As an example, a young man once told me about an issue he and his girlfriend were having. She had a little bit of hair on her top lip that bothered him when they were making out. Out of a fear of hurting her feelings, he never mentioned it to her… by the time I talked to him he’d decided that his only option was to end the relationship in spite of how much he liked her.
This story illustrates how a failure to assert yourself leads to feelings of frustration and even to a breakup. When something about your partner is annoying you, it’s essential that you bring it out into the open and deal with it. If you don’t, you could be looking at a breakup down the road.
My advice to the man
I told him that his only option was to tell his girlfriend how he felt.
The following week he contacted me again to thank me for the advice. Much to his surprise, she was much less hurt and upset about what he said than he expected her to be. He found out that airing his problem was MUCH less painful than the frustration he had allowed to build by just putting up with the situation in silence.
No doubt his girlfriend didn’t enjoy hearing that her boyfriend didn’t like her little bit of facial hair. But telling her about the issue was a lot less cruel and painful than simply dumping her out of the blue and never telling her why it happened.
The way this situation played out was a win-win. Had the young man continued keeping his grievance to himself instead of asserting himself, all would have been lost.
This is what you must do
If you’re in a relationship, make sure that your partner understands how important honesty is to you.
You and your partner should agree right from the start that you will let each other know whenever something is annoying you – that all grievances should be aired between you.
Right from the start, you have to value and practice assertiveness with your partner so that little problem doesn’t grow into major frustrations that can jeopardize the future of your relationship.
Asserting yourself doesn’t mean that you have to nitpick about every tiny annoyance in your relationship. Assertiveness becomes important for problems and annoyances that you can’t just let go without feeling frustrated.
Openness Fosters Real Intimacy
If you aren’t assertive, bad feelings like frustration will build up inside of you as you continually feel like your rights are being violated.
Over time, this buildup of negative feelings can lead you to lash out at your partner without warning.
These outbursts are signs of an unhealthy relationship.
If this is happening on a regular basis, the intimacy at the core of your relationship is bound to suffer at some point. And consequently, problems start to appear in the relationship. For this reason, it’s a good idea to be assertive right from the start and deal with problems in an open and communicative way.
Creating a “culture” of assertiveness in your relationship builds understanding, connection, and communication between the two of you, leading to more intimacy.