Are you accepting less than you deserve?: Gaining clarity behind your relationship choices

One of the main reasons that clients enter therapy is often times a dissatisfaction or troubling experience in their romantic relationship.

And it makes perfect sense because the people that we surround ourselves with have the potential to greatly enhance or alternately, negatively affect our lives. So the question often arises, what is causing you to accept less than what you deserve in your romantic relationship?
This is absolutely not an easy question to answer because how a person approaches a romantic relationship is largely learned from their own upbringing and then adapted over the years to fit their own individual perspectives.

 

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There are many factors that go into how and why we choose our romantic partners.

 
Generally speaking, assessing a relationship’s longevity and survival rate is slightly different from that of assessing a person on an individual basis. When I work with clients individually, I often assess backgrounds, their own parent’s communication styles, and their self-esteem/ability to set healthy boundaries and maintain those boundaries. Boundaries are often deeply examined because if a person is unable to have a personal set of rules for how they function and the treatment they will accept from others in their lives, it’s a fairly good indication that unhealthy treatment from others may be present. Working with couples in committed relationships is different in that there must be assessment of communication styles between the two, the couple’s ability to turn towards each other in times of stress/sadness/dissatisfaction, and knowledge on each person’s love language and their ability to “speak” it to one another.

So let’s get to the most common reasons that may be causing you to accept less than you deserve in your relationships…

1. An unhealthy self-esteem.

Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. It can be painful and even scary to really ask ourselves the question, do I like myself?

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Many folks base the answer to this question on the amount of friendships they have, romantic partners they’ve had, and or their ability to be successful in school or work. The issue with looking to external sources for the answer is that often, these external sources can be unpredictable and fallible.

 
Take this example: You’ve been working at the same company for 8 years. You’ve never received any disciplinary measures and for the most part, have been a very good employee—showing up when you’re expected to and carrying out your daily work load. However, behind the scenes at the company you work for, they have been struggling with bringing in money and decide to downsize with you being the first to go and a slew of coworkers shortly thereafter. While the company is downsizing to try to stay afloat, you become a casualty in the process. While yes, this experience would be difficult for anyone, a person with low self-esteem would immediately jump to the conclusion that “I must be an idiot, worthless, and a horrible employee and that’s why I was laid off”.

 
When you have low self-esteem, you will often measure your self-worth with other’s perceptions of you and what happens to you in life, instead of leaning on your own internal resources of strength to get you through. When we have a high internal reservoir that is built upon self-respect, knowing the valuable contributions that we bring to the world, and high levels of self-efficacy and competency, we are better able to deflect the negative experiences that occur.

Practice looking inwards , building upon your knowledge of self instead of looking outwards for the world to tell you that you’re a smart, good, attractive person. If you can practice loving who you are, this inward beauty shines outwardly and in turn increases our self-confidence…and self-esteem.

2. Negative experiences from our past.

Although controversial and disagreeable to some, I agree that Sigmund Freud knew what he was talking about when he developed his psychoanalytic theory proposing that our childhood experiences impact our thoughts and behaviors in present day. The messages that you received while growing up, and during your precious brain’s development will ultimately impact how you function in today’s world.

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If your family was never affirming, you grew up in an unstable and chaotic home environment and you constantly felt as if you did not matter, chances are highly likely that you still struggle with finding what you need in your current romantic partner. We ultimately choose what we know—familiarity is comforting for people even if it is unhealthy familiarity.

 
Consider this: you meet an amazing man/woman and feel overwhelmed that this awesome being has chosen you as their significant other. You’re conflicted because deep down, there is a tiny voice that reminds you “They’ll soon find out who I really am, it’s only a matter of time before they lose confidence in me like my family did”. And because you do not know how to deal with this new, positive relationship, you sabotage. You cut it off and run because this positive treatment is not what you are used to. There’s a high likelihood you have no idea why you sabotaged this new relationship, you may make excuses like “I just couldn’t get over how he/she dressed, they just seemed too good to be true, etc.” Our past experiences, if not dealt with, have a funny way of resurfacing whether it is on a conscious or unconscious level.

 
If the above rings true for you, it may be time to seek out a therapist to help you process past experiences—to wipe the mental slate clean—and discontinue allowing those negative past experiences to creep up and affect you in the here and now.

3. Not having a clear sense of identity.

Have you ever heard the phrase, if you don’t stand for anything, you’ll fall for everything?

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In the case of choosing a romantic partner, not knowing your own core values, morals, and ethics can cause you to let someone into your world based on loneliness and confusion instead of a strong foundation that is built upon similar values and beliefs. I’m not saying that you should always agree with your partner on every. little. thing. But for the most part, your ethical and moral compass should align with that of your partner’s.

 
Think about this example: Ever since you can remember, you have been an exceptionally hard worker. You’ve worked since you were 15 years old and have always prided yourself on being able to maintain employment and bring value to the company you work for. All of a sudden, you meet Kara. There’s something about this woman that you can’t explain. She elicits a carefree feeling in you that you haven’t felt since childhood, however there’s one part of her that causes a slight stir in your gut (gut instinct, anyone?!)—she can’t seem to hold a job down and constantly floats from job to job when the going gets too tough. You can’t seem to shake this nagging feeling that what if things get tough with us, will she leave? One night you have a disagreement about moving in with each other. Kara wants to move in but not pay rent right now because in her mind “you make plenty of money” and per usual, she is in between employment. You tell her you need some time to think about all this as you’ve only been dating a short while. But the next day, when you reach out to her, she’s gone. Won’t return phone calls until eventually telling you “You should be taking care of me”. You let her go, breathing a sigh of relief that you may have just dodged the proverbial bullet. If you would have stayed with Kara, there’s no doubt that there would have been more disagreements down the road because your ethics were not compatible.

 
If in your mind, you value a hard work ethic and want the same from your partner, then when you meet someone that doesn’t feel the same, it’s a strong sign that the compatibility may be off. Same with having a moral compass. Knowing the morals and ethics that you hold close inadvertently causes your identity to develop. Who are you? What do you value in life and what core belief system do you have? Make a list, talk to a therapist about feeling confusion about your identity—no matter what however, not having a clear sense of identity will interfere with you finding a partner that will meet your needs.

Bringing it all together…

Having a low self-esteem, negative experiences from our pasts, and losing sight of or not having a clear sense of identity are all factors that may cause you to accept less than what you deserve in your romantic relationship. The positive outcome in all of this however, is that you have the opportunity to reverse the negative thinking and process the past so that you may move forward. No matter what you may have encountered in previous relationships or childhood, those experiences do not have to define who you are today.

“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.”

― Iyanla Vanzant

Accept what you believe you deserve. And you deserve a lot.

 
Please reach out to Humanitas Counseling and Consulting 757-739-6771 if you believe that there is a pattern in your life of accepting less than what your wonderful self deserves and your desire is to start a new pattern of healthy self love and knowledge. It is never too late for self-discovery and change!

 
Wishing you a healthy sense of self today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

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Dealing with the aftermath of a break-up: Steps to mending a broken heart…

The phrase break up is exactly what it implies: the breaking apart of two things, and in the case of this article, two people. But, if you’ve been around and on this planet for several years, then you probably already know what break up means!

Whether your first grade crush checked “no” when you asked them to be your girlfriend or your partner of 10 years has just told you that they are leaving you, break-ups (unfortunately) are very real experiences that can become a part of our lives whether we want them to happen or not. Why is this? Because we are unable to control other people and people are often unpredictable. Of course my hope is that every person finds his or her ever-lasting match, but sadly, sometimes we must encounter disappointments along the way.

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“How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.”

― W. Somerset Maugham

When a relationship ends, the process of recovery and healing can be one of the most difficult experiences to encounter. I’ve heard individuals both professionally and personally referring to the aftermath of breaking up with someone as “feeling like my heart exploded” “feeling sick all over” and ultimately experiencing a deep feeling of loss, or grief.

After all, when a relationship ends, you are ultimately experiencing a loss of sorts. As I have written about many a time before in my blogs, humans are patterned creatures. When a relationship dissolves, we must reset our routines and patterns to not include a person that may have been a part of our lives for months and even years. And when the individual who is no longer a part of your life is truly out of the picture, there can be almost an uncanny feeling of absenteeism, a feeling that something is missing in your life. I liken it to having your right pinky finger being missing, you may be able to function just fine without it, but there’s a strange feeling of knowing that a piece of you is missing.

“i felt her absence. it was like waking up one day with no teeth in your mouth. you wouldn’t need to run to the mirror to know they were gone”
― James Dashner

The process of recovery from a break up takes a different amount of time from person to person. There is no clear-cut formula to when you feel better and often the process is not linear. There may be days where you feel confident and sassy, and others where you don’t want to leave the house and will happily park yourself on the couch for a Netflix binge session of The Office.

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Many people ask me, how do I get through this?

1.      Stay busy reconnecting with yourself.

We are most vulnerable after a relationship ends. Depending on the specifics of your break up, your self-worth and self-confidence can become a little damaged after an end to a relationship and as a result, you feel very fragile. During this vulnerable time, the key to your success is going to be getting to know yourself again. Reconnecting with hobbies and people that empower you. Staying busy engaging in HEALTHY activities.

Always wanted to try stand up paddle board yoga? Now is your time to do it. You see, every time we engage in sometime new, there are little chemical changes that happen in the brain. Typically, a release of dopamine, our “get happy” chemicals are released and on an emotional level, you feel empowered and a sense of confidence or “I did it!” occurs. Very healing for vulnerability and improving self-confidence.

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Speaking to the sense of loss that is often felt after a dissolution of a relationship, a common experience is anhedonia, which is a symptom of depression. Anhedonia is the experience of not feeling interested or deriving a sense of pleasure from activities that once brought you such.

Of course, it is realistic to allow yourself to have “down days” and maybe even a little two-hour pity party every now and again, but ultimately, it is up to you to bring yourself out of those feelings of despair. Remembering that you are in control of yourself and your thoughts is very powerful.

So you signed up for an art class when you were feeling good? Yet today is the day of the class and you feel totally down and depressed? This is the time to push through and engage in something that will bring you out of your current negative state of mind…if you don’t control your mind and your thoughts, then they will control you. Force yourself to get moving, take a shower, and attend that class. You may end up engaging in a creative outlet that inspires you to keep pressing on, giving you purpose throughout this time of discomfort after a break up.

2.      Take a break from dating.

I encourage individuals after a break up to take a time out. To take time to reconnect with themselves and wait a period of time before getting back out there. As stated previously, after a relationship, humans tend to be very vulnerable and this is when we are most often accepting of another relationship that is less than what we deserve—all so that we can avoid feeling lonely.

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The phrase “the best way to get over someone is by getting under someone else” is false! All that you are doing is pacifying yourself, giving yourself a temporary reprieve from the heartache you feel by becoming involved with someone new and opening up your vulnerable self before that sense of confidence and self-worth has been truly reestablished.

While human beings are biologically social creatures, you must be able to stand alone and be happy with yourself before becoming involved with another person. Being independent is probably one of the most empowering experiences you can have. To know that you don’t need anyone else is a testament to your ability to be self-sufficient and okay just “being”. Try it… Remembering that you must learn to look inwards and to your Higher Power for validation instead of relying on other people to give you your sense of self-worth.

“If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove to them that you can survive without them.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

3.      Keep your lifestyle healthy.

In order to function at our best capacity, we must eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of rest. Refraining from using alcohol is also a necessity when you are already down.

Alcohol is a depressant and what most people do not realize is that when you drink, you are literally depressing your central nervous system! It’s no wonder people become emotional when they are drinking and even feel down the day after, you have just consumed a depressant.

So watch what you are putting in your mouth after a break up. If you’re feeling depressed, alcohol will only compound that feeling. Not too mention that inhibitions become lowered and you are more likely to engage in behaviors that you wouldn’t otherwise engage in if you were sober. i.e. texting/calling your ex to lament your relationship and ask that they come back, sleeping with someone that you wouldn’t otherwise want to sleep with, lashing out at a friend because you already feel sad and drinking just allows those mean comments to come out more easily— these are just a few of the many things that can happen when you’re under the influence.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to live a healthy life, eating healthy foods that will help nourish your mind and get plenty of rest to allow your brain to heal from the trauma of a break up.

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Bringing it all together…

With all of this information, I encourage you to find what works for you in your life after a relationship ends. Whether you were married and you’re at the divorce stage, or you dated someone for a year and thought they’d be the one, only to find out that they weren’t who you thought they were, take comfort in knowing that the pain you feel will eventually subside.

Be gentle with yourself during this time. Recognize your strengths and the pieces of you that you could improve upon but watch out for those negative, self-deprecating thoughts! Seek out a therapist to help you through this time and to gain better perspective of who you are and what you have to offer the world.

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Although the length of recovery time differs from person to person, marked by periods of highs and lows, you will be able to recognize when you truly get your happy back. Practicing reconnecting with yourself, taking a break to stand on your own two feet and be independent, and living a very healthy lifestyle will all aid in your recovery process.

Always remember that no matter what, you are worthy of finding a partner in life that is your other half. A partner who treats you the way that you deserve and encourages you to be the best version of yourself. You are a unique being with plenty of characteristics and positive traits to offer the world.

Focus on the relationship you have with yourself, and the rest will follow.

Wishing you healthy relationships with others and most importantly yourself, today and everyday,

Rachel Ann