I have used the phrase “you teach people how to treat you” so many times that it is tattooed to my tongue. I would show you but you would also see the 8,654,231 Juji Fruits that I have consumed as well. And let’s be honest, no one wants that on their conscience. But I digest.
All joking aside, I feel very strongly about the simple idea that we teach people how to treat us by virtue of what we expect and accept.
If we except respect, a voice, loyalty, and a physical touch and we accept nothing less, then we are teaching our partner that there are consequences to them not providing these things.
On the other hand, if we expect respect, a voice, loyalty and a physical touch and we accept less than this, then we are teaching our partner that there are little to no consequences to them not providing these things.
It really is that simple. And yet here we stand, struggling to teach people how to treat us. Why is this so hard for us?
Reason 1: We do not love ourselves
When we love ourselves, we are confident. When we are confident, we believe that we deserve to have our needs met. We also believe that if our needs are not met by our current partner, we will have no problems finding someone that will meet our needs. The opposite of this is not being confident and feeling as though we must accept less than we deserve because this may be as good as it gets.
Reason 2: We do not understand and live by our needs
It is very often the case that we see poor treatment as unfortunate and hurtful but we do not associate it with showstoppers. This is because we have not drawn a line in the relationship sand by which to measure. Colleen does not like the berating communication style that Marcus employs and yet she stays. When you ask her why, she will note a dozen other things that Marcus does right even though, in her heart of hearts, she knows that the negative impacts from the berating far outweigh the positives of Marcus’s other attributes. If Colleen took the time to think through it, she would realize that she needs someone that respects her.
Note: Needs, unlike wants, are non-negotiable physical, personality and lifestyle traits that we require in a partner and a relationship.
Reason 3: We believe that ‘this’ is as good as it gets
So, Sara is confident in herself but she is adamant that the pool of available men with any shred of quality is several lacking. In this, Sara will tolerate Will’s excessive drinking. From her perspective, it is this or a life of loneliness. For people who feel like Sara, there are two basic questions to ask:
- What does it say about your standards and self-respect that you would rather be Will’s girlfriend/constant designated driver than to be by yourself?
- How will you know if the pool of available quality men is as shallow as you suggest it is without putting yourself out there to find out?
Reason 4: We do not want to be alone/We do not want another car in the dating rat race
The example of Sara and the subsequent questions to ask people in her frame of mind really bring us to reason 4. While it is as clear as day that we deserve more than what we are getting, we do not want to put ourselves back into the dating rat race. It is lonely, fierce, and we have noticeable warts from the 2,345 frogs we’ve kissed. Thanks but no thanks.
I understand all of these reasons which is not to say that I agree with them. The fact is, dating is hard and coming up with and living by a list of needs is even harder. But, these pale in comparison to looking in the mirror every morning and knowing that you are unhappy with your current situation. You know what good treatment looks like and you know that you are not living that dream right now. What’s more, your partner knows how they treat you and they see you sticking around regardless.
To all of this, I leave you with two quotes:
- It is what it is as long as we allow it to be what it is.
- We are only misled for as long as we allow them to lead us.
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