I feel like it’s hard to talk about ways to improve your relationships (with yourself and others) without feeling at least somewhat cheesy. WORK ON YR MARRIAGE -type self help books (or whatever) are just kind of…cringey. That being said, feeling like shit about yourself and your relationships can really fuck with your general wellbeing, which is why it’s worthwhile to put the effort into thinking/communicating about what’s important to you. These are a few of the things re: self care that I’ve been keeping in mind lately that I think might be useful:
saying “thank you” instead of “sorry”
I straight lifted this from some comic that was circulating around tumblr for a while and I’ll tell you right now: it’s harder than it sounds. A lot of people use the word sorry as a sort of filler — which is you know, appropriate if you’ve bumped into someone and it’s just like an automatic “oh sorry”, but it can be kind of damaging if you didn’t actually do something that warrants apology. Apologizing over things that don’t really need it, just because you’re feeling kind of crummy and insecure, puts both you and the person you’re talking to in an uncomfortable position that doesn’t need to be uncomfortable.
It can be helpful to keep in mind that you don’t need to apologize for existing (taking up space, having feelings, or having health needs) even if it’s inconveniencing someone. Furthermore, being apologized to over things that don’t warrant apology can get awkward, which is why if you wanna acknowledge someone listening to you/doing small favors/waiting for you/etc, thanking them is a good way to do it, because instead of it being focused on you feeling bad, it shows you appreciate what they did.
- If you’re talking about something that bothers you, you can replace “sorry for boring you with this, I shouldn’t be so negative” with “thank you for listening to me.”
- If you’re hanging out with somebody and it’s kind of laid back, you don’t need to say “sorry we didn’t do anything” — replace it with “thank you for hanging out with me.”
- Other good “thank you”s (to use as necessary): thank you for being understanding, thanks for taking the time to do that, I appreciate [x thing]
not apologizing after somebody apologizes to you
There are totally situations which warrant mutual apologies, like arguments where both parties get carried away. But that’s not always the case, and if you tend to feel guilty when someone apologizes to you, it feels like a natural response to apologize back as a way of deflecting some of that away from you.
I think it’s really worth it to take a second and examine whether you actually need to apologize in whatever situation you’re in. If you’re itching to say sorry because you feel bad about expressing that somebody has hurt you, then try to hold back on it and remind yourself that it’s okay to tell people how you feel.
Talking through things and coming to a mutual understanding is actually the ideal conclusion; there’s kind of a narrative in pop culture/media as arguments as things that are won/lost, but thinking of all disagreements through that lens blocks you off from resolving things in a healthy manner. (It’s really sucky if your friends/partners seem like people to fight against.)
not apologizing for expressing sexual boundaries
This is a tricky one to break out of, even when you’re with a partner that does everything right; being in a vulnerable moment makes it hard to be conscious of (and avoid doing) things that feel like they just happen automatically. However, working on vocalizing your boundaries and preferences will help you enjoy sex more and keep a healthy mindset about your sexuality.
Sex Stuff That You Don’t Need To Apologize Abt
- slowing down/taking a break/stopping entirely
- shifting to be more comfortable
- CONDOM USE. CONDOM. USE. C O N D O M U S E. (condo muse?)
- the amount of time (whether how quickly or slowly) it takes to orgasm — it is what it is
- not wanting to be physically intimate (for any reason)
how to tell people that you’re upset (w/o being shitty)
Everything in our social script re: conflict in relationships is so so counterproductive; nobody ever sits you down and is like “ok here’s how you resolve interpersonal conflict in a healthy manner that works for all parties” and it just destroys things that don’t need to be destroyed. When you don’t have the skill set needed to talk about what’s bothering you, it doesn’t go away…it’ll come out as passive aggression, or simmer until it turns into some big blowout, and then the focus is on Fighting Abt Attitude instead of the actual issue.
This is something that will vary from person to person or in different types of relationships, but some core bits can be helpful across the board. (These are things that I try to use and my friends use and they show up from different sources, so hopefully they can be somewhat relevant to more people.)
The basic formula for starting conversations off is just:
I feel [X] when [Y] because [Z].
- It bothers me when you interrupt me while I’m talking, because it seems like it means you’re not listening to what I have to say.
- I get really bummed when you cancel plans at the last minute, because I look forward to spending time with you. Also, sometimes I’ve turned down other plans because we were going to hang out.
A counterproductive way to resolve conflict, even if you are definitely in the right:
- It’s really fucked up that you don’t pet the cat when she’s sitting by you, Chad. I really don’t understand what’s wrong with you sometimes.
( ^ My cat Anya just stepped all over my keyboard. I’m leaving it in, she’s a Blogging Cat now.)
People have different ideas on how heated things can get when you’re mad, but I’m really firmly settled in the anti-yelling camp. I say this even as someone who does get like really physically swept up in being mad and gets irritable, but as satisfying as it seems like it’s gonna be in the moment, with people I genuinely want to maintain a relationship with, not being snippy and loud has always worked out better for me.
It’s also worth mentioning that this whole approach is only really suited to people who care about your feelings and are on the same page about wanting both of you to be satisfied. It seems cold, but you have to consider, for example, is your boyfriend a toxic piece of shit?
It’s unrealistic to think that your relationships are going to be smooth-sailing all the time; there is some conflict inherent to all meaningful relationships, because people are complex lil bugs and everybody has shitloads of baggage. It’s incredibly challenging to maintain a relationship with someone if you don’t have an effective, compassionate way of working through that conflict — it can be hard enough to organize your thoughts and open up about how you’re feeling, but if there’s an element of defensiveness/anger on one side it can shut out any actual productive conversation.
I think there’s two extremes that people can kind of fall into when they’re upset and neither of them are very effective. On one hand, there’s this passive conflict avoidance where you avoid talking about anything ever (which guess what, means nothing ever get solved, because ignoring things doesn’t make them go away). But there’s also this harsh “brutal honesty” where people see themselves as some kind of callout badass, and while honesty alone is good, being like “oh I’m honest even though it means I carelessly hurt the people around me” is…kinda mean. You can be honest and kind at the same time!
Anyway, I hope some of these tips/reflections can help you in your personal relationships and in caring for your emotional health. The whole thing is a process more than anything — caring for yourself and other people is a continuous act.