Tuesday, January 25, 2011


A few days ago, a casual friend sent an email to me, stating that she would be in town in a month or so, and would like to come for a visit, and was that ok with me?

This is the third request of this type I've had from her. I'd said yes the first time, and she was here for 3 very long days. Suffice it to say that this lady is not in 12-Step, and is very manipulative has some problems. After she'd left, my husband and I talked it over, and agreed that we weren't going to do that again.

The second time she wrote and asked if she could come to stay, I'd politely refused, and I politely refused this time, too. I will go on politely refusing each time I get the request, and I do so with no rancour, no resentment, no frustration. I've learned how to say "No" and it's a skill I need to keep practising. Life and my Higher Power seem more than willing to give me a plethora of opportunities in which to do so.

Before Al-Anon, I'd have been angry when she left, and I'd have stayed angry. I'd have seethed with resentment while she was here, and forever afterwards. (I heard an AA speaker describe the roots of the word "resentment" to be Latin, and the meaning to be "re-feel." I don't know how accurate that is with regard to the origin of the word, but it certainly is accurate in its description of how I operated - I could never let anything go, and I was always hauling things out and "re-feeling" the wounds, whether to my ego, my pride, or my sense of self.)

I have learned that if I don't want to feel resentful, I must behave differently than my old habit of saying nothing, people-pleasing, and stifling my feelings. With this lady, I've seen the way she operates at first-hand, after that visit, and I do not wish to be exposed to it again. Which means that when she writes and wants to come to visit, I must say "No."

It's acceptable for me to consider her feelings; that keeps me courteous, and kind in my refusal.

It's acceptable for me to consider my own feelings; that keeps me from continuing to do the same old thing - expecting, as I do it, a different result. I cannot change other people; I'm left with one person over whose behavior I have some control - me.

I used to be so insecure that I was willing to accept almost anything to be liked. An Al-Anon friend and I were talking about people-pleasing; he said that he'd recently realised, that even if he didn't like someone, he still wanted them to like him, and how sick was that? That little gem stayed with me, and I've used it as a measuring stick when I'm wanting to say "No," but having a hard time with it.

I have found that examining my motives can be of great help in clarifying my decision-making process. If I were to say "Yes," what is my motive for doing so? Am I doing what I really don't want to do, in order to please another person?

If I were to say "No," what is my motive for that? In this instance, my motive is to avoid the repeating of an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience. I don't feel anger or resentment towards this lady, but I also don't want to have her to stay in my home again. That's a good enough reason - I don't want to. If my husband had disliked her, and I liked her, I'd still say "No" to her staying here, because I need to consider his feelings in the matter. I'd want him to respect mine, so I must respect his.

For a very long time, I had a problem with the idea that "I don't want to" was sufficient reason. This was a result of being taught early on that what I wanted or didn't want was immaterial - other people's wants came first. Fine, that helps me to understand my old behavior, but now that I'm an adult, I make my own choices, and I accept responsibility for them. I don't need elaborate excuses or justifications, and if I find myself with an urge to make them, then I need to stop and consider the reason for that. Is someone refusing to accept a boundary? Am I being challenged because I'm saying "No" to a request?

Not long ago, I asked a friend who was pressuring me to do what she wanted, after I'd already stated that I appreciated her invitation, but had a previous engagement on that night, "Why can't I do what I want to do, instead of what you want me to do?" There was a short pause, then she laughed, and replied "Because I'm a control freak?"

I've been on both sides of the equation - pressuring, and being pressured, and it doesn't work for healthy relationships and no resentment. What works is being honest, while being as kind as I can be, and then it's out of my hands.
I pray for the strength to be honest.


  1. I was stunned recently to realize that in almost every situation where I was resentful at X, an old partner, further investigation revealed that each one of those incidents was one wherein I did not act as if I mattered/ set good boundaries/ act in my own best interest.

    Now when I start to resent someone I am quicker to ask myself if I've been acting as if I matter (vs. thinking it's OK to sacrifice my well being for someone else's goal).


    Recently I've found it a useful exercise (not often but) occasionally to set a boundary or say "no" to some un-important, peripheral thing. I may or may not even say, "I'd like to practice boundary setting and say, 'no' to that, just for practice." Then it's my job to KEEP the boundary, on-going-ly!

    This (a) sets a precedent of me acting like I matter (which also gives them permission to make request for themselves, too) and (b) lets me experience their reaction.

    If they are someone who can either accept or clean-ly negotiate, that is good information. If they guilt, pressure, charm, or ignore, that is also good information.

    The more experienced I become at being treated WITH RESPECT during/ after boundary setting, the more wrong it feels when people lambaste me for it (which is a good thing).

  2. I like being in balance with myself, not wildly swinging with emotions to please or to resent. I can speak my truth and be okay with that. Great post.

  3. It helped me to realize that we all develop survival skills to get through life when we are young. It becomes like breathing ways to get what we want either by pleasing others or acting out. We can't see it in ourselves until we get in a program that gently reveals our character defects and assets for that matter. Knowing I can't see my own ways of manipulating helped me to have compassion for others. Having boundaries and holding to them can be hard especially in person.