Do You Sacrifice Your Needs Unnecessarily?

When it comes to being true to who you are in relationship, it’s easy to let old habits take over. It’s easy to sacrifice your needs unnecessarily – especially if you’ve been hurt in the past. When old habits take the driver’s seat, you can find yourself sacrificing your own needs when it isn’t necessary. This can reinforce your subconscious belief that you have to give yourself up in order to be nice or to “make things work.”  If you have your copy of the Relationship Rights Checklist, you know that it’s healthy to think, feel and do everything in the way that’s most natural to you within the context of your relationship. (If you don’t have your FREE Relationship Rights Checklist yet, just click here to get it.) Today, I’m going to share an example of how I sabotaged my “Do You” mantra in my marriage.

But first, let me introduce you to my beloved . . .

Relationship Sacrifice Needs Unnecessarily

This was the day we spent playing in the hat shop.

Here’s another one of my favorite hats from that day.

Relationship Sacrifice Needs Unnecessarily

We have a lot of fun together. It was my idea to play with the hats. We were strolling through the mall when we walked up to the hat store. “Yay! Let’s go play!” (He really was playing – he likes to try to make bad a** faces when he’s in pictures. 🙂 )

Playing is a big way that life and love opens up when you courageously bring your authentic self to relationship.

But I wasn’t always so good at bringing my real self to my love life.


In fact, after 20 years struggling to understand myself within abusive relationships layered over a lifetime of letting the Mormon Church control my mind and emotions, I was much, much better at deferring to other’ preferences rather than knowing – must less asking for – what I wanted.

Then one day early in our relationship I found myself feeling disappointed because my sweetheart didn’t cater to my preference (that I hadn’t spoken to him).

I don’t remember what I was actually disappointed about – it could have been:

  •  that he didn’t take the trash out (I thought it was his job)
  •  that he didn’t come home from work early after I told him that I would be home early (assuming – but not saying – he would come home early because I did)
  •  that he would call me if he was not going to be home at the normal time.

You get the picture? I watched his behavior and felt disappointed when he didn’t meet my expectations. After the fact, I carefully described my disappointment to him. His response?

“I expect you to put on your Big Girl Panties & tell me what you want!”

Yes! He told me to put on my big girl panties! 😮

You know what? He was right!

Here’s what I started doing after that conversation: I began paying really close attention to what I wanted for myself. And, I started asking for what I wanted.

Best of all – I started taking courage to express myself without asking anyone’s permission! I discovered that I really like boy-short hair, I love red henna, I adore piercings and I’m really into tattoos! 🙂  I just LOVE putting myself “out there” in the world in my own unique style.

You know what else I discovered?

There is no greater gift you can give yourself than the freedom to be you!

And the bonus comes when your partner continues to love you – even when you’re wearing neon-colored nail polish in his least favorite color! 🙂

So – put on your Big Girl Panties and start paying attention to what you really want. That’s the first step to derailing the “auto-pilot” that leads to you sacrificing your needs unnecessarily in your relationship.

Ready to take the next steps, learn what it takes to create a healthy relationship and claim the healthy love you deserve? Discover the 14 Rights of a Loving Relationship and sign up for the FREE 30-Day Relationship Rights e-Course by clicking here.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.


Support: You’re A Single Parent Not A Mutant Failure

“You didn’t fail. The relationship failed.” The group therapist looked earnestly at a room of somewhat bewildered women.

Huffington Post does a 55 photographic essay on what it means to be a single parent

Huffington Post does a 55 photographic essay on what it means to be a single parent

If one has children, one of the greatest fears is a failed relationship. The idea of being a single parent and baring the full responsibility of not only caring for one’s self, which is daunting enough in our current economy, but clothing, feeding, and sheltering dependent children as well…is daunting. The idea of having to do that without the support of a partner in many cases, is paralyzing. Add to that lack of a family or social support system and it can feel terrifyingly paralyzing. Lack of support is often the defining factor between a good experience or a bad experience as a single parent.

slide_397656_4891638_freeI was about to say, “Nobody grows up saying I want to be a single parent…” Then I stopped myself. True, the majority of the time people find themselves a single parent due to being widowed or making the choice to exit an incompatible, therefore unhealthy, relationship. That said, just like there are those who have elected to never have children, there are those who are perfectly happy with the idea of being a single parent from the jump. Here is why…

According to The Better Health Channel, clinical studies reveal some of the positive effects of single parenting are:

  • A child from a single-parent home who is loved and supported has no more problems than a child from a two-parent home.
  • Whether or not the child uses their free time constructively (for example, reading or playing sports) depends on discipline, family routine and quality time between parent and child – not whether the child has one or two parents living in the house.
  • The child is typically mature and responsible.
  • The parent is typically self-reliant and confident.
  • The relationship between parent and child is close.
  • Single fathers are more likely to use positive parenting techniques than married fathers.
  • Single-parent families are less likely to rely on traditional gender-specific roles than two-parent families.
  • Single parents tend to rely on positive problem-solving strategies rather than punishment or discipline when faced with difficult child behaviours.

While I am not one of the brave forward thinking single parents pioneering the option by initial choice, I have found great joy, freedom, and fulfillment in single parenting:

  • My bed, my choice. I sleep on what seems to be three inches of a king size bed each night. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I would have never guessed that I would enjoy the closeness I share with my kids as I do sleeping with them at night. They feel safe, loved, and nurtured in spite of missing time with me during working hours. I have just as many stories of elbows and knees in my face, a horizontal sleeping five year old, and blanket steeling as my married friends. Also, it’s a fantastic reason to give myself permission to decline asking anyone “back to my place”.
  • My house. My rules. While yes, there are rules that are mutually respected between the two homes, my house, my rules. I do not have to concern myself with going into round 10 of the same argument about the same petty disagreement on parenting style. I don’t have to worry about the “man of the house” being too hard on the kids for any reason let alone when it’s not warranted. Conversely, I don’t have to concern myself on permissiveness that makes it difficult to parent. I do not parent the girls on their dad’s parenting time. Their dad does not parent the girls on my parenting time undermining my authority. The only exception is in light of a major infraction.
  • My mini staycation. I was raised in an extremely family oriented religion. Mothers had their role and fathers had their role. The family unit did not include a clause for single parenting. In my mind, until my children turned 18, I am their mother 24/7. Personal time is for the weak. That was my mythology. Thank goodness that got trashed. Now, every other week I get a break. I am not a scrambling crazy person to make it to their events because I have time to pace myself to get there. I actually have time to decompress, take a long bath, read a book, and feel like a human adult again…dare I say a woman. I actually have time to shave my legs. By the time I start to really miss my girls because enough time has gone by I have forgotten about their bickering…they’re back. Perfect timing.
  • I have a social life. It’s not grand mind you but, again, a perk to “time off” is being able to meet and bond with friends. I have time to pursue personal interests, which makes me a more complete person. My friends and I are able to hold adult conversations, unedited, that don’t always revolve around our children. The rotation actually has an opportunity to orbit around our musings. As a complete person I am able to be a better role model of an independent adult for my children.
  • I don’t need a relationship to be happy. Again, I get to set the example that adult happiness does not revolve around searching out and finding your soul mate. It has more to do with searching out and finding one’s self. If I choose to share that with someone on a committed long-term basis, it is only because I want to. It isn’t because I feel I need someone to make my “fairytale” complete. Relationships are not supposed to be about co-dependence. They are about supporting each others independence through life.
  • Independence. I make the bacon, fry it up, and serve it. If the leg of the table needs tightening, I tighten it. If the light fixture needs to be installed (God forbid the lightbulb be changed), I install it. Better still, I teach my children right along side me. Last time I got a flat, I waited for no one, changed it myself. I am not saying that I wouldn’t let someone help out if they offered but, I am not helpless either. Nor are my children and their strong self-esteem and boundaries reflect it.
  • On good terms. My children do not feel compelled to “choose sides”. Their father and I are not obligated to make an incompatible relationship…compatible. I get to enjoy him for the attributes that attracted me to him to begin with. He is funny, down to earth, good natured, loves dogs, and genuinely loves his kids. Right about the time I start to witness the reasons that I would walk past him in the hallway gritting my teeth…wouldn’t you know the event is over. Everybody wins. My children do not have to live with the silent treatment as we try to get along for their sake. Instead, they get to see two grown adults enjoy each others company, in a mature way, in spite of their differences. The kids get to feel loved from both parents.

slide_397656_4892338_freeOur society is not as supportive of parenting, let alone single parenting, as it should be. Agreed. But, as the needs of society are changing so is the support system. If you are in an unhealthy relationship, trying to make it work out of fear of being a single parent, reconsider your fear. There can be many more rewards than you realize only because you haven’t taken the opportunity to explore the alternative. As difficult and challenging as single parenting can be, I am happier than I have ever been in my history of relationships.


Live your life. Don’t just survive it.











Better Health Channel:

Huffington Post:

Samakow, Jessica. “55 Personal Photos That Capture Both The Challenges And The Joy Of Single Motherhood.” The Huffington Post., 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <;.

What’s Healthy, What Isn’t . . . . Who Knows?

It’s the Holiday Season. Time for jokes about “Family Drama.” It’s the time when we all go back home and re-visit our “normal.” Or we may just choose to remember it – from a distance.

drama bomb Over my decades of working with families, I’ve heard everything. Everything. Believe me. And no matter what behaviors and interactions the storytellers have presented to me in my work, the description of one form or another of “family drama” is defined by the person telling their story as what is normal in their family.

More often than not, “normal” really means “I’m used to it.” If people in your family argued in front of everyone, this became your normal. If people interfamily dramaacted in cold-silence during a conflict, this is what you are used to. If someone hit you, you might think it’s normal. Ask yourself. Check in . . . . Are you used to being mistreated?

Many victims believe that being mistreated by people who claim to love them is “normal.” I’ve even heard that “every relationship” has something you have to settle for or put up with. And for too many women, settling includes accepting mistreatment. I believe that there is a very unhealthy pattern among women who endure abuse from their intimate partners that being hurt is part of “taking the good with the bad.”

I disagree. Don’t settle for being hurt. That’s not normal.

Getting along and accepting differences in your partner is supposed to be about things like allowing yourawkward dancer partner to squeeze the toothpaste from the middle instead of from the bottom-up. It’s about allowing your partner to enjoy things you typically don’t enjoy and going along because of your mutual respect for each other and how much you like seeing your partner have fun. My husband and I went to a gala fundraising event over the weekend. There was dancing. He didn’t want to dance. But when my girlfriend grabbed her husband by the hand to go to the dance floor, I asked again and grabbed him by the hand. He danced with me even though he felt a little self-conscious because he enjoyed watching me having so much  fun! He did this by choice, not by coercion.

My example brings up another point, in healthy relationships, the compromise is a two-way street: both partners give in this way. I, for example, attend more sports esports fan couplevents

than I would if I wasn’t with my husband. I enjoy the events with him although I wouldn’t even consider going if this wasn’t one of his interests.

For victims and survivors of domestic violence, compromise is usually only given by one person in relationship. This may be what you are used to, but it isn’t healthy or good for you.

When I have this discussion with survivors, I always get blank stares back in my direction. The idea of only allowing people in your life who see you for your strengths and positive qualities and who treat you with respect on a consistent basis seems “like a fairy tale,” as one survivor put it. But it’s not a fairy tale.

The critical issue is that you must understand the difference between what is healthy and what isn’t. Many victims haven’t been taught the distinction between healthy and abusive. I recently had a conversation with a former victim who described her former husband as being cold, withdrawn and verbally belittling toward her. Then she said: “But I still don’t see myself as [having been] a victim.” Why? She was used to it!

It’s one thing to know what is abusive and recognize what healthy looks like. The next bit of work is in getting used to healthy. Getting used to accepting nothing less than healthy in a potential partner. This means you have to make healthy choices and stick with them based on your understanding that this is better for you in the long run.

So what is healthy?

Let me list a just a few contrasting definitions of “love.”

Frog Kiss

Stop kissing frogs!

Healthy love is something that develops slowly, only once you feel secure. Healthy love never pushes you or manipulates you into relationship in a way that causes you discomfort. Healthy love is the opposite of that thing that happens inside of you when someone you just met starts saying things like “I love you” or “we are soul mates” or “you are perfect for me” and inside your head or somewhere in your body you get a signal that tells you “something is wrong here.” You know it’s too soon, but the words you’re hearing feel so good. This is your choice point; are you going to listen to your better judgment or are you going to jump into the pool? Making the choice for healthy love requires that you hold yourself back and honor your inner voice over the sparkly promise of fairy tale love. Fairy tale love exists, but the process of finding someone who can create that with you is a careful, slow process – involving lots of choosing to stay by yourself rather than hoping a frog will transform into a prince. Frogs don’t turn into princes.

Healthy love comes from being able to take care of yourself so well that you don’t feel like you need someone else in your life. Choosing relationship because you don’t want to be alone doesn’t often lead to healthy, but compulsive or addictive love. Figure out how to fill yourself up, then you will have plenty to give and love will look very different to you. You won’t be looking for someone else to complete you. Instead, you will recognize you have a lot to offer and won’t settle for less than you deserve.

There is a pattern here: the ability to build a relationship based on healthy love begins with a healthy relationship with yourself.

To listen to the first part of a four-part series on healthy love, click here.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2014 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.