If you don’t know how to respect yourself, all you have to do is search online and you’ll get a bunch of recommendations.

  • Don’t settle for less than you deserve.
  • Recite a positive affirmation in the mirror every morning.
  • Be honest with yourself.
  • Remind yourself of your worth.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Discard negative thoughts.
  • Get physically (or if you can’t, emotionally) distant from narcissistic people.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Work on building your confidence every day.

And while these are all great ideas if you already have somewhat of a foundation to go off of…

What happens when you’re coming to the table not just looking for a better meal, but completely malnourished?

What happens when you’re in such a deficit that, even though you want to, you can’t eat any of the food on the table?

If you’re severely starved and malnourished, eating a bunch of food right away could be dangerous. If you don’t ease back into it, you’ll get sick.

Or even worse…

Because you literally cannot stomach this food that you are starving for (and know that your body needs), you come to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with you for not being able to digest it.

No matter what you try, you’re screwed. So, you become a victim who no longer believes that they are meant to survive. How can you even try to be a survivor when you know that there’s no way you can survive without food?

When we are emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically malnourished, trying any of the bullet points above will just make us feel more defective and unworthy – even though they are healthy recommendations to follow. One of the root causes of emotional, spiritual, and physical suicide is repeated attempts at trying to eat that proverbial food and do what we know is good for us, but somehow, ending up in a place where we’ve added to our deficit instead of diminishing it.

If you’re trying to figure out how to respect yourself when you are already at a place of having healthy boundaries, decent self-esteem, and an ability to not act on your emotional triggers, the proverbial food will at the very least, be digestible.

If you’re trying to figure out how to respect yourself when you have no self-respect to begin with…

All the food that you so desperately need will still make you sick and discourage you. At this point, it’s indigestible.

You have to start smaller.

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This is an important post. The most important post that I’ve written here on the blog. It’s also a labyrinth of a situation to be in.  I really don’t know if I can do this post justice, because there is nothing simple about knowing how to deal with toxic family members.

Here is what we all know: 

  • Toxic co-workers are difficult and can be detrimental.
  • Toxic romances are difficult and can be detrimental.
  • Toxic friendships are difficult and can be detrimental.

So, we know the same will apply to toxic family members. However, it is an especially insidious connection to have, as our family is meant to be the safe haven that we fall back on in life.

We can choose our friends, but our family is a choiceless deal.

For better or worse, these are your relatives. Love them, hate them, or loathe them.

  • It is where we first learn about love, boundaries, and how to connect with others.
  • It is where we learn patterns – healthy or otherwise.
  • It is where we learn the value of loyalty, being loved, being cared for, and valued.

Sadly, these qualities are sometimes learned through growing up and being denied them.

This is a naked fact. Not a pleasant one, but a fact nonetheless.

Toxicity in relationships. There are four ways it presents itself:

  • Physical abuse
  • Mental abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse

First, know that if you are in a situation where you are dealing with toxic family members (or anyone else for that matter)…

When a family member is toxic, remember that you do not deserve to be treated badly or abused. We are meant to flourish, be happy, feel loved and cared for. To be safe. If you are dealing with a toxic family member who shows no respect for your feelings or boundaries, as crushing as it can be, it doesn’t have to be your forever. Staying away from toxic family can be defined in many ways.

We start life belonging to a special group, taking these people for granted in some ways, as the ones who will always be there for us. We call them our family. The ones with whom we share special traditions, things we do on birthdays, at Christmas or holidays, ways that are passed down through generations.

We share recipes, physical traits, heirlooms, and secrets. Sometimes, we also share toxic traits with toxic parents; behaviors that serve no one but exist anyway.

This is where the labyrinth becomes twisted.

We cannot give out free passes to family though just because they are family. If you are dealing with a destructive relative, it is no more acceptable than it would be in any other individual.

Excuses – not reasons.

There are people who damage others and refuse to own their behavior in any way. They are full of excuses, or others provide excuses for them. Well-being isn’t of importance here. And we feel guilty.

As a child, there is little to nothing we can do about a parent who is addicted to alcohol, drugs, in and out of relationships, violent, verbally abusive, sexually inappropriate, or narcissistic. That is the travesty. We must live with it. This becomes daily life, our reality, the way we grow up. What is even harder, is almost always, the toxic family member doesn’t care about the negative impact they have on others. On us. On our growth and development.

Sadly, often other family members who are aware of the toxicity are either powerless to change it or too afraid to make any attempt to intervene. In a way, this is one of the hardest things to swallow about a toxic family member: sometimes others that we trust and depend on, enable and endorse their sickness by covering it up or excusing it.

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Setting and upholding healthy boundaries in ALL of your relationships is not only necessary, but it’s the one thing that will either end or enhance those relationships right away.

And no matter what the outcome…

It is the greatest gift you will ever receive. 

I’ve written about boundaries before, but I wanted to create a one-stop guide to everything that I wish I would have known about how to set personal boundaries and boundaries in relationships.

If you don’t have personal boundaries, you will never have relational ones. And if you don’t have boundaries in your relationships… you will never have a real relationship. Only a transaction in which you get to be the doormat/victim/prisoner/powerless loser, every time.

Boundaries make you a winner, without reducing your relationships to a game.

You win because you get to see who people really are.

You win because you’re finally able to clean up your side of the street (instead of continuing to water dead plants on everyone else’s emotional property). 

You win because you no longer take responsibility for other people’s behavior (only your own).

You win because you remain on your white horse

You win because you’re able to separate your worth from the dysfunction of others. 

You win by owning your own dysfunction instead of blaming other people for it.

You win by no longer wanting to control others. You have mastered self-control.

You win by gaining the unconditional confidence and self-respect that comes from:

  • Having limits.
  • Psychologically checkmating toxic people through non-reactivity.
  • Kindly walking away from anyone who tries to blur and cross your definitive lines.

By having non-negotiable limits, you win because you automatically position yourself as The One That Got Away

Having boundaries means that you trust your gut over your fears and your triggers. It means that you respect yourself enough to make uncomfortable decisions and walk away from people you care about – no matter how much your heart and libido are begging you to turn around.

Having limits is scary. Especially when yours were not developed and/or respected as a child.

But you will be so thankful that you had the courage to implement them when everything that you are tolerating right now is no longer a reality in your relational world.

What are personal boundaries?

Personal boundaries are whatever your limits are in regard to how others treat you. Your boundaries are basically what you find acceptable and unacceptable in other people’s behavior towards you.

It was always difficult for me to know what my boundaries were because this kind of knowledge is not something that can’t be bought or taught. It can only come from self-awareness, self-love, and knowing that you have real value, independent of what others think, say, and do.

The best part about boundaries is that you (and only you) get to decide what your limits are. The hardest part is maintaining them in a world of family, friends, and lovers who will make you feel guilty for not making “special adjustments.” Some will even call you crazy when they realize that they can’t manipulate you. They will remind you of your bond, your history, how sorry they are… whatever they can to break down your walls so that they can get their needs met once again and/or feel like less of a sh*t for what they did.

Boundaries are not malleable. Apologies from others do not disintegrate them, and they do not operate on a case-by-case basis. In fact, the more you have to explain your boundaries, the less you actually have.

If your boundaries are not solid, then they are not boundaries. They’re just figments of the backbone that you wish you could somehow resurrect.

Boundaries do all of the communicating for you in regard to how other people should treat you, what they can expect from you, and what they can and cannot get away with. You can’t control what other people do and say to you, but you can control how comfortable they feel saying and doing what they say and do to you.

Boundaries are what control that level of comfort. 

Your personal boundaries are garlic to emotional vampires.

They teach people how to treat you without you having to say a word. Remember, you are the C.E.O of Y.O.U. And Y.O.U is not only very exclusive, but you are the one who gets to decide the structure of your entity. Think of it like a membership to an elite club or a prestigious organization. There are always certain conditions that need to be met (and upheld) for everything that you want to gain access to and experience in this life.

Do toxic people try to negotiate with their gas and electric company every month? No. They make sure that they pay their bills on time because they know if they don’t, they won’t have any hot water or electricity.

Personal boundaries are NOT something that is ever going to make a toxic person or a toxic relationship non-toxic. They should never be implemented as an ultimatum or a scare tactic – only as an unwavering guide (just like the gas bill).

Boundaries are a symptom of confidence, self-respect, and self-awareness. To the right people, boundaries are sexy. To toxic people, they are either a challenge or something that they can potentially bust/mold to their liking. Some will interpret your boundaries as a “red flag.” You will be made to feel “mean,” “too intense,” immature, and ashamed for having limits. Toxic people need the affirmation that they can bust your boundaries in order to maintain egoic survival.

If you have healthy personal boundaries, you will never be clingy, needy, or hungry for crumbs. The wool will never be pulled over your eyes again.

Up until a few years ago, one of my biggest problems was sharing too much information about myself. I wish I could call it “oversharing” but it was much darker than that.

There is no prison worse than knowing better while you are in the moment of not doing better. Going on and on about myself felt involuntary but as I was doing it, I was aware that I could shut up at any time. This made me feel even more ashamed and weak because I had lost control. I knew how unnecessary it was. I knew that ultimately, I had control over what I chose to share. I was so envious of people who could open up but were also private in a way that exuded self-respect and intrigue.

If I didn’t share, I felt like I would never be seen, heard, or understood. When I did share, I felt icky, weak, out of control, and exposed.

Personal boundaries are necessary because without them, there are literally no limits to:

  • The sanity you will lose.
  • The self-sabotage you will ignite.
  • The doubt you will experience.
  • The fear you will act on.
  • The power you will be drained of.
  • The extent to which people will use you.

no boundaries = low self-esteem (and high social anxiety).

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Figuring out why men pull away is so much easier if deep down, you know that you’ve been in denial.

I used to be more scared of being physically alone than I was scared of ending up with someone who made me feel more alone than my self-hatred did.

And because I approached dating with a “grateful for any crumb” mentality, I continued to bet on potential instead of act on red flags.

I would convince myself that he was amazing; that I was in this great relationship and that we had this once-in-a-lifetime connection (despite my intuition knowing better). My fear of being alone made me turn a blind eye to lies, inconsistencies, cheating, and broken promises. Even gaslighting and other forms of emotional abuse were tolerated and excused.

This fear also made very avoidant. Especially when it came to the devaluing and gaslighting that I was doing to myself. All I knew how to do in relationships was settle, tolerate, and give at the expense of my dignity.

By continuing to act from a place of:

It was impossible for me to have any kind of care for my mental health. Soon, I lost all respect for myself. And when you don’t have any self-respect, what’s the point in prioritizing mental health that you don’t ever think you’ll be good enough to attain? (the same can be said for physical health).

I would then wonder why he was pulling away when I had done nothing but give everything.

My dating life became a humiliating nightmare and I was always the victim.

This victim mentality that I had adopted, as a result, fueled more bad decisions which always ended in investigatory obsession instead of Happily Ever After.

As far as wanting to know why men pull away, there were other instances that now, looking back, were a no brainer.

I would finally meet a good guy who was the complete opposite of the ones above. But because I still had unresolved issues with abandonment, trust, and crippling insecurity… I would sabotage the relationship.

Everything brought a reaction out of me. I wanted control over everyone and everything because I had no control over how worthless I felt.

These instances above are not what I am referring to in this post.

This post is about figuring out why men pull away when you both have a great, seemingly healthy and progressively serious thing going.

You can’t get enough of each other. The vibe is good and there aren’t any red flags that you’ve noticed so far.

And then one day… it’s no longer the same.

He’s turned cold. It feels like he’s miles away even when he’s right next to you.

His energy has shifted for no reason at all and you start to panic.

Why does this happen?

Why do men pull away when things are going great and just starting to get serious?

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Knowing how to deal with a narcissist involves letting go of the expectation that you will ever have a normal, healthy relationship.

Your boundaries will be crossed.

You will be given intermittent and inconsistent attention, love, and support.

Worse, in your attempt to survive the bond, you may blame yourself, isolate yourself, and become entirely emotionally dependent on someone who is not equipped to emotionally sustain themselves, much less you.

At this point, it’s indisputable that the only sane advice related to this subject is: leave. But maybe you are in a relationship with a narcissist and cannot imagine leaving. Or maybe you co-parent with a narcissist, live with one, or are in the presence of narcissistic family members, friends, or coworkers.

Like many people, maybe you find yourself routinely surrounded by narcissists despite recently dumping a narcissistic friend or partner. I would never advocate staying in an abusive relationship.

This is not a post about how to grit your teeth through abuse.

The purpose of this post is to help you protect your own emotional ground until you can untangle your own triggers from the actions of a toxic and person in your life.

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After writing my last post on husband material, I got a lot of requests from my male readers to write a post on wife material – how to find it, attoract it, and keep it. When I started to write, I realized that I was pretty much writing the same post (this is why I wrote in the husband material post that “my writing is for all genders and orientations so please, sub where you need to”).

Coaching clients all over the world and connecting with so many of you on social media and email has taught me that no matter what gender, relationship dynamic, or orientation… it really is the same bullsh*t.

It’s the same pain, the same heartbreak, and the same fears and insecurities… just different body parts. Our emotions are what connect us all. They blur differences that are the source of a lot of unnecessary judgment and obnoxious reactivity.

I write from the perspective of a straight woman because I am one. It would be inauthentic of me to try and please everyone or to write from another angle, but what I write about is universally applicable.

A selfish, emotional bum is a selfish, emotional bum. No matter what gender they are… they’re lame.

A toxic relationship is toxic. No matter what the orientation or dynamic is… it’s unhealthy.

So for this post, I want to address my male readers and also, my female readers based on what I’ve been hearing from men.

While I’ve been writing my book, I have interviewed hundreds of men from all walks of life: professional athletes, single fathers, students, entrepreneurs, stockbrokers, artists, celebrities, retirees, you name it. One of them has had such a wild life, there is a movie based on his professional and sexual exploits. Some are married, others divorced, but the majority of them are single.

Over the last week, I called up a (very diverse) handful of them.

“How do you know when a woman is wife material?”

“What is it for you that separates one woman from the rest of the pack and puts her in a league of her own?”

I didn’t care about political correctness. I wanted real answers because what I was seeing online… “you’ll know she’s wife material if she likes to cook in lingerie and loves to watch sports!” wasn’t cutting it. Trash like this breeds misery. It makes everyone feel like they’re not being, getting, or worthy enough of it. Our relationships then become transactional performances instead of intimate connections.

And we wonder why we feel so unfulfilled.

After a few days, I was able to narrow the answers down to ten wife material qualities that these men shared with me. 

I hope that in reading this list, ALL of you can get the affirmation to never settle and stop going for what will garner more high-fives from your friends, your family, your culture, or society than genuine fulfillment in your heart.

Choosing yourself over what checks the proverbial boxes and looks good on paper is a level of power, indifference, happiness, and freedom that most people will never have the courage to experience. Their fear won’t allow it.

Luckily for you and me, this is no longer our reality.

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