BOUNDARIES IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP – Are you a Demander or an Acquiescer?

I was just scrolling through my previous blog posts thinking I must have already written about boundaries at some point but realised I haven’t yet! Boundary setting is somewhat of a buzz word in the therapy / coaching circles currently but the concept is as old as human communication; older actually. As with any blog post, I’m going to have to over-simplify but I hope I can shed some light on the basic concept and also help you identify whether you are a demander or an acquiescer.

WHY SET BOUNDARIES?

Boundaries keep us safe and healthy. In a romantic relationship, boundaries are what enable us to intertwine two lives without losing ourselves in the process. Some of us find it easy to set boundaries but sometimes we go too far. Some of us are uncomfortable setting boundaries and so avoid it whenever possible. Let’s look at each so you can identify which side of the line you fall on and then what we can do to improve to be able to set healthy boundaries in a loving way.

DEMANDERS

You are someone who is able to speak your truth. You often have clear ideas and opinions and are able to voice them to other people. (The way of voicing them can vary a lot, the important point is that you can and do). Growing up you had people who listened to you and took you seriously; that is a blessing. However, you may have also had other people (like younger siblings or quieter friends) who you could boss around a bit. That’s where we need to have some self-awareness and radical honesty with ourselves and admit that we like it when people do what we tell them. You bet that goes for romantic relationships too!

Here’s the difference between demanding things and setting boundaries: demanding focuses on the other person, setting boundaries focuses on yourself. A demand might sound like: “YOU have to do X” or “I want YOU to do X otherwise…” a boundary might sound like “I don’t tolerate/ accept X” or “I need to do X for myself right now”. Healthy relationship boundaries are in the longterm interest of the couple even though it might be uncomfortable for one person in that moment. Demands are made so one person feels comfortable in that moment but at the detriment to the long term happiness of the relationship.

For example, saying to your partner “I don’t want you to have dinner with your best friend tonight anymore, I want us to spend time together.” Whether that causes an argument or your partner does actually cancel the dinner they were looking forward to, it’s only to make you feel okay in that moment. It’s not in the interest of your relationship longterm to oblige or manipulate your partner into or out of things when it’s actually healthy for them (as in this case of maintaining friendships outside of the relationship).

Let’s take another example. You want to have sex and have tried to physically connect with your partner but they’re really not feeling it in that moment. You might say “I really need to have sex right now, I’ll feel so much better after.” Again, this could either cause an argument because you didn’t respect your partner’s feelings or they might even have sex with you despite the fact that they don’t want to. Again you feel better in that moment because you got what you wanted but it’s so damaging for your relationship longterm.

So how to move from demanding to setting healthy boundaries? Self-awareness and compassion. Go one layer under your demand and you’ll find fear. What appears to be selfishness on the surface is often masking an underlying fear so find out what you are really feeling before making a demand. Fear of being alone, fear of being rejected, fear of being taken for granted, fear of being cheated on, fear of being abandoned etc. Of course we don’t want to admit to ourselves that we are scared. Anger is a much more empowering emotion, but it’s a lie. It allows us to stay living in denial. But it is the killer of happy, healthy relationships. Demanding things from your partner instead of setting healthy boundaries will either destroy your relationship or it will destroy the love your partner has for you. Compassion allows you to put yourself in your partners position and hopefully understand things from their perspective so you can see the impact your demand might have on them and your future relationship.

ACQUIESCER

You don’t mind following the lead of others and are influenced by other people’s opinions and reactions. Growing up your caregivers were preoccupied with their own problems, maybe a difficult brother or sister, working two jobs, financial stress, illness etc. Your needs weren’t really made a priority. You learned how to adapt yourself so as not to create any other issues for the people you loved. You learned you had to acquiesce (do what others wanted of you) in order to receive love and keep the peace. In a small (or big) way, you learned to betray yourself. That is what people pleasers do to differing degrees. A challenging thing about people pleasers is that they sometimes wear it as a badge of honour, as if this type of self-sacrifice (self-betrayal) should be celebrated. It shouldn’t. Kindness, compassion and generosity should be. Yes, it is different. You can be all those three things without betraying yourself. This is where the acquiescer needs to have some self-awareness and radical honesty and admit that they do things to please others in return for love instead of loving themselves first.

In my two examples above for the demanders, the partner who agrees to their partner’s unhealthy demands are acquiescers. They don’t hold their own healthy boundaries which is also damaging to the relationship. If that’s you, you are also more likely to fall into victim mentality. You place all the blame on the demander without realising that it is also your responsibility to say no. You tell yourself you just want to make other people happy and take no responsibility for the life you have actually created for yourself by not having difficult conversations and setting boundaries. Your fear of disappointing people keeps you stuck, and worse, over the years in a relationship this will result in resentment and even falling out of love with the partner you are so eager to keep happy.

So learn to be okay with disappointing people. Someone’s disappointment will not result in them stopping loving you and if it does, is that really the type of fragile relationship you want to try to single-handedly maintain? Life requires us to have difficult conversations in the short term in order to be happy in the future. When you are with others and away from your partner, try not to keep those people happy at the expense of the person you love most just because they’re not there. Everyone has their priorities and other people’s priorities probably do not include the health of your romantic relationship; it’s your responsibility to take care of that.

FOR EVERYONE

As a balanced person you will be able to respect people’s healthy boundaries. You will see a healthy boundary from a place of compassion with the longterm in mind. You will be able to build a beautiful relationship for both people where no-one feels taken advantage of and both people can face their underlying relationship fears while feeling supported and loved. I’ll finish with one final thought which is that these two different people often find themselves in a relationship together. So try to understand where the other person os coming from and vow to work together to create and respect healthy relationship boundaries.

*Interested in learning more about setting healthy boundaries and creating an enlightened relationship? Get in touch for relationship coaching with me: natalie.k.orr@gmail.com

APOLOGISING – the 4 parts to a great “I’m sorry”

Let’s be honest, sometimes the words ‘I’m sorry’ just aren’t going to cut it. For some of us or in certain situations those words roll off the tongue but are they really backed up by the feelings? For others or in different circumstances, thinking about uttering them seems to destroy a piece of our own identity (or more accurately, ‘ego’). That’s a whole other blog post, but for today let’s focus on the 4 parts to a meaningful apology.

1 – ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY

If you say “I’m sorry, but you…”, you have basically just erased the first two words with the latter. Apologising is not about external justice, it’s about internal peace of mind. You don’t need to justify your mistake with the other person’s. Simply look for your part and take responsibility for it. It is not a competition about who has been hurt the most, this is about being a strong and emotionally intelligent person who is able to accept their own short-comings. To recognise the effect they’ve had on others without letting it affect their self-esteem or identity.

2 – RIGHT THE WRONG

After accepting responsibility, an apology becomes much more effective when you offer to do what you can to make it right. This is especially powerful if the other person is still in ‘victim mode’, meaning they are still wallowing in the pain you caused them or repeating the same details over and over again. The question “what can I do now to make this better?” forces them out of the past and into the present to help find a solution which would be meaningful to them.

3 – LEARN FROM IT

I’ve realised through life that apologising doesn’t mean the same to everyone. I think most people would include part 1&2 but including part 3 will make your apology so much more powerful for both of you. I was always taught that when you say sorry it also means that you won’t do it again. It’s very different to recognise you hurt someone and want to make it better but it’s a whole different thing when you take a look at WHY you did it and how to avoid doing it again in the future. Learn from your mistakes and also let the other person know that you intend to grow from the experience and will do your best not to repeat it.

4 REQUEST (BUT DON’T EXPECT) FORGIVENESS

“How can I help you forgive me?” is an optional final step in apologising. I don’t think it’s necessary but it may be helpful if you think there is more to be said than what you heard in part 2. Most importantly, you must not apologise in order to get forgiveness. That is not a genuine apology. A genuine apology is offered as a gift. It is not a contract whereby the other person is obligated to forgive you. That being said, if you’ve included all these parts, chances are you will be forgiven. One other thing to mention (and it’s not something we get taught) – you are allowed to forgive yourself before the other person does. Yes, that’s right, you can let go of the guilt and the negative self-talk, even if the other person needs more time.

I would like to finish by saying that not all apologies are created equal. Sometimes the pain that has been caused it too great to even allow the space for a meaningful apology at the beginning. That doesn’t mean you should give up. On the contrary, you should keep trying and each time you might get one step further in the apology until you are finally able to express your full feelings of remorse and willingness to grow and improve. Patience is one of the most important skills in any relationship.

6 RELATIONSHIP MYTHS – How to find / maintain a great relationship

There are many reasons why great relationships may seem elusive. Believing the myths we’ve been sold by films / novels / romantic philosophies will lead us down a disappointing road. Let’s clear up some relationship myths so we can spend our valuable time and energy on what really matters and not on trying to find or cultivate these ‘romantic’ notions that don’t exist.

MYTH: Great couples never argue

There will always be disagreements – you are not the same person. You are there to learn from each other. The question is HOW you disagree. You can disagree and still be open to listening. You can disagree and not shout. You can disagree and still respect each other. You can disagree and not get defensive. These are all possible, but not all easy. They each take practice and require us to address our own negative behaviour patterns. What do you need to improve so that your disagreements become constructive rather than destructive?

MYTH: Great couples always feel passionately in love

To love someone deeply and be passionately ‘in love’ are two different things. Yes, sometimes they coincide but they never coexist continuously.  Deep love can be continuous and present throughout all kinds of other feelings which come and go in a relationship. The passionate ‘in love’ feeling is very common at the start of a relationship, sometimes while the deep love is developing, sometimes just on it’s own. Eventually that heady cocktail of hormones subsides and if deep love hasn’t formed underneath that, the relationship usually ends. People who continuously seek the passionate ‘in love’ feeling will be destined go from short relationship to short relationship. Great couples accept that deep love is far more important and also put effort and energy into creating moments of passion within the relationship without worrying when they’re not there.

MYTH: Great couples know the needs and feelings of the other without having to say it

Fortunately, as babies, our caregivers were able to guess (with excellent accuracy) our needs and feelings before we were able to speak. They knew when we were hungry, tired, ill, upset, happy, etc. Our needs where quite simple back then. Unfortunately some of us haven’t yet fully accepted that as adults our needs and feelings are a hell of a lot more complicated than when we were infants. That means it is VITAL to communicate clearly and openly in relationships. If you need something, say it. If you want something, ask. If you feel an emotion which is affecting your actions/ decisions, tell your partner. It might be sad and painful to accept that the person we love and have chosen to spend our life with, is not able to know what we need and feel all the time but it is absolutely necessary. The sooner we realise this the sooner we start communicating openly and having our needs met and feelings understood. 

MYTH: Great couples are only attracted to each other

Humans are attracted to other humans whether we are in a relationship or not. Sure, when you’re in a relationship you might notice it less, you may even deny it to yourself (and your partner) but you will be attracted to other people. There is NO problem with that. The problem arrises either when you believe that being attracted to someone else means something it doesn’t – you don’t love your partner enough, or they’re not ‘the one’ etc. Or when you can’t just accept that the attraction is there and then just leave it, but choose to act on it. Those are the two main problems with the attraction to other people, not the attraction itself.

MYTH: Great relationships are easy and natural

Humans are incredibly complex animals. We live in an amazing environment we have created for ourselves. But so much of it is not ‘natural’. Monogamous behaviours are indeed natural for our species but lifetime monogamy is not necessarily supported by our biology. That being said, it’s absolutely possible when you understand human psychology. That’s because when it comes to decision-making, we are the masters of our own destiny. If you decide that what you want is to have a lifelong relationship with someone then you absolutely can. What you must accept though, is that it’s not going to be easy. Just like working in a ‘job’ is also not ‘natural’ and living in big cities is not ‘natural’ etc. Just because something isn’t natural doesn’t mean it’s not possible or even fun and enjoyable. Our lives, now more that ever before are about our choices. Relationships are no different. Make the choice, make the commitment and then learn and grow. Learning isn’t easy, growing isn’t easy (remember growing pains?) but that’s part of the beauty of being human.

MYTH: Great relationships are made up of two halves of a whole

There is not one single person on this planet who is going to complete you. You need to be a whole and complete person by yourself in order to have a happy and fulfilling relationship. That means you’ve also got to accept that your partner is a whole and complete person without you. You choose to be together, not out of necessity, but out of joy. It doesn’t mean that you won’t compliment each other in many ways. Maybe you see the ways you differ and so your relationship leaves room for learning and growth, but it’s not that you’re incomplete without them. It also means there are other people – family, friends – who will also contribute important things to your life so you are not reliant on just one other person.

In so many ways, what we chose to believe about relationships and our willingness to grow as individuals will determine their success. Being accepting and aware of the truth about ourselves and others is a great place to start.

FORGIVENESS IS FREEDOM – you’re allowed to let go

Forgiveness is a necessary life skill for anyone living a human existence. We are going to make mistakes; other people are going to make mistakes. We must accept this as a fact of life and learn how to let go of anger and resentment and move forward in a healthy way in order to heal.

Usually when we think of forgiveness we think about forgiving people who have wronged us but even more important and profound is learning to forgive ourselves. Yes, we must let go of the anger, frustration, disgust, disappointment we have towards ourselves; we are allowed to. Forgetting or repressing what we have done keeps us trapped.

When we have been around people who are very hard on themselves and others it can make it difficult for us to learn to forgive. Search for forgiveness stories and realise that people are able to let go of deep hurts and heal. People have found the strength to forgive themselves for worse than we have done, it’s time to stop carrying these burdens.

Compassion towards ourselves leads to compassion towards others and vice versa. This is a cornerstone of healthy relationships. Forgiveness can set us free from people who have hurt us or betrayed our trust. When we hold resentment towards someone, they don’t suffer, we do. We think it brings justice but it’s actually just hurting us. Forgiveness is not for them, it’s for us.

What forgiveness is NOT

Let’s clarify some forgiveness myths:

  • Forgiveness is NOT: Denying or pretending something didn’t happen. 
  • Forgiveness is NOT: Having no consequence for a behaviour. 
  • Forgiveness is NOT: Having the pain magically go away. It might take a long time to heal.
  • Forgiveness is NOT: Finding a way to allow that person to stay in our life.
  • Forgiveness is NOT: Changing our boundaries to accommodate Someone else’s behaviour.

If we are suffering due to an inability to forgive ourselves, we can begin by trying to right the wrong. Often, expressing an apology in any form will help you towards self-forgiveness. That doesn’t mean the other person has to forgive us. Our own self-forgiveness is not dependent on others. That being said, if we are really honest and vulnerable with the person about our mistake and offer a heart-felt apology, they are likely to forgive us. We shouldn’t be attached to this outcome though.

If there is nothing more we can do to make it better, we gain nothing by living with guilt and regret. There is something to be learned from the experience, so consciously acknowledge the lesson and implement it in life. Self-reflection is key here. We may need to venture into deep and uncomfortable places within ourselves to truly see why we did something but only then can we understand it, heal it, and trust ourselves not to do it again. Remember that all humans make mistakes and it does not make us bad people. These life experiences are crucial for growth. What is that thing you are still punishing yourself for? Time to let it go.

MY 5 GREATEST MENTORS OF 2019 – They can be yours too!

How lucky that we can learn from inspiring people on the other side of the world in real time. Books have always been a gateway to new ways of thinking and being but thanks to YouTube and social media platforms we now not only get up-to-date information and ideas but also more access to the people behind them.

Here are my 5 most influential mentors of 2019:

MARIE FORLEO

I relate so much to Marie as she is a multi-passionate entrepreneur who champions personal growth and ethical business. Her YouTube channel Marie TV is full of insightful interviews and entertaining content for anyone wanting to build a life they love. 

“Everything is figureoutable.” 

Start before you’re ready.” 

“Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.”

EVERYTHING IS FIGUREOUTABLE

ECKHART TOLLE

Eckhart articulates huge life-changing ideas and also wisdom in responding to the smallest of daily occurrences. His calm and humorous way of explaining such profound concepts such as oneness and presence makes them engaging and accessible to all.

“You aren’t in the universe, you are the universe.” 

“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole lives waiting to start living.” 

“The future never comes. Life is always now.”

THE POWER OF NOW

JEN SINCERO

I found Jen through her book “You are a badass”, lent to me by a friend. Her no-nonsense writing style and delivery of truth and accountability makes her books awesome reads and the kick up the butt I sometimes need to get things done.

“On the other side of your fear is your freedom.” 

“If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.” 

“There isn’t a single person on this planet who’s entitled to treat you like shit.”

YOU ARE A BADASS

YUVAL NOAH HARARI

Yuval is a celebrated historian, author and speaker.  His ideas about the present circumstances and future of humankind are both compelling and sobering. His intriguing combination of academics and spiritual wisdom make him, in my opinion, one of the greatest thinkers of our time.

“Humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely.” 

“Today having power means knowing what to ignore.” 

“There are no gods, no nations, no money and no human rights except in our collective imagination.”

21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

GABBY BERNSTEIN

Gabby embodies a beautiful balance between empowerment and compassion. She brings an ancient message to a modern audience with honesty and integrity. She lives her philosophy and radiates hope for a better future.

”True abundance isn’t based on our net worth, it’s based on our self worth.” 

“At our core we are all love and light..” 

“What you believe, you receive.”

SUPER ATTRACTOR

*affiliate links to books

ARE YOU SUCCESSFUL? 5 rules for success in life

Although success is most commonly associated with career and finances, they do not guarantee a successful life. Let’s break down what a successful life consists of…

1 – Only YOU can define success.

In the context of your life, you always make the rules. Success is no different. So forget what you learned about success in school, forget what you’ve seen in films, what you’ve read in magazines and heard on the news. Start from scratch. There is no salary you need to earn, no job title you need to achieve, no specific thing you need to buy or one person you need to find in order to be successful.

2 – Start with how you FEEL.

Instead of looking at outside achievements, possessions or people; a good indication of a successful life is an overall sense of wellbeing within yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to be happy everyday. That doesn’t mean you are immune to sadness or worry. It means that in the grand scheme of things, you feel content and complete. Are you looking after your physical and emotional wellbeing? If your pursuit of “success” is actually detrimental to that, maybe it’s time to reevaluate. Do more of what you enjoy and don’t be afraid to let go of what makes you feel angry or resentful.

3 – Feel ABUNDANT.

Abundance cannot be measured through physical possessions or money in the bank. It’s not about numbers. Number of friends, number of children, number of cars, number of degrees, number of deadlifts, number of holidays, number of sexual partners, number of handbags, number of employees, number of followers, number of properties. These are nothing to do with feeling abundant and they do not equal success. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some of these things but we shouldn’t confuse their meaning in our life. A monk with only a few worldly possessions may feel wildly more abundant than a billionaire who still suffers from lack and inadequacy. Be grateful for what you already have and understand that you are capable of feeling abundant right now.

4 – Live with PURPOSE.

We are all different and, as such, have different things to offer to the world and to each other. When people find something they care about and feel they are making a positive difference, that is purpose. It doesn’t have to be a career, although it can be. It could be creating your own business, it could be raising children, it could be volunteering, it could be creating, it could be teaching, it could be sharing, it could be helping in any way. When we bring value to the world, we feel valued. Some find their purpose through passion, others find it through pain. Whether you inspire or heal or both, that is success.

5 – Do your BEST.

Whatever your day to day looks like, if you are doing your best, that is success. If for you it’s just a struggle to get our of bed in the morning and you manage to make yourself breakfast, that’s success. If for you it’s terrifying to go to a social event but you manage to get dressed and go, that’s success. If for you it’s hard to be honest about something with your partner but you manage to have an open conversation, that’s success. Success is being true to yourself, even when it’s difficult. You are successful every time you do your best and continue to learn and grow.

Taking back control of your social media

Control your social media or it will control you. Without you even realising, it will dictate your schedule, your mood and even your health. Being intentional leads you where YOU want to go, not where others are pulling you.

  • turn off notifications
  • follow inspiring people
  • post intentional content
  • find authentic connection

TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS

If you were in the middle of doing something and someone just walked up to you with complete disregard for your current preoccupation and started talking about something completely unrelated, it might seem a bit (or very) rude. Yet, we allow ourselves to be constantly interrupted by little notifications popping up on our phone screens at any hour of the day.

The first step is to put your phone on silent which is, thankfully, more and more common. Secondly, go into your phone settings, find notifications and turn them off for all apps except the absolutely essential ones.

A part of you will resist doing this. That is because that little hit of dopamine you receive every time someone has ‘liked’ or commented on your post makes those notifications addictive. Yes, psychologists have studied this and proven that we are addicted to social media. Acknowledge the resistance and turn off the notifications anyway.

We also have FOMO where we think we will miss something important if we’re not being constantly notified. Well you won’t. If there is an emergency and you are needed, someone will call you. For everything else, you’ll see it when YOU decide to open that app, not when someone else decides to like, comment or post.

The only notifications I receive on my phone are through WhatsApp which is where I will be contacted for anything important. For over 4 years I haven’t received Instagram, Facebook or YouTube notifications. So even if social media part of your job (as is my case), it’s still not a good enough excuse. You’ll probably be spending plenty of time on the app anyway so you’ll see everything that you need to when you decide to login.

FOLLOW INSPIRING PEOPLE

You get to decide what you see on social media. Follow people who genuinely inspire you to be the best version of yourself. Don’t follow people who make you feel envy. Don’t follow people who spread negativity and drama. Don’t follow people just because they have a big following. Don’t follow people just to look at… we are humans, not objects. I mean how does looking at photos of attractive people actually inspire you to be a better person if you’re really honest with yourself?! Having said that, there are plenty of good-looking people also doing great things and spreading wonderful ideas. So follow them for that!

Of course, you don’t have to do any of what I just said. Everything you choose in life should be because you want to, not because someone else told you to. Take time to actually think about how you feel and what desires start to form while you’re scrolling. Do you want to buy more things? Do you feel like you should be prettier? Richer? More ‘successful’? Do you feel like your life isn’t good enough? OR do you feel inspired to cook a healthy meal? Do something nice for someone you love? Invest in your own career or personal growth? Try something new you think you’ll enjoy? Get involved in a cause you feel passionate about?

The way social media makes us feel is not to be underestimated. We spend so much time over the course of a week scrolling, posting, liking and commenting that the least we can do is make sure it’s a positive, inspiring experience.

INTENTIONAL CONTENT

Just as it’s important to be intentional about who you follow and what you’re consuming, it’s a good idea to also be mindful of what you’re putting out there. Social media is NOT a replacement for genuine relationships in your life.

If you’re feeling lonely and sad, social media seems like an easy fix but instead of sharing a post to see how many people comment and ‘care’ about you, think of one person in your life who you can call or meet up with and have a conversation with them. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust rather than relying on ‘likes’ or ‘loves’ on a social media post.

If you’re feeling insecure, don’t post a photo of yourself half naked or plastered in make up to see how much ‘approval’ you can get from people on your social media. Call up a friend and do something you enjoy. Go for a run, meditate, dance, play a game, make a smoothie, watch a TED talk. Any of these will do more for genuine self-confidence than looking for ‘likes’ on social media.

If you’re angry at someone, don’t post something passive aggressive for others to see. Either speak directly to the person (not via social media) or find a way to forgive them by trying to understand their perspective so you can be at peace. Again, you have real life people who love and support you. Rely on them, not acquaintances on social media. Yes, it requires you to be vulnerable in front of a real person, not in front of a screen, but vulnerability is something which creates a deep connection between people.

Of course we might share the odd post relating to one of the things I talked about above, but mainly, it’s a good idea to share content which is either inspiring, educational or entertaining (in a positive way). It DOES matter what you post about, your voice IS important and impactful. Just as people who complain a lot will find life gives them more and more things to complain about, if you share inspiring, important or positive things on social media, life will give you more of that!

FIND AUTHENTIC CONNECTION

Let’s end on a positive. Social media is an incredible resource for meeting people who ‘get’ us, who have a similar interest or who inspire us. But let’s take the initiative to act on these connections we’ve found. Organise a meet-up for some of the people you’ve met online. Even if you’re on the other side of the world, you can go from liking each others posts to having a more authentic interaction via direct message. Instead of just consuming more and more content, let’s build on the connections we’ve already made!

I’ve met some great people, some of whom have become my good friends through social media. When I travel somewhere new, I reach out to the adult ballet community and I know I will get to meet like-minded and fun people wherever I am. I can’t think of a better use of social media than being a tool to bring people together in real life. Whether it’s to encourage people to get together to protest climate change, meet-up to do an activity, create a support group, connect with someone in a new city or even meet your life partner, shifting our focus from content consumption to human connection will mean we make the most of social media.

Healthy Changes for Modern Equality of the Sexes – SPLITTING THE BILL

Do you still think a man should pay on the first date? Pull out a woman’s chair so she can sit down? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself WHY? Do we still buy into the lie of “ladies first” when quite clearly in most other aspects of life it has been ladies last? Is the gesture of walking through a door first really worth more than REAL equality which might mean, god forbid, walking through the door second?

If the only answer you can come up with for the question of “why?” is ‘because that’s what men should do’ then you’ve sunk just as low as those who say a wife should cook for her husband because she is a woman. There is no biological or psychological reason for it, only outdated societal norms. In my opinion, there are NO things that people should and shouldn’t do based on their gender. There are only things that they can or can’t do, for example, give birth.

Let’s take the example of splitting the bill. Women (and some men) have been fighting for equal pay for decades, and we’re still not there yet. But how can we ask for equal pay and in the same breath ask for a man to pay for our food on a date? Even if he earns more money than the woman, why does that matter? If you go out for a meal with your girl friends, would you expect the one who earns the most to pay more? Of course not, that’s not how equality works. Do you really think that a man paying for your food is a good indication of whether he is a generous person or not? Generosity is not measured in conforming to gender roles dictated by society. If you want to know if someone is generous, pay attention to how they choose to divide their time, whether they give you their full, undivided attention, how willing they are to compromise.

If historically the work place was the ‘male domain’ and the home was the woman’s then at the same time as we women enter and influence the world of employment, so too should men be invited into home and family life and valued for what they bring. Valuing equality in the world of work higher than in raising a family, is in itself sexist. If what we want is as many female CEOs as males then surely we should also be welcoming the idea of having as many fathers taking just as an important role in raising their children as mothers. I’m not just talking culturally, but legally too, men should have equal rights and protection when it comes to their children. It shouldn’t be to do with the gender of the parent but to do with the best environment to raise a child. Maybe there is a bit of that sexist hangover kicking in right about now? You’re thinking it’s justified because women are better at raising children than men? Just because someone is more practiced at something doesn’t mean others can’t learn to do it just as well. Other than the biological factors of breastfeeding etc., there is no reason why men shouldn’t play just as important a role in raising their children as women. Just as men historically said women cannot study certain subjects (or study at all for that matter) or do certain jobs because they aren’t as intelligent, we have proved that wrong. If we address the issues of ‘toxic masculinity’ and give men an equal chance at raising children, I’m certain they will prove and are already proving to us that they can do just a good a job as women.

So should a man carry a woman’s bags, they are stronger after all!? Even with biological differences when it comes to our physiology, we have proven that we women are also strong, fast, powerful. If you think about it, some women are stronger than some men, it all depends on how you choose to live your life. I am just as capable of carrying my luggage as my boyfriend, I am just as capable of opening a heavy door as my brother. However, there may be some cases where I might struggle physically and require help but I’d be just as happy for a woman to help me out as a man. It’s not to do with gender. Therefore a man shouldn’t feel embarrassed to be helped by a woman either; we all need help sometimes.

As they say, equality is a two way street. I am proud to be a feminist, and women’s rights are extremely important to me. So are men’s rights. I don’t want to undermine the incredible struggle of women thought history and still to this day. Oppression must be fought but I think we have a better chance now by working together than by hating and blaming. We have the opportunity to create a world which is more equal for everyone but to do so we must recognise areas for improvement in ourselves as well as others.