Take Your “Should” Elsewhere, Please

During the last several months I’ve been going through an awkward post-breakup transition phase that fluctuates between calm denial, feeling empowered, and panic.  It hasn’t been my favorite stretch of time, that’s for sure.  To make matters more confusing, I’ve had a lot of folks tell me exactly what it is I “should” be doing with my life now that I’m single. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love advice from people with different backgrounds and experiences.  A new perspective can completely change the way we see ourselves and the situations we encounter, which is healthy and wonderful.  What I don’t find helpful is when someone imposes their beliefs and expectations on me in a way that only allows for a negative experience of myself or a situation.  There’s a big difference between “You should just get rid of your guitar because, honestly, you’ve had it for seven years and you still don’t know how to play it,” and “I haven’t heard you talking about your guitar in a while, are you still planning to learn?”

What if my dream had always been to play the guitar and I just wasn’t ready or hadn’t found the time?  Now that I’ve heard that someone thinks it’s probably a lost cause, instead of feeling grateful that I have a guitar to play when I’m ready to learn, I feel ashamed or at least a little defensive for thinking I might be great at it one day.  There are exceptions to this, at least for me; for example: 1) If a “should” statement conveys support like “you should listen to your intuition” or “you should know you’re not alone,” or 2) If there is an adorable video of baby panda bears going down a slide that you think I should see, then I absolutely want to hear about it immediately and with lots of exclamation points.*

There are tons of ways that we can go around invalidating or hurting each others’ feelings without any intention of doing so. Having stronger boundaries is an advantage that I wish I could say I have, but that’s still a work in progress.  Ultimately, I know we’re responsible for our own feelings in the end, but who couldn’t use a little help from time to time?

Since we’re all looking at the world through our own lens that’s been shaped by our own experiences, there’s so much out there that we don’t see or understand, especially when it comes to what others are going through.  Maybe being a bit more mindful of how we’re using “should” in our interactions can help our people feel more supported in their decisions or in their chaos.  At least it could be a start.

What are your experiences, dear readers?  What kinds of phrases or support feel unproductive to you when you’re finding it difficult to make decisions?  What would you prefer to hear instead?

*You should seriously watch this:


6 replies on “Take Your “Should” Elsewhere, Please”

I don’t like hearing “You need to learn how to be alone” from people (particularly young women in my age bracket) who’ve never been single for long stretches of time and who also haven’t experienced life circumstances similar to mine and therefore haven’t felt truly debilitating loneliness.  In general, people don’t want advice, even if it seems like they’re asking for it.  They want to feel like they’re okay the way they are.

If my guy says “so how come you didn’t…” when we’re talking about what we did today, it immediately puts me on the defensive, and I really hate that. With luck I’ll be able to teach him to say at least one good thing or something he likes about what I did before diving in to the (he thinks is just) constructive criticism. We’ve gone over how I take everything personally, he’s just abrasive and doesn’t realize it, and I hope we find a good middle ground between those extreme and very judging viewpoints.

By the way, is there an article here about things to discuss before marriage? I’ve found overwhelming lists of things to talk about around the interwebs, but something more condensed and focusing on personality differences and how to expand beyond the roles we’re currently in would be amazingly helpful. Example: handling what are currently little things that may become big abrasive things later on if we don’t get healthy methods of dealing with them in place. Thanks in advance!

Thanks for sharing this :).  As for your question, we have a wonderful “Ask Us” feature that you can direct specific questions to our fabulous writers/editors here:  Also, there was a great piece a bit ago that addresses pre-marriage questions that you might find helpful here:  I hope that helps!

Thanks for the links! I think the “Ladyguide to Marriage Planning” breaks down some aspects of the new relationship that is formed through marriage into manageable chunks, which should help make our ideas more concrete than the hints we’ve been throwing around thus far. I’ll be sure to make use of your “Ask Us” feature when I think of something that warrants a well-thought-out article :)

“I don’t know why you don’t just…” infuriates me. “It’s not that hard.” “Was that so complicated?” Certain things make me very anxious and having someone be incredibly dismissive of that is extremely hurtful. Just because something is easy for them doesn’t mean it’s easy for me.

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