No matter how big or small, there are instances every day when a little voice in our head tells us when something is maybe not the best idea. But there's a big difference between knowing what's right and wrong, and having a partner who uses guilt to make you feel bad or manipulate you. So how should you deal with feelings of guilt in a relationship?
"There are two flavors of guilt: healthy and unhealthy," Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles who works with individuals and couples, tells Bustle. "The healthy [kind] is when we feel we've betrayed our own values, or are anticipating doing so and feel guilt about that. Unhealthy or bad guilt is when someone imposes guilt upon you for something you did or didn't do."
If your guilt is coming from within, it just means you have a sense of right and wrong, and know when you've done something that you're uncomfortable with. When it comes to your relationship, there are certainly instances in which you should feel guilty, like if you've done something to hurt your partner. But there are so many things that you shouldn't have to apologize for. Unfortunately guilt-tripping is a common occurrence in many relationships, whether we realize it or not.
"Resentment can turn into bitterness," Brown says. "We do something...we know it’s not right for us, but do it anyway. Then we feel resentment toward ourselves and our partner, which turns to bitterness. The waters are really poisoned [when that happens]; we want to avoid bitterness."
It's important to always communicate and talk things through without using manipulative tactics like guilt-tripping, which can do serious harm to your relationship. Here are seven things your partner should never make you feel guilty about, because sometimes you have to put yourself and your own needs first.
1. Saying No To PHYSICAL INTIMACY
One of my favorite nuggets of wisdom I've heard is 'No is a complete sentence.' You never have to justify yourself when saying no to physical intimacy, and if your partner continues to ask, it's a sign he or she doesn't respect you. Whether you have a headache, are exhausted, or just simply don't want to, you shouldn't have to repeatedly turn down a respectful partner. Saying no once should be more than enough, and any guilt-tripping they do in response should be seen as a serious red flag.
2. Your Appearance
You're the only person who gets a say in how you present yourself to the world. While it's always considerate to give your partner a heads-up before a big change (like a drastic haircut), they should never make you feel guilty about the way you look, dress, apply makeup, etc. There's a fine line between your partner having a 'preference' in regards to your physical appearance, and trying to control what you wear.
3. Setting Boundaries With Your SO's Friends/Family
Sometimes, our partners have people in their lives that we're not all too fond of. While you shouldn't force your partner to cut ties with someone simply because you dislike them, if your partner has a family member or friend who makes you uncomfortable or has a toxic presence, you should never be made to feel guilty for wanting to minimize or cut off contact. Yes, issues like this are often difficult to work through and compromise on, but you and your partner are a team, and should tackle issues like this together, and you shouldn't have to be around anyone who makes you uncomfortable.
4. Your Career Goals
Having a bad work/life balance is something that can really impact your relationship. You should always take time to self-reflect and be sure you're devoting enough time to your partner AND your work. It's one thing to come home at 11 p.m. every night — that's a valid reason to sit down and talk to your partner about their schedule — but your partner should never make you feel guilty about being appropriately devoted to your career or your passion.
5. Taking 'Me-Time'
If you're a people-pleaser, it can be hard to put yourself first and take time just to do things you want to do. The healthiest relationships are between people who understand the necessity of being independent at times, and your partner should never make you feel bad for not spending all your time trying to please them. If you need a day alone to eat junk food or get a pedicure, a supportive partner will 100 percent be behind that idea.
6. Having Children
This is a tricky one, because your stance on children is something that can really be a deal-breaker for many people. Ultimately, you shouldn't be with someone if you can't agree on something this serious, but if you've yet to have kids and your partner tries to guilt you into changing your mind — whether you want to have them at all or are arguing about how many — that's not healthy.
7. Leaving A Relationship
More than anything, you should never let a partner make you feel guilty if you want to leave a relationship that's unhealthy. It can be easy to get sucked back in if your partner guilts you, but if you're in a bad or abusive relationship, you need to be selfish and break things off for your own sake. No one should make you feel bad about making a decision that's good for you.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy (8)