I receive hundreds of letters every week. And let's be real — If you're already in a great relationship, you aren't writing in to me. I hear from men and women all over the world, and offer insights and advice about marriage, dating, and communication.
Some of common questions I'm asked are:
- "What did he mean when he said ____?"
- "Why did she tell me that she ____?"
Often, the answers are highly individualized, and I get into the nitty-gritty details of life, love, and romance with those who write in. I work to decrypt things and shine the proverbial light on the middle-of-the-road truth.
But it saddens me that one of the most-asked questions I receive is — "Why does he treat me like crap?"
Let's get something out of the way: I'm not describing physically abusive relationships. That's not only treating someone "badly", it's also a felony. If you find yourself in a violent relationship — leave. Period. The End.
The relationships I'm discussing are in a grey-ish area: not physically violent, but rather emotional abuse. Interactions and treatment that are most definitely damaging, but harder to explain why.
These relationships keep you questioning and guessing — Never-A-Dull-Moment style, leaving you muttering to yourself: "It wasn't always this way, was it?"
No, it wasn't always … and that's what is so damaging.
Your guy does treat you right ... sometimes. But now that you're deeper into the relationship and feelings are out in the open, he's changed. Maybe he isn't available as often as he once was (without a genuine excuse), or perhaps he is emotionally distant without an explanation, or maybe he starts fights and arguments, withholds affection, has simply stopped being thoughtful, or has just disconnected from you.
It leaves you asking yourself some ugly questions: "What did I do wrong? What's wrong with me? What did I do to make him change?"
A reality check: You didn't make him change. Without a weapon, no one has the power to make someone do anything they don't want. This leaves one explanation: He is choosing to act this way. And not only is he choosing it … you're, likewise, allowing and enabling it.
Here's the harsh truth: People can only treat you in ways you allow.
In essence, you give permission and imbue people with the knowledge of how to treat you. So, if you're settling for someone's poor treatment or halfway efforts, you're silently telling them, "Thank you. This is how I want you to treat me. I'm OK with this. More, please."
Unfortunately this explanation, while accurate, doesn't provide all the information needed for a genuine explanation of this pattern. Often, the real culprit is a lack of self-esteem on your part. People find themselves treated in ways they don't like because:
- On occasion, they receive the love they want, and they put up with poor behavior the rest of the time to get a crumb of love at some point in the future
- Their self-esteem is so low, they feel (consciously or subconsciously) that this is "all" they deserve
If you put up with bad treatment, that tells your partner that you don't respect yourself. You show him that you believe you're only worthy of the unacceptable way he treats you ... and each time you go back and forgive him, you reinforce his bad behavior.
Escaping this cycle is challenging, as your sense of self-worth and esteem get locked up in the relationship, creating a constant search for moments of love amidst long bouts of indifference.
If you've communicated your needs and he refuses to act or alter his treatment of you, sometimes the only way out of the cycle is, well ... out. Move on to someone who treats you like a treasure.
And by "someone", I don't mean a new relationship ... I mean move on to YOU.
Self-worth and self-esteem emanate from SELF. Start with you. Respect and value you, and everyone around you will have no choice but to follow your lead.