Being assertive, and knowing how to speak up for yourself in a relationship is a vital part of learning to love as an adult. Partnerships cannot truly work unless both people are able to express themselves fully. If not, you may become a
doormat in a relationship since you don't stand up for your own needs. It's important to keep your eye out for signs it might be happening to you.
Being a doormat in a relationship may not necessarily mean you're
being used, but it may mean you and your partner are teetering on the edge of what is healthy in terms of communication. "The biggest mistake most people make in a relationship is avoid expressing their true thoughts, fears, concerns, [and] desires," Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. clinical psychologist and Host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "They often keep things 'off the table' in an attempt not to hurt their partner or not to ruin the relationship. In the short run this works. In the long run the end product is weeks, months, years, some times decades of quiet frustration and resentment." You may have a few more difficult conversations, but you will be able to achieve more equality in your relationship.
"Equality in relationships is not necessarily about sameness, as your needs are likely different," Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, sexologist and host of the
@SexWithDrJess Podcast, tells Bustle. "Communication involves both speaking and listening and oftentimes when you’re good at the former, you struggle with the latter — and vice versa." If you find that you may be listening to your partner more than speaking up, it can be worthwhile to take inventory on what you may or may not be saying to them.
Here are nine things that, if you never say to your partner, may mean you're not asserting yourself enough.
Relationships are largely about finding balance. If you never tell your partner when you need help, you may need to be more assertive and speak up for yourself.
"Some people really struggle to ask for and accept help and feel like they should be able to handle everything themselves," licensed marriage and family therapist
Virginia Williamson, of Collaborative Counseling Group, LLC, tells Bustle. "If a relationship becomes one-sided, it can be a recipe for resentment but you have to give your partner an opportunity to meet your needs." Whether it's balancing chores, or getting advice on a tough situation at work, it's valuable to be able to get your partner's support.
"I Want To Do This Without You."
It's quite important to be able to tell your partner when you want to spend time alone, or with friends, and know that they'll trust you. If you find that you never ask for your space, you may be struggling to assert yourself in your relationship.
"One of the hardest things to tell your partner is that you want to do something without them,"
David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "It could be going somewhere with just your friends, or even doing something that you prefer to do alone." Still, being able to ask for this time is a skill that you'll need in the long-term, and building it may help keep your relationship strong.
"I'm Not Ready For This"
Relationships move at different speeds. You and your partner might be moving at different speeds as well. If you find yourself unable to speak up when you want things to slow down, however, you may be dealing with a larger relationship issue.
"There is a lot of pressure to 'advance' in a relationship, whether it's a 'proper' time-frame for exclusivity, or even an engagement," Bennett says. "This can often mean one partner is pushing for something to develop, while the other is feeling pressure to just go with the flow. If you're not ready for something — whether it's sex or the next step in your commitment — speak up!" Being able to always communicate and be
on the same page is important for your relationship's success.
"I'm Busy And Can't Text"
In a strong relationship, both partners should be able to ask for distance when they need it. An evening without communication should not put the relationship at risk. If you have never asked for time away when you need it, you may need to work on
sticking up for yourself in your relationship.
"The idea that one partner owes another partner a constant stream of texts and engagement even when they are busy or otherwise occupied seems unhealthy to me," Bennett says. "If you're busy, whether it's on a work project or even just enjoying a good run, it's OK to assert that you don't want to text." In turn, you should be able to let your partner do things on their own when they need to.
"Let Me Think About That"
In a relationship, you don't always have to know the answer to your partner's questions immediately. Being able to ask for time to think over important decisions in an especially important way to stand up for yourself in a relationship.
If you are unable to ask for some time when you need it, that may be a problem. "It's a simple request, but just asking for more time ... before making a decision is totally acceptable, so your partner should respect your request for that time," licensed marriage and family therapist
Gabrielle Freire tells Bustle. "Allowing one partner the time and space to process their decision is a great way to show the partners are supportive of one another." So if you aren't sure what to do, whether it's meeting their parents or moving in, let yourself have some time to think it over.
"I Feel __ When You __ Because __"
Being able to listen and adapt to what your partner is feeling, and also be able to speak up for yourself when you're feeling something is off, is integral to a healthy relationship. Using
communication skills like "I" language can help. If you never do, your relationship might suffer.
"I often teach the simple and easy communication skill, the traditional' "I feel [this] when you [do this] because [of this]," Freire says. You may begin to feel more heard by your partner by introducing this sort of language, and seeing how they react.
"What I Hear You Saying Is..."
If you aren't properly asserting yourself in your relationship, you may not even be having the conversations you need to fully understand your partner.
"Another solid communication skill is to use
reflective listening skills," Freire says. "The good side of this technique is it allows for both parties to feel heard because when one person is talking the other is listening." It may take a while for you to learn to speak up, and as a couple learn to listen and not interrupt, but it's worth it so that you both feel understood in the relationship.
If, when your partner does something to hurt you, you're quick to allow their apology, even if it doesn't feel right, you may not be asserting yourself enough.
"If you are not comfortable with being assertive or have a hard time tolerating that your partner is feeling bad, you may be quick to accept and apology and brush over something hurtful so that things can go back to normal in your relationship," Williamson says. "It's important to understand that if your partner has done something that has really shaken you or is a breach of your trust, it's completely reasonable to need some time to move past it, even if your partner has said, 'I'm sorry.'" Next time, tell them you still need to think about things. It may help.
"I Feel Really Frustrated Today. Do You Mind If I Vent For A Second?"
If you aren't sticking up for yourself in a relationship, you may feel unable to vent your feelings to your partner. Asking for the space to show your emotions is an important way you can assert yourself and your needs with your partner.
"You want to be able to express a range of feelings — from elation to sadness and confidence to insecurity," Dr. Jess says. "You may need to let your partner know how you’d like them to respond to more challenging emotions." Let them know if you want advice, or to just be listened to. It may help you avoid conflict down the line.
Beginning to stick up for yourself may seem daunting, but it doesn't have to mean having more conflict in your relationship. "Speaking up in a relationship doesn’t mean a green light to complain about your partner," Dr. Klapow says. "In fact, speaking up should try to focus on solutions: what is working and what is not working." Letting your partner know what problems you worry about, and what you need from them, will likely only make your relationship stronger in the long-term.