Do your romantic relationships bring out your insecurities and cause you to mistrust your own judgment? Many women become involved or even obsessed with the wrong men – men who are emotionally unavailable, with other women, addicted to substances – or who cannot love them back.
This problem has been given many labels including codependency which can be defined as having underdeveloped self-esteem and dysfunctional boundaries, combined with an inappropriate caring for others (letting others invade your boundaries). In the mid 1980’s, Robin Norwood’s best-selling book “Women Who Love Too Much” offered women a guide to freeing themselves from destructive loving.
Many women consistently put other’s needs before their own and end up in one-sided relationships. The consequence for girls can be profound, with girls and women dismissing their own needs and ending up with a depleted sense of self, according to author Jill P. Weber. She posits that many girls learn to tune out their own inner voice due to their family experiences, and this prepares them for one-sided relationships in adulthood. Weber writes, “As a woman develops a strong core sense of self, fulfilling relationships will follow.”
Elizabeth, a beautiful and outgoing thirty-two year old, provided Kyle with unconditional love and did her best to make up for his dysfunctional upbringing by trying to meet his every need. After they moved in together, she cooked Kyle lavish meals and did all of the laundry in addition to working full-time and taking care of her five-year old daughter.
Elizabeth reflects: “It took a breakup for me to realize that I was not responsible for Kyle’s happiness and can only truly make myself happy. He never treated me right and was unwilling to plan a future with me.” Elizabeth came to understand that she didn’t have any energy left for herself when she was so focused on Kyle’s well-being. Since their split, she has been able to return to college and finish her degree in nursing.
Ask yourself this question: Is there something about the way my guy treats me that makes me a bigger and better person? If the answer is no, ask yourself: Am I settling for less than I deserve in the relationship? Research shows that one of the main reasons why people stay in bad relationships is the fear of being single. If this is the case, gently remind yourself that you are a worthwhile person regardless of whether or not you are in a romantic relationship.
Women who are attracted to men who hurt them often confuse chemistry and compatibility. In fact, they are both essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship.
- Chemistry: This usually refers to physical attraction but can include intellectual attraction as well. It is about how interesting and simulating you find the person. Do you enjoy each other’s touch and is their sexual chemistry? It’s essential because without it, you are little more than friends.
- Compatibility: This is about sharing common values and goals, having fun together, and liking each other; it helps to sustain a couple through tough times.
Do you find yourself attracted to guys who you have good chemistry with, but not compatibility? Perhaps you grew up in a family where you were a caretaker or focused more on making others happy. Maybe you even felt that you had to be in a good mood regardless of your true feelings.
6 signs you are at risk for hurtful or one-sided relationships: the more items you identify with, the more at risk you are.
- You become so absorbed in your partner’s problems you don’t often have time to identify, or solve, your own.
- You care so deeply about your partner that you’ve lost track of your own needs.
- You feel that you grew up too fast in terms of your maturity or sexual activity.
- Growing up, were you often in a caretaker role with one or both parents or your siblings.
- Are you a people pleaser? If you have this tendency, you may find setting limits hard and you might have trouble asking for what you need from your partner. This is a pattern that starts in childhood but can be reversed.
- Do you feel that you have to be in a good mood or positive when you are with your friends, family, or intimate partner?
Many women are in one-sided relationships because they consistently put their partner’s needs before their own. Girls are often raised to focus on others and defer their own needs. Too often they are left with a depleted sense of self and they look to their partner for validation. Keep in mind that emotional intimacy is not emotional dependency. If your relationship causes you to be anxious or to question your sense of self, it may not be the best relationship for you.
Here are 6 ways to avoid hurtful, one-sided relationships:
- Seek a partner you can be yourself with and is easy to be close to. In other words, you don’t have to walk on eggshells. You feel safe in the relationship and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly without fear of rejection.
- Set an expectation of mutual respect. You can accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left.
- Select a partner who is trustworthy. Does he call when he says he is going to call? Does he take you out when he says he is going to do so? When a man is interested in a woman, they keep their agreements.
- Make sure your guy carves out time for you on a regular basis and includes you in his inner circle. He makes you a priority because he values your relationship. This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show that he’s thinking of you.
- Don’t have sex with a partner who makes you feel insecure. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest.
- Select a partner who talks about your future together. If he says he’s not ready for a commitment, take him seriously – he’s just not that into you. Don’t waste your time on a relationship that doesn’t have a future.
Unless we have self-acceptance and self-love, we cannot believe we are worth loving just as we are. We might try to prove our worth through giving too much to others and being overly tolerant and patient. Author Jill P. Weber writes: “The more you view others’ mistreatment of you as something you have the ability to fix, tweak, or amend, the harder it is to develop a positive sense of yourself. Seeing yourself exclusively from the eyes of others disconnects you from the day-to-day, moment-to-moment experience of your life.”
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