wonderfully amazing dates with who I really liked had this bad habit of ignoring my messages. This happened a number of times over a number of weeks and I let it slide. We had planned a lunch date for Thursday so I reached out on Wednesday asking if Thursday still worked. Nothing. Silence again. This time instead of following up again, I left it. Thursday morning I sent a text saying it’s been nice to meet you but this isn’t working for me, so no hard feelings. All day silence again but I did hear back that night. He apologised, was accountable, told me what happened without making it an excuse, and made a plan of action for future. I really hope his plan of action comes to fruition and at the same time standing up for my needs in the middle of this has set me free.

What I learned in all of this is setting a boundary and saying "No, that’s NOT ok", actually no only garners self-respect but it garners respect from the other person. Anyone who doesn’t respect your for setting a boundary, well that should be a huge red warning sign right there they are not a safe person to begin with. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Like the man who didn’t respect my hard no. He wasn’t asking. Is that a relationship I want? No.

Like the man who didn’t understand when I said wow that comment hurt me. He didn’t care about my needs or feelings. Is that a relationship I want? No.

And then there’s the man who heard me. Who listened and said wow. I fucked up and I’m sorry. Not only am I sorry but I plan to do better. Is that a relationship I want? Yes.

It's been a huge life lesson for me this past week to stand in my no, because when I do, the people that show up and respect that, are the people I want to surround myself with.

This onion is going to be a tough one to peel and I can't wait to keep peeling!

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