Ever feel like you don't want to rock the boat in a relationship by telling the TRUTH? I know, I've been there. You have an in-law or a friend that is connected to your relationship, and they are really toxic. But no one wants to address the elephant in the room--THEIR TOXICITY--because it would be too painful, it would create disruption and conflict, and it may come off as rude and disrespectful. Everyone appeases them, enabling them, and thinks that's doing that person a favor.
Meanwhile, the toxic behavior of this third party exerting influence on your relationship just keeps eating at you. And you're fuming...on the inside. I'm here to tell you that you are only hurting yourself by keeping that molten lava inside of the volcano of your soul. Someone needs to say something, and that someone is YOU. With respect, you have to address this person head-on.
Here are some tips:
1) Timing is Everything. Speak to someone in a time where you're not in the middle of a heated argument. Laid-back environments are best, preferably not in someone's home.
2) Live with the Consequences. There may be fallout. Heck, there very likely WILL be fallout. Have you hit the point of no return? The point when you recognize that for the sake of your health, you've got to share with this person how they make you feel? It's okay to create healthy boundaries.
3) Talk About How You Feel. Someone can be angry with you and refuse to take ownership, but no one can say you don't have a right to feel the way you do. Practice: "I feel _____ (disappointed, betrayed, unloved, etc.) when you speak poorly of my _____ (performance, writing, cooking, clothing choices, etc.) in front of others." Good, just plug in what makes sense.
4) Recruit an Ally. You aren't the only one who has been hurt by this person. Oftentimes, an ally can help you better understand what makes this person feel entitled to their toxicity. If your ally is your spouse, that's the best scenario. Regardless, you should consult with them before you make your move. Your ally should be someone that you know can call you out as well when you're in the wrong!!
5) Get Your Thoughts in Order. Don't just appear to be willy nilly listing off grievances. Have a set idea of what you will be addressing and boundaries you will be implementing. There should always be a results-based approach, even if those results never materialize.
Sometimes we think that people will just fade away in the background, and perhaps we won't need to address their issues in a head to head confrontation. But, often, toxic 3rd parties who are powerful will just continue to stick around. I'm a firm believer that people will treat you the way you let them treat you. Will you cause conflict? Maybe. But asserting your position considerately is part and parcel of respecting yourself.
You know who you are...
Scared to feel something real, scared to seal the deal, scared to commit!! Why in the world do people let some of the best potentials slip through their fingers? Oh, you know, a classic case of commitment phobia. It's not pretty. Let me break it down for you:
1. Commitment Phobe Reason One - GAMING
By gaming I mean waiting for the next best thing because of an array of choice--or the false perception of choice. I sometimes call these people "behind door 7." These commitment phobes are gaming the system, hoping to find a hotter, more desirable partner behind door 7, like a gameshow.
2. Commitment Phobe Reason Two - INSECURITY
Sometimes insecure people are too unconfident to commit to someone because they are unsure whether they can make someone happy. They sacrifice long-term relationships because they believe letting a partner get too close would "expose" them for all the things they hate about themselves. This severe insecurity pushes people away.
3) Commitment Phobe Reason Three - BAGGAGE
These people fear being with someone with too much "baggage" or "drama." Commitment phobes would rather be alone or in short-term flings than have to deal with a partner's baggage and all the emotion connected to the past. Too bad every person has drama or baggage. Every. Person.
So how do you deal with serious commitment phobia? You could:
a) Let go and let live. "Leave some room for God" as one friend put it.
b) Stop running. Go to therapy.
c) Realize that all relationships are mirrors. If you don't like what you see, change the image.
d) Discover that contentment with what you have must start with personal fulfillment & connection.
e) You are not the exception; you're the rule. You have baggage; stop judging other people's drama.
My hope is that those of you who are struggling against feeling something real will stop and give yourself a chance to be in love. Being vulnerable is powerful and finding someone to share your life with can actually make you a better version of yourself. Don't let your fears stand in the way of being with someone who can expand your mind and your heart. Just get out of your own way.
How's your radar? Can you detect the person who's sucking up all the oxygen in the room? In other words, how can you make sure to dodge the narcissist before you end up in a relationship with one? You may think I'm being a bit extreme with a flippant diagnosis of "narcissistic personality disorder," but I assure you, it's a spectrum disorder and those who exhibit even some of the characteristics can make a relationship toxic.
In my previous post on relieving pressure, I talked about some red flags one should watch out for in initial meetings to avoid bigger problems down the road. Watch out for interactions with those who are:
1) INTERRUPTERS - these people just can't wait to tell you about their thoughts, so they steamroll conversations. You will struggle to be heard in a relationship within an interrupter; this is because your thoughts are never really heard over the other person's internal voice. Interrupters drown out others' input because it may seem threatening, untenable, or simply inferior to their own mindset. This person will have a hard time compromising or being considerate of your opinion.
2) HUMILIATORS/DISMISSERS - these people dismiss other individuals' ideas or approaches using a condescending tone or offensive language/name-calling. Remember that humiliators will not start by dismissing YOU necessarily; they first start by dismissing co-workers perhaps as incompetent when speaking about their day or by calling former partners or friends offensive names when describing previous relationships. Dismissers can even nonchalantly label public figures with offensive names without batting an eye. Just remember that someone who is used to dismissing others or disrespecting servers at restaurants or family members will, inevitably, target you with this dismissive attitude.
3) ENTITLED - folks who feel entitled need the world to bend to them because they believe they deserve the best of everything. Some entitled individuals will mask entitlement by claiming that certain conditions or circumstances have "forced" them to be the way they are--yeah, don't fall for that excuse. Personal accountability means you admit why you want things to be a certain way and take ownership--not deflect by pointing at other issues or people who have forced you to react!
4) EXAGGERATORS - people who exaggerate accomplishments or how others feel about them are not per se problematic, but it's a red flag when exaggerators use an inflated sense of self to describe how they are always right or "that if people only listened to them," everything would turn out perfect. Be wary of someone who makes certain that others need to know they are the smartest person in the room with all the answers. It is difficult to be in a relationship with someone who cannot admit fault.
5) MANIPULATORS - these people think that by bending and twisting any fact, they can get their partner to do as they please. Manipulators crave control and often use emotional blackmail to make someone feel that they owe them. This is when someone says, "If you loved me, you would do this," or "If you respected me, you would not do that," without giving a valid basis for their claim or without being willing to offer something in compromise. Manipulators create one-sided relationships by making you feel obligated to do things, but healthy relationships will lead you to both give and take.
So, how do you know when you are encountering a dangerous personality? Try to watch out for these red flags and stay vigilant. Often, if someone exhibits any one of the 5 above, you will need to address the issue squarely as a concern. The reaction to the conversation itself may give you most of the answers you need.
Your palms are sweaty, your heart is racing, and you have no idea how to start the conversation: a situation that many clients come to me describing when they think of having to initiate a conversation with a potential life-partner. What’s the first secret to releasing this tremendous self-imposed pressure?
1. Stop viewing the person as your “potential life-partner.” Sheesh. Chill.
Instead of viewing the conversation as the one you are about to have with the future mother or father of your children, change your lens! View the exchange as one you are having with someone you want to learn about. Does this person remind you of the people you like hanging out with or those you respect? Ask yourself if this person feels accepting, giving in the conversation, and someone who does not annoy you. So, the second secret is:
2. Do you actually get along with this person—as a friend or peer first?
You should of course take this one step further into romantic territory, but not before you first discover if this is someone you would want to be around. The romantic bit is sometimes just too much pressure at first and, honestly, it’s putting the cart way before the horse. How long did you get to know your closest friends before you actually built meaningful relationships? I’m guessing more than one conversation!! Which brings me to the third secret for releasing the pressure:
3. Have a positive view of yourself and your experiences—now share them.
People often ask me, what should I say or ask? “I mean, I’m boring or I’m really complicated and most people are just turned off by me.” Change your view of yourself and think about the positive things you want to share. Sharing a personal experience or fact about yourself is proven to create intimacy between two people and encourage them to share of themselves as well!! So, think about the things that are important to you: do you have a new years resolution? What have you learned from your job? Who has been most influential in your life? Why did you choose to study what you did? After sharing these experiences, ask the other person a question about the same topic. When you approach someone with a list of questions and yet have not actually shared of yourself, this automatically places him or her in a defensive posture. Don't want to feel like an interrogator? Then, help the conversation run smoothly by self-reflection and sharing first.
Finally, remember that conversations are a give and take. No one person should dominate the conversation or interrupt the other. These are signs of bad habits that may come to bite you later. But don’t automatically think that one bad conversation makes someone a bad choice to explore. So, the fourth secret?
4. Realize that most people need more than 1 conversation to reveal who they are. BE FAIR!
I know, seems like a “duh, obviously!” statement, but you would be surprised how we don’t want to give someone more than 1 or 2 conversations before we X them. Not fair! I always recommend 3, at least 3 conversations where you can see someone in real time, view their micro-expressions, and get a real sense of who they are. By 3 conversations, you can get past a lot of the initial nervousness that comes with first contact. Be merciful to one another, and look out for seriously wrong signs that I may post in a future post.
Until then, please keep the pressure low—both on yourself and others!
I was recently asked to give advice to an adult male in my community who asked me a very poignant question. An older gentleman, his question radiated from a place of true concern. He folded his hands together, turning them in agitation slowly: "Yasmin, I want to understand what to tell the many women who have told me that they cannot find suitable life partners. There are so many of them. They are well into their 30s, unmarried, and I have nothing to say to them."
As someone who tries to professionally help people find their matches, I get this a lot. I responded to him in the best way I knew. The truth is neither kind nor convenient. It can be unpopular, and it is always something that some people are simply not ready to hear. So, I answered him, "You are asking me to answer what I consider the social crisis of Muslims globally. But, there are several reasons that have contributed to this crisis, and they are not all the fault of the male species."
What I continued to say was not easy for me to articulate because I knew that it inevitably would not fit every model. What I was about to share with him did not reflect the truth of every situation of a Muslim man or woman searching for a partner--naturally. But after a decade of doing this work, my personal experiences with people from America and around the world were what informed my words.
I have made it my mission to chip away at what I call the Muslim plight of marriage. But the dance that must be danced in order for this to happen is so intense--the advice, the prophetic reminders, the parental guidance, the pep talks, the draining feeling when someone isn't listening, the sheer man hours of it all! Bringing people together is daunting, and it is really God's work from beginning to end. We facilitate, only as a mere means. But if God does not want something to happen, even if things look perfect on paper, it just simply won't happen.
I believe that there are many women who have turned down good, decent, kind men because they do not fit the ideal in their mind for whatever society, school, work, culture, and non-Islamic values have told them about what they deserve or should expect. People's priorities are all out of whack. Basically, what I am saying are fightin' words as they say in the South!
At this point, I am overrun by females searching for the perfect partner--and these women often are not searching with zero relationship experience or never meeting a good man in their lives. Many have turned down eligible partners because "something" made them feel like they were settling for less. As I tell many women, this is the era of dua, imploring God, the Most Compassionate, to guide you to a spouse that fits you. Specifically, this is the time of tahhajud. This is the time of honest self-reflection. This is the time of explaining to your family that if a man comes to you with good character and religion, do not turn him down because he is not tall enough, educated with the right degree, or has the wrong skin color. This will spread corruption in the land. And it is spreading corruption in the land.
Our wedding culture spreads corruption as well. We make it impossible, nearly impossible to have a simple wedding, and the demands family place on grooms and brides are toxic and destroy relationships--often leading to the seedlings of divorce even if they get past the nikkah. We have family members guilty of placing their fears above the best interest of their adult children because they are holding on so tightly to an idea of who their kids should marry--preventing many compatible matches because of ethnocentrism, classism, and racism.
On the other hand, we also do have Muslim men who have incorrect notions about marriage and some serious character flaws that make them inappropriate partners. Many of these men end up divorcing, not remedying any behavior or their incorrect thoughts and notions about marriage, and marrying again--only to divorce again or make someone severely unhappy. Self reflection is the only cure for someone who is searching for happiness in another human being or has equated beauty with compatibility as a life partner!
We do not have enough men today who are not totally infected by the instagram, FB, twitter phenomena that is "beautiful" manufactured women. Men keep getting bombarded with seemingly more and more perfected, filtered images. It leaves every woman who does not share that complexion, eyebrow shape, fashion sense, makeup acumen, or body shape out in the cold. We have men and their families with an extremely ageist mentality--they will not even consider a woman who isn't 27 and below. Literally, 29 is the new 41. I'm at my wit's end to be honest.(And there is nothing wrong with women in their 40s or 50s or any age wanting to find love with a life partner!!)
This community, our community to which we are responsible is a mess. And I am exhausted.
I think the more people speaking real talk to young people (18-26) the more we can actually remedy this situation. But that requires a certain brand of tough love so as to not make people feel desperate or marry the wrong person to somehow avoid the avalanche of bad news awaiting them. It requires a balance of love, compassion, and fierce reality.
The older gentleman's face twisted--now I had upset him. "But you're identifying this problem and giving me no solutions. What do I say, go pray? Do I really tell these women who are struggling to go pray? Do I tell men they need to shape up and stop being addicted to pornography or other types of negative imagery? Tell me, practically, what are your alternatives?" He had a point. What advice was I really suggesting for him to share with the many women he knew who were facing this plight?
I also knew of many men too who were actually in similar situations. These men were "undesirable" for a multitude of reasons: they did not have high-paying jobs, they were losing their hair, they were not outgoing and funny, they did not have much experience speaking to women and charming them, women thought they were "too nice", they did not have a higher degree, or they lacked self-confidence in a time when masculinity was defined in warped ways that made humility a liability, not an asset.
So I answered him in a way that would be applicable to all those who were searching for the right partner--men and women--and looking for ways to make life even slightly easier.
I replied, "Yes, seriously, they do need to pray. You may not agree with my answer, but I believe it all starts with self. Self love, acceptance, and gratitude to God. It requires men and women to look and feel their best--changing diets, bad habits, and beginning to exercise regularly. It then requires being a part of many different communities and volunteering, learning, giving, and being involved--not just letting a career or work exhaust every minute of free time or hanging around the same group of friends over and over again. Telling all friends and family that you are looking is a step as well. Online searching is more popular now, but I am very wary of this due to a lack of trust. However, it is effective for some and should not be removed as an option to explore with an abundance of caution. Finally, and most importantly, they must, must, must temper their expectations. They must open their minds past racism and judgment. They must not be wedded to the idea that someone will be perfect and fulfill every check mark. They won't. You don't. You have flaws too! They must search for character above all else. They must listen to the signs God sends them after prayer. He is listening. I promise."
His deflated face told me what I already knew--I didn't have an entirely satisfactory answer. Planting love takes time and patience. It takes nurturing, acceptance, support, and attraction that is based on realistic standards. It takes the light of God's guiding principle, the water of forgiveness in Prophetic character, and the warmth of soil searching for truth in a world of illusions. Love is one of the last magical things on this planet. And that magic cannot be harnessed. I think of Christopher Nolan's Interstellar when I think of this--not romantic love per se, but the kind of love that spans space and time. If your love is based on something pure, I think it can change the world. Until we open our minds to that, I think we will find ourselves drudging in the darkness.
People come to me and share all sorts of expectations they have of the person they want to love. Some are healthy and make sense as I discussed in Part 1 of my "How Much Light Are You Letting In?" blogpost regarding "openly informed" individuals. Other expectations are not only counterproductive, but actually dangerous given someone's circumstance and mindset. Unhealthy expectations dominate our thoughts and keep us from seeing what's being given to us--what may be right before our very eyes. We end up floating, not standing on solid ground.
I made a chart below to try to explain the very real dissonance between someone's expectations and what they are offering in a relationship. It can be truly comical...unfortunately.
As you can see, reality and expectations don't line up. This incongruence can actually be dangerous when we try to fit someone into the mold we have always had in our mind. We obsess over changing people to fit who we always wanted to love. But love is not changing who you are with. It's changing who you are. Love is accepting and being grateful to the person who chooses to love you. I really hope people can see a little bit of themselves in this chart :) And I hope that you can bring your expectations back onto solid ground, rooted in the reality of who you are. Change yourself and then maybe your expectations can be fair. Change others, and you may become an abusive or oppressive force. Self-awarness and gratitude can help combat these tendencies.
Wishing you all two feet, steady.
Two months ago, in Part I of this blogpost, I spoke about the spectrum of pickiness most people fall within---unreasonable, acceptably discerning, and openly informed. The more open someone is, the more light they let in. This has a direct consequence on the mercy quotient.
What is that you may I ask? What I call the mercy quotient is a metric to understand the world through the eyes of compassion. When you increase your own mercy, you start experiencing, seeing, and feeling more mercy entering your life. That's the mercy quotient at play. It's most definitely associated with the idea of karma or the law of attraction. Essentially, the energy you put out is the energy you receive. But there's a twist.
The twist is that you actually don't have to do very much or look very far to see yourself as a recipient of boundless mercy. You just need to open your eyes. The word "mercy" for us may conjure up images of the beautiful Mother Theresa or Gandhi or someone like Nelson Mandela forgiving his South African oppressors. The truth is, mercy is all around us if we let ourselves recognize it--that's the openness I'm really talking about. The fact that even with the ravages of climate change, the earth will bear fruit if we nurture it, or that even with orphan crises from conflict, there are parents ready and willing to adopt, or that notwithstanding great disparities, the delivery of healthcare and clean water has extended to millions of people in the past decade.
I'm not telling you to shut your eyes to the awful things happening. I'm asking you to open your eyes to the good things that are going on. Try to spotlight the mercy that still remains in this world. If you can do this, then you will stop judging people so intensely. You will start really seeing the people in your life who are trying the best they can and you too will try your best. In turn, you can grant your own self some mercy! Here's a practical tip: think of what's going right in your life today, right now--write it down and write down why it's going right; one thing, every day, in a gratitude journal. This increases your mercy quotient and helps you become open to things you may have harshly rejected before. It helps you also become comfortable in your own skin.
Then the light can come in. You can start better understanding why certain individuals act the way they do and start forgiving perceived faults. You will start seeing your own faults and forgiving yourself. There's a cascade of goodness that comes from this--things that were once BIG deals, you can let go and things you used to just ignore, you will learn to have gratitude for.
Sometimes it takes a real tragedy to make us more merciful--a piercing wake up call. I don't want that for any of you! I want you to try to increase your mercy quotient and let more light in on your own terms; because you desperately need a change. You will ease the burden on yourself in finding love, and maybe then you can more fully accept yourself and others.
I hope you let the light in.
In this business, I have met a sizable number of people who openly consider themselves "picky" when it comes to relationships. I've seen it on both sides of the aisle ladies and gentlemen! Both men and women complain that family members and friends have called them overly "picky" and that they have no choice but to fully embrace the term. Over my 8 years of experience, I now realize that pickiness actually sits on a spectrum. On both ends of that spectrum, people just aren't ready to be in a relationship. See below for a not-so-impressive mock-up.
Not Ready ----- Unreasonable ---- Acceptably Discerning ---- Openly Informed ----- Not Ready
These three levels in the middle are where most clients find themselves. At the intense end of pickiness lies the "Unreasonable" designation, and this is really for those who live in a wonderland of their own imagination, expectations, and wish lists for a spouse. It is highly improbable that those who are unreasonably picky will find their perfect match. I find that these people either must change or end up disappointed with someone they believed was the "perfect" person. The rare circumstances do exist however that a prince or princess is granted to them--and I will not dismiss those instances--but it's very difficult to hang your hat on that anomaly happening! About 5% of clients who fall in this category find success with my method.
Just to the left of that, where someone is simply unwilling and unwavering to compromise on any checkbox on their checklist, is "not ready" because these people cannot even address their own inconsistencies, let alone accept anyone else with flaws! We are all flawed. We all need to come to terms with that. About 1-2% of people I meet are in this place, and I cannot accept them as clients.
The middle level of pickiness I call "Acceptably Discerning" meaning you have discerning standards and tastes. These standards or requirements are usually acceptable given someone's circumstance like education level or ethnic origins in order to bring families on board, but not all their requirements are. Those who are acceptably discerning are willing to accept a bit of a deviation from what they want if the circumstance arises--especially if they come to the realization that one of their standards was prohibitive to considering a quality person. These people have a significantly greater likelihood of finding a match. They represent about 30% of success with my approach.
Finally, the most successful clients I have are in the third lowest category of pickiness or "Openly Informed." These clients are usually fully actualized and not looking for anyone or anything to complete them. They know who they are and what they want, but they are open to considering most people who meet a shorter list of requirements. I find that these clients represent a 65% success rate with my help. These clients tend to be mature in mindset (and sometimes age) and have already learned through experiences what is really important in a spouse. Their list of requirements rarely include a specific ethnicity, income or education level. Those who are "Openly Informed" often have character traits they are looking for, and they are often people who are secure with their own self.
To the right of this is also the "not ready" category for those who simply have not put in the effort or time to know who they are or what they really want. Often these people are lacking maturity of thought and need time for introspection. They represent about 1% of people I meet, and I rarely accept these people as clients.
The post is intentionally asking a question about light. I believe those who are openly informed are also those who let in the most light and who are also lightening the burden on themselves in finding love. In the next part of this blog post, I will explain the mercy that is increased through allowing more light in. Mercy for your self and for others. I believe this brings happiness.
Until then, ask yourself, how much light am I letting in? How well do I know myself? What am I willing to compromise on?
I always wondered why I had a tough time talking about my emotions and being vulnerable. I was a sappy internal mess, but I never really shared the tempest inside with anyone around me. I tried not to dwell upon it. It would take me years to let the walls come down. And it came only after I could no longer keep my emotions bottled up--they gushed forth, breaking every levee I had constructed. The first person I had to be real with was myself! I had hid being vulnerable from my own self because I needed to be "strong," "reasonable," and "responsible."
Now I'm a firm believer that you have to be real about love--loving your self that is. This means coming to terms with the parts of you that you may have deemed weak or insufficient. For many, mental health counseling can help people come to terms with vulnerability. For others, that can come from physical challenges and pushing beyond barriers. And for some, this can mean spending enough time in nature to understand the vastness of the universe and the perfect placement of all things.
I tell all my clients that the path to your happiness is through you--not someone else. Only your whole, complete self can give love. I try to encourage clients to challenge themselves spiritually, physically, and mentally. It is this soul, body, and mind that forms what I call the "trifecta" of healing. We are all broken in some way. We have all experienced disappointment or want things we can't have. The key to mending the breaks is to first discover your own power to heal. Many authors have written about this, but I encourage my clients to implement practical steps from this literature so that healing is tangible.
My advice is for myself first and foremost. I have lived and implemented these steps, and they have been revolutionary for me. I can securely say that these techniques have also helped to heal those around me. Once you start loving your self in a real way, your entire energy changes. Everything about your life will change. And you will realize that loving yourself is an active process, not an abstract destination. This world of abundance is waiting for you. Just get real with yourself and invest in love. Invest in your spirit, your body, and your mind.
Author - Yasmin Elhady Nassiry
Learning about love everyday. Grateful for what I have. I'm a relationship consultant who plays a lawyer and public policy specialist on TV.