How making your own rules in your relationship can help you make your own rules in your life

September 01,2020

All month long, we’ve been talking about creating your own rules in your relationship. We hope you’ve been excited thinking about all of the different possibilities that are available to you and your partner!

But the even cooler thing about this process is that it can go so much deeper too…

Because your relationship doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s affected by everything else going on in your life, and vice versa. 

So by re-examining the rules in your relationship, you can also redefine the rules for the rest of your life. 

We know this might sound pretty lofty, so we both want to share our personal stories of how this happened for us…

Vanessa’s Story

Creating my own relationship rules with Xander helped me overcome lifelong perfectionism. 

This was a HUGE deal for me. (And it’s why I’m so passionate about sharing this topic with you!)

I was scared at first when Xander and I started doing things differently in our relationship. After an entire lifetime of doing things by the book, I was worried about what other people would think about our decisions. 

Would they think Xander was crazy for quitting his job? Would they judge us as immature, thinking we were running away from our problems by moving to Europe? 

But I very quickly realized something super important…

People just don’t care that much about how you live your life! 

And I mean that in the best way possible! 

Not that they don’t love or value you, but rather, that we’re all so wrapped up in our own stories and challenges that we really don’t care that much about what other people choose to do with their lives. 

No one said cruel things to us. No one tried to stop us. No one told us they wouldn’t be our friend anymore. No one excommunicated us from the family. 

They didn’t care what we did with our relationship!

Now, I’m not naive… I know there could have been a few conversations about us behind our backs.

But the reality is that we felt ZERO impact personally. (And honestly, if our friends or family members were trashing us behind our backs, that says more about them personally than it does about us.)

Having that realization was so freeing. It made me realize that I could let go of all of the other ways I was holding myself back. 

I finally understood that no one was watching me, making sure I did everything “perfectly”.

This has really impacted almost every area of my life, but perhaps the most important has been how I structure my day. 

I used to tie so much of my self-worth to my workload. Like every day, I had to “prove” that I was worthy by getting as much done as possible. (This was a bad combination with being a small business owner, where there is literally SO much stuff that could be done on a given day!)

But now that I’ve realized that I’m the boss of my own life, and that no one else judges what I decide to do with it, I’ve created so much more spaciousness in my day. 

Like right now, I’m writing this email after having taken an hour and a half to work out right in the middle of the day, because working out feeds my soul. I spent a leisurely morning making pumpkin pancakes for breakfast, because pretending Fall is here makes me ridiculously happy. I’ll call it an early day today so I can take the dogs on a walk with Xander before we do a Zoom call with my family. 

Old me would have freaked the eff out over this schedule, but new me knows that having ease, spaciousness, and slowness in my life makes me happy. (And, ironically, I actually get way more done these days because I work faster and better when I’m happy.)

And all this has been possible because we had the courage to make our own dang rules!

Xander’s Story

When Vanessa and I first started dating, I was pretty fresh out of college and working my first real “impressive” job. Initially, I found myself feeling proud and confident that I had a high paying job and could support Vanessa financially when she decided to go to graduate school. My friends jokingly referred to me as “The Provider”, and for a while I genuinely saw that as my primary role in our relationship.

But I got so caught up in this story of me being The Provider for our family, that I would spend so many long nights and weekends in the office, leaving little space for Vanessa and my relationship.

Eventually, after a number of painful arguments with Vanessa about the lack of quality time we had together, I started questioning: what’s the point of the job/money/accomplishments if you don’t even have time to celebrate them with the person you love most in the world?

With the help of a therapist, I started planning how I could start setting better boundaries at work. I was terrified I’d be breaking some unwritten rules by saying I needed to be home by a certain time each day, and that I’d have to be more vocal with coworkers about how much work I could reasonably take on without sacrificing quality.

But instead, something incredible happened. My bosses and peers respected me more for setting boundaries and being clear about what I could (and couldn’t) deliver. Promotions and pay raises started coming faster, and I was held up as an example to newer employees about how to have a good work/life balance. 

But more importantly, I had nights and weekends free to do whatever I wanted with Vanessa!

With this extra free time, Vanessa and I started traveling more, and fell in love with experiencing new countries and cultures. At that point in time, Vanessa was just beginning to build this business, and I could start to see how working fully online meant that she could literally work anywhere with internet access. Pretty soon, the only thing preventing us from travelling more was my corporate job’s 15 days of vacation (which is sadly quite generous for Americans!).

That really got me wondering: what’s the point of working a job where you put off all the fun stuff you want to do until retirement? What’s stopping me from doing it RIGHT NOW?

Up to that point, you could say that Vanessa and I had been dipping our toes in the water when it came to “breaking” the rules, and things were going surprisingly well. But I just couldn’t stop thinking about how backward this idea was of deferring all of these things that make you happy until the end of your life.

So I mustered up some courage and offered up a bold proposal to Vanessa. I’d quit my job, take some time off to focus on enjoying life (and trying my hand at “house-husband”), and we’d move halfway around the world to Berlin, where Vanessa could continue working on building her new business. With the cost of living being so much lower than San Francisco, I could feel comfortable taking the time off I needed, and Vanessa wouldn’t be under nearly as much pressure to pay the bills.

OK – now let’s fast forward five years. Living abroad was one of the best experiences of our lives. We got to experience new cultures, meet new friends, and travel to an absurd number of countries. Vanessa’s business started taking off, and I realized I could leverage some of my business and operational skills to help it expand even more.

The amazing thing about joining forces with Vanessa is that it means we get to write our own rules when it comes to work too! Success isn’t defined by how many hours we work. It’s all about how many people we can serve with resources on having a happy and healthy relationship and sex life, and having the space and energy to pursue our passions outside of work.

Like Vanessa said above, we know that the idea of making your own rules in life can feel pretty massive. But for us, it started with a few initial steps. And we know the same sort of thing is possible for you if you want it! 

Obviously we’re really passionate about this topic, and we’d love to know if you are too. If you’re interested in more lifestyle content, click here!


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I'm Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and writer specializing in helping you have more fun in the bedroom.

I have bachelor’s degrees in human sexuality and sociology from Brown University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist. I’ve been working in the sex therapy field since 2002 and have been featured by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and many more.

If you’re interested in improving your sex life, you can work with me via my online courses or personal coaching sessions. I look forward to supporting you in creating the sex life you’ve always wanted!