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?


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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#Relationshipgoals we should all strive for, 6 non-negotiable traits

I met a couple that has been married for 50+ years. As I do with almost all couples that I meet that have made their relationship stand the test of time, I asked them, “What’s the secret?”

They looked at each other and smiled. “Respect” said the woman. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” said the man. “If you can do those two things,” said the woman, “Your relationship will outlive most”.

We live in an era where we are encouraged to have relationships, yet we aren’t encouraged to work hard at them. With the plethora of online dating sites, movies and television shows that chronicle divorce, and general message that ‘if you don’t like them, just bail’—where is a person to turn? Not every relationship is sustainable—any form of abuse is not acceptable and the situation should be ended. However, going through the muck of a non-abusive relationship is part of being in a relationship.

Everyone carries with them their own set of baggage. Our fears and insecurities. Throw in the stresses of life and you can easily form a recipe for disaster. Being the healthiest person that you can be and choosing the healthiest partner for yourself is key to success.

What should you look for in a partner? Here are the 6 non-negotiables that should always be in place no matter what…

1.      Your partner should be your biggest fan.

Choose someone that encourages your dreams and supports your vision for your life. So you finally want to start that home daycare? Maybe write a book? How about open up that bakery or go back to school and get your degree? Your partner should be encouraging of you every step of the way. If you have the means to carry out your dream, it’s within reason, and it’s a healthy move for you—your partner should be happy because you are happy. Your partner may like you, but do they truly believe in you and cheer you on?

2.      Your partner should be respectful.

Just like the wise woman in the 50 year marriage said, respect is key. Respect manifests itself in so many ways but above all, your partner should revere you enough so that you know that you are important to them and you make valuable contributions to their life.

Let’s bring this point to life: you go to work where you are well-liked and people come to you for problem solving assistance. Your boss tells you all the time that your work ethic is exemplary and that it sets you apart from others. When you go home however, your significant other tells you that you’re lazy because you didn’t make the bed. Then there is criticism about the meal you just prepared. What a juxtaposition of two worlds that don’t seem to match. Your partner should admire and appreciate you no matter your lousy cooking or lack of bed-making. Respect looks past those trivial shortcomings and recognizes who you are on the inside.

“Life is too short to waste your time on people

who don’t respect, appreciate, and value you.” 
Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart


3.      Your partner should be who they say that they are.

The truth always comes out! Typically the average person can only be “on their best behavior” for 3-6 months. Sometimes the time frame is shorter, sometimes longer. If your partner tells you one thing about themselves and then does another, pay attention.

“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”
Maya Angelou


4.      Your partner should be honest (and faithful).

The truthfulness factor is a no-brainer but I’ve been surprised by how much people will turn their heads when it comes to this one! Telling the truth can be difficult when it comes to certain subjects. However, truth-telling is essential in a relationship. How can you have a healthy relationship based on respect when your partner is unable to be honest with you? Relationships only become more difficult (and rewarding!) as time passes, but if the lack of honesty is there in the beginning, this is a major red flag.

“Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.”
Confucius, The Analects


5.      Your partner should celebrate who you are as a person.

Out of all the people in the world, you and your partner chose each other. This means something! Your partner should not have a hidden agenda of desiring to change you. Your uniqueness should be celebrated and held close to your other half’s heart. You should feel completely at ease with the other person and able to not only fully expose the real you—but be celebrated for it!

6.      Your partner should unknowingly challenge you to be a better person.

Maybe your partner has a few of the positive characteristics that you need to improve upon. Maybe they are more generous, more patient, more kind. Choose someone that causes you to want to be better, not someone that dumbs you down or causes you to do things that you know you shouldn’t.

Empower yourself and realize your worth.

If your ability to choose a healthy partner has been skewed in the past, then actively look for these positive qualities in your next significant other. Just like anything in life, some people are more adept at choosing a mate. Some just need more practice. Never accept less than what you deserve; by doing so, your self-worth will diminish over time. And no one deserves to allow a person in their lives that would diminish your worth.

“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process

of loving someone too much,

and forgetting that you are special too.”

Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women


Empowering you to be the best version of yourself today and everyday,

Rachel Ann