Lately, I’ve noticed a theme with female clients. Really, it’s a theme that stretches far beyond my own clients and is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society. Many women, in and out of relationships, are striving to be seen as that calm, cool, “oh, that’s okay” person in the eyes of their significant other while compromising their true selves. The thing is, there's a danger that comes with being too laid back. Before we venture on further into this topic, I’d like to point out an important distinction that there are lots of people who really are, just naturally, very laid back and are perfectly satisfied with their lives and relationships. In this post, I'm speaking specifically about those who wish to be perceived that way at the cost of their own well-being. It's for the women who aim to be seen as always cool, always laid back and as just going with the flow – even when, inside, they know they’re sacrificing what their heart desires.
When I say I’ve noticed this theme as of late, I should note that I’ve especially noticed it amongst strong, independent women. After a day of killing it in the boardroom or jetting across the country for a speaking gig, they arrive home to their personal lives, leaving their opinion, needs and desires at the door. They want the man they are dating to say to their friends, "I'm dating this woman who is great, she's so laid back about everything" and then hear of how cool his friends think you are for that. I swear it sounds like I am taking this out of a page of the high school chronicles, but it's out there.
Why is this happening and what sort of effects can it have on a woman and her relationship?
This “laid back” and “go with the flow” type of attitude is near constantly encouraged in mainstream movies, television and literature. Think of the last time you watched a romantic comedy. It is generally the aloof, detached woman who captures his interest. Talk about mixed messages!! No wonder it's confusing.
Now, I’m not saying that women have decided to base how they behave in relationships off of romantic comedies, but I am trying to show you just one example of how this type of thinking has become so incredibly mainstream. Media has focused on the extremes.
The problem with trying not to ask for “too much,” and thereby not asking for what she truly needs or wants, is that dissatisfaction is sure to continue to build on the inside. If she rarely voices her needs or desires on the outside, there’s nowhere else for them to go. Naturally, this can lead to extreme resentment of her partner – even though her partner may have no idea she’s feeling this way. It’s a slippery slope and, while initially she may be trying to maintain a calm collective for the benefit of her partner, it can wind up hurting him and the relationship. I've actually seen this as a major cause of some break ups.
Another problem with this kind of behaviour is that it often goes hand-in-hand with completely ignoring major warning signs or big issues like money problems, infidelity, addiction, manipulation and the like. If a woman feels or believes that she’ll be better received, liked or appreciated by letting things go time and time again, bigger and bigger relationship issues can sneak through the cracks without the attention they need and deserve.
So, how does a woman in this situation find her way out of it?
Rebalancing in a new relationship may be easier, as you may have just recently met and there's room for you to shift a bit and shed old habits. In a long-term relationship or marriage, on the other hand, you may find it a bit more difficult expressing yourself and voicing your needs and desires. However, chances are you have history, rapport and trust that will help you and your partner navigate through you shedding your “too laid back” skin. Just be careful to avoid waking up one day and suddenly announcing you are not okay with all the things he thought were just fine. Approach the topic with the desire to build a stronger understanding.
Before doing anything, I encourage you to take a half hour to yourself and truly evaluate your current circumstances, decision making process and the way you interact with the opposite sex. Maybe he’s your new boyfriend, a guy you’ve gone on a couple of dates with or your long-term partner. Whatever your individual case may be, really think on it and allow yourself to recognize how and when you just say “OK” when you’re actually feeling something entirely different on the inside. Starting there will allow you to more clearly recognize the behaviour you wish to change and will help you find examples to share. Then, it’s up to you to step outside of the laid back comfort zone and express yourself. Start with really small things to build your confidence in becoming "laid back AND having your needs met/opinions heard". For example, if the fact you would really rather stay in with him this Friday night rather than go out, just say it or if you'd rather he didn't always reach for his phone during a romantic walk together, then express it. Come to think of it, if you haven't already, visit my homepage and download my Inspire Authentic Communication worksheet and audio. I assure you that your relationship, partner and self will be thankful you did.
To your authenticity,