I have been in love with a man these past couple of years despite knowing full well he couldn't be the one. We had been doing this dance for about a year and although I was comfortable, the relationship itself was increasingly becoming uninspiring to me. With time, our puzzle pieces that at one time felt like they fit together seamlessly shaped themselves in ways where their edges were something else, something different. I didn't even notice until I noticed. There was something about him.
Content, always so content, and despite the potential that glittered him gold, everything he wanted from life seemed just out of reach. If he ever cared to reach at all. We'd talk about our dreams and as much as I tried to see him when I closed my eyes, I couldn't.
It had nothing to do with how he felt and everything about how I felt.
I felt stifled.
I felt heavy, uninspired, and tired.
I was over it.
And I didn't realize how much of a mismatch I felt we were until I spoke to myself directly, a conversation I had quieted about a year prior. He wasn't it. And I am completely OK and at peace with that. I think I have been for a while. But sometimes you feel so comfortable in settling within a state of contentment, you don't even realize that's where you are. I have my answer to that question of what if I was stuck on a year ago: we wouldn't have been and for knowing him and loving him, but that's the end of that. A closed chapter.
And I loved his laughter, the way he sang, the hugs he'd pull me into from behind when I was doing something just for him. I had to be real with myself though: love was not enough to make me view us as more than where we are now. And that realization, as hard as it was to come to, came after I searched within myself to redefine some of my boundaries.
Boundaries are exactly what it sounds like, it's your way of drawing a line between behaviors you accept and tolerate from a person and behaviors you will not. These boundaries can take on healthy forms or unhealthy forms depending on what you decide your boundaries will be.
Redefining my relationship boundaries acted as the key to helping me let go of a relationship that no longer moved me, which brings me to my first boundary: I do not have to stay somewhere with someone that I know is not for me just because there's love there.
The fact that there was love and the fact that it was content felt like enough, I didn't want to be one of those people who could not appreciate blessings and love is not something you encounter every single day despite how googly-eyed I tend to be and how easily I tend to fall. Relationships should add to my life, it should go somewhere, and while love is the glue, it shouldn't feel like a crutch as to why you're keeping a relationship together.
The moment I let in that realization as truth, I encountered my second healthy boundary: my “no" means “no" and is the end of the sentence, no further explanation or efforts of persuasion needed. I had felt these things with him before.
I felt like a lack of ambition could be a problem. I had felt like we didn't see eye to eye on values. As a recovering people-pleaser, “no" has long been an issue for me, but mostly becomes an issue in my relationships with people like friends, family members, and of course significant others. I don't care too much nowadays about saying “no" to someone whose feelings I don't care about, but I do with people have solid relationships with. I would leave me and my partner's relationship and he'd follow up with a week or two of convincing me to change my mind.
My “no" didn't feel valid, when at the time, I realize it should have. Now I am cemented in my “no" and my right to have “no" be the end of it. Period.
And in all my preachings and teaching of loving myself, I realized that there seemed to be a line between how I applied that to my everyday life versus my love life. Loving myself not only means ensuring my happiness but it also looks like doing what's best for me. With the love I gave to my partner in our relationship, I felt like his happiness was as important as mine. I had to take him out of the equation and think about me and embrace that love for myself as selfishness.
So my final boundary that led me on my path of freedom was doing what made me happy and silencing the rest.
For a long time, I think healthy boundaries for me were a way to filter out potential mates who I didn't see fit to have a long term relationship with. Those boundaries were: no married or taken men, no abusers (physical, emotional, verbal), no men who are half interested, no men I must pursue, no men who are just placeholders, etc. And while that is effective while dating, it was hard to apply those boundaries in particular to an actual relationship I was in.
When I realized the key to releasing myself from a long term relationship that no longer fulfilled me was to redefine my boundaries, I also realized that there is room to continuously add boundaries and cater them to my needs, whether or not I find myself single or in a relationship. Boundaries guide us and align us with our wants and allow us to say goodbye to people and things that do not serve us, regardless to how much love there is. And that is so crucial.
What are some of your boundaries and what situations have they helped you avoid or let go of? Let's share stories below.
Featured image by Getty Images
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports