If you're constantly going for shitty men, this is for you.
There’s been more than one scenario in my life where I’ve listened to friends make excuses for a man who is treating her if not badly, then certainly less than adequately. I’ve listened to them moan and cry, and then ultimately end the conversation with: “but he..”, and out roll the justifications of said shitty behaviour.
I often think, if she could see herself the way I and the people who love her see her, would she continue to defend these shitty actions or go out and find someone who will treat her really well?
A good friend of mine, let’s call her Caroline, recently found herself in a constant string of bad almost-relationships, where she was experiencing lazy attempts at romance from men who didn’t treat her like the fabulous woman she is. She was constantly on the receiving end of ghosting, making plans that he never followed through, showing up to dates where he had “forgotten” his wallet and being one of many girls in an “I’m not ready for a relationship right now” saga.
From an outsider’s perspective, it was clear that she was accepting far too little from the men she was giving her time to, but she would only realise this after he had left, leaving a stream of tears behind him. Whatever definition you have for the word love, a general consensus would be that the right love fills our hearts with warmth and joy, right? This makes one wonder how anyone could want anything different. So why was Caroline choosing the exact opposite?
Psychotherapist and Psychosexual Therapy Trainer Trish Murphy says that the way we feel about ourselves makes a huge impact on the relationships we have, and we ultimately accept the love we think we deserve. One of the biggest reasons women do this comes down to the fear of being alone. People who are insecure in themselves may think: ‘If I leave this person now I’ll be alone forever, because who else would want to be with me?’ We accept less because we are afraid, afraid of searching for more and returning empty handed.
“If we do not value ourselves enough we allow for poor treatment or we won’t challenge others out of fear of losing the relationship,” Trish says. “Often we accept poor behaviour because of our own past and a fear of asking for something in case we are rejected, but this leads to a pattern of demanding too little and letting fear govern the relationship.”
Another reason we may think we deserve less when it comes to love comes down to our childhood experiences. Women who have had a dysfunctional or no relationship at all with their fathers may often choose the wrong men and have bad relationships in the future. It is common for women to repeat unhealthy cycles that they’ve experienced growing up.
“Our first experience of relationships from our parents and families is our blueprint,” explains Trish, “and we can have a comfort with things that are not good for us, for example if your parents were lackadaisical with their affection, you may ask for very little or be satisfied with small amounts of affection.” Watching a parent or guardian’s unhealthy relationship helps to form a cycle that tells the person that they do not deserve more, that this is what normal love is, and that this is what they deserve.
“No parent raises their child to be demeaning and offhand in their relationships so we should expect more of ourselves and others.”
You’ve probably noticed in conversations with your friends that it’s a very Irish thing for women to set the bar quite low for what they expect from men in general, so low that here at STELLAR HQ we describe the bar as “literally on the floor”. This saying refers to the situation where your friend says: “He asked me on a date and actually followed up the next day!” and we all oooh and ahh like they’ve struck gold.
“The whole of society sets the bar and if we all buy into a low bar, then we accept this low standard,” Trish says. “The idea of a ‘bar’ at all might be misleading, as the job of relationships is to stretch each partner to be the best version of themselves. Perhaps the other person needs to know how to be considerate and caring in a relationship and they deserve at least one chance to show that they can stretch to this. But if it is not in the offing, then move on.”
So what are the tell-tale signs that you’re accepting too little from your partner, whether in a new relationship or long-term? “There are always signs that others will see,” Trish says. “For example, you cancel a meet up with your friends in order to fit in with your lover’s erratic arrangements. But there is one sign that is always there – that is justifying in your own head as to why your lover’s behaviour is acceptable. If you have to justify behaviour, then the reality needs to be looked at.”
To get out of a negative cycle of accepting less than you should in a relationship, the first change to make
is within yourself. Nobody is going to treat you better than you treat yourself, so set an example. You can do this in all areas of your life, but especially in your relationships. You can set a standard for your work, your home, maybe even your appearance. This will show the people you surround yourself with that you have a certain level of expectation for yourself, and therefore for your relationships.
Trish says that acknowledging what causes you to make a string of bad decisions when it comes to relationships will ultimately make a positive change.
“The only person we can make a change in is ourselves, so if we are constantly making disastrous decisions in relationships we must look to our decision making and judgment habits. It is useful to ask our close friends and family what they see as our pitfalls in relationships as we often cannot see these clearly ourselves, and then we must accept what we are told and work on these things.
“If we are getting nowhere on our own, then a couple of sessions with a counsellor might be useful – especially if you find you’re repeating patterns that are bad for you. There is no doubt that change can happen; it starts with you!”
The love you accept is nothing but a reflection of the love you feel towards yourself. Once we realise this, we can start experiencing amazing relationships that will leave us wondering how we ever put up with certain stuff in the past. When you find a partnership of equals, and you are with someone who builds you up instead of breaks you down, you are finally accepting the love you deserve, and that’s worth holding out for.
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