Why 'High Standards' May Really Be Walls Meant To Keep Love Out

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couple looking over shoulder

There's nothing wrong with aiming high when it comes to your standards. But when do your high standards become a bit too much?

When are high standards actually walls?

According to Mark Groves, Human Connection Specialist, founder of Create the Love, co-author of Liberated Love and host of the Mark Groves Podcast, setting impossible standards may signify past trauma.

In these cases, we use "high standards" as a way to keep people at arm's length because we are afraid of getting hurt like we did before.

So how do we deal with past relationship trauma? Most importantly, how do we know if we have relationship trauma?



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Deconstructing High Standards

Before diving into love, how can we tell if we're carrying around past relationship trauma?

Past relationship trauma develops after you've witnessed or experienced a life-threatening event. However, relationship PTSD isn't just physical abuse. Rather relationship PTSD can also involve emotional, financial, technological, or spiritual abuse.

This kind of trauma can manifest in the form of expectations.

Those who've suffered from relationship PTSD can form unrealistic expectations when it comes to love. Forming these expectations, survivors use them as a means to protect themselves from further pain. Other related symptoms of relationship PTSD include trust issues, overreacting, gravitating toward toxic relationships, or sabotaging new ones.

When you sabotage your new relationship, you do so as a form of self-protection, writes licensed therapist Bisma Anwar.

It's important to understand that relationship PTSD isn't something to brush off. According to the National Center for PTSD, "People with PTSD have difficulty forming close relationships with loved ones, including family and friends."

They also suffer from emotional instability and impulsive behavior. As you might guess, dealing with relationship PTSD can be quite isolating.

RELATED: How To Tell The Difference Between Having High Standards And Unrealistic Expectations In Your Relationship

Healing From Relationship Trauma

The best way to heal from relationship trauma is through professional counseling. However, if this isn't an option, try putting self-care at the forefront of your routine. Read or take a relaxing bath to calm your nerves.

Another tool to consider is exercise.

According to the National Library of Medicine, “It can change the physiological and emotional processing of those experiencing various traumatic events in a ‘bottom-up’ rather than ‘top-down way.”

So, don't be afraid to hit up your local gym or get into sports to help heal your emotional trauma. It's also worth considering setting boundaries when healing from trauma.

As EndCan puts it, "Boundaries — the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships — determine what we find acceptable and unacceptable regarding how we allow others to treat us. They enable individuals to communicate their needs, feelings, and limits.”

Struggling with setting boundaries? Try doing this according to Harvard Business Review:

  • Start by forming hard boundaries that are non-negotiable.
  • Then form soft boundaries that are flexible.
  • Determine your main priorities and focus on them.
  • Test out one hard boundary to see how you feel about it.
  • Slowly implement soft boundaries.
  • Stay committed to reinforcing those boundaries.

Stay out of your comfort zone and try new things. "Trying new things can help improve your memory, mood, and motivation," writes the North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission.

Be sure to meditate as well.

woman meditatingPhoto: Caterina Trimarchi / Shutterstock

Meditation can be used to decrease stress and anxiety, help with sleep, and encourage positive emotions, explains therapist Michael G. Quirke. Meditation can help "unstuck" us which helps us think from an objective standpoint.

By working through relationship trauma, we can adjust our standards and become more open to love.

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Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.