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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The truth can be scary: 7 ways to know you’re not ready for a new relationship

Are you wondering if you’re ready for a relationship? 7 quick ways to make that judgment

So you’re contemplating the start of a new relationship? Before you jump in head (or should I say heart) first, take a mental inventory to see whether or not relationship haunts of past are looming over your shoulder.

I’ve heard people say, “With this relationship, I’ll be different! I won’t make the same mistakes of my past”. So I’ll ask, “What kind of mistakes did you make?” to only be met with wide eyes, silence, and a face that looks like the pondering emoticon.

Definition is clarity.

If you’re at that place of uncertainty, here are the top 7 indicators that you need to put the brakes on starting your next relationship:

1. You have not waited a sufficient amount of time before ending your last relationship and starting your next.

I can’t quantify an exact number, but you know deep down if you’re ready or not. Ending a year-long relationship and then starting one within a week after the break up is not a sufficient amount of time.

In order to move forward, you must heal from the past. Relational splits can be difficult. Our brains need time to let go and form a new relationship with ourselves. Taking the time to get to know your new single self and stand alone is one of the healthiest things you can do.

“One of the best times for figuring out who you are & what you really want out of life? Right after a break-up.” ― Mandy Hale

2. You’re not over your ex.

Look, I wouldn’t have written this one if I haven’t heard it time and time again. Becoming involved with a new person is not going to cause you to get over your ex faster! Using your new love interest as a distraction technique is a disservice to them and a lazy, superficial way for you to attempt to move on.

Beginning something new does not erase your past. It can help alleviate some pain, but it’s a band-aid that will quickly fall off if bumped too hard.

3. You use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.

Whether you’re drinking your pain away with alcohol, smoking 5 J’s [joints] a day, or shooting up heroin, substances are all the same in what they ultimately do—NUMB. I’ve heard a myriad of responses about why people abuse substances ranging from “I’m bored” to “I hate my job” to the deeper clinical issues of “I was sexually abused” but essentially the common denominator is that the use of substances provides an escape from facing something in your life.

When you use substances, your thinking becomes cloudy. Everything is cast in a different light than when you are sober. Why do you think that alcohol is called a social lubricant? It makes it easier for people to connect albeit it being a superficial connection.

Think about it: if you are struggling with substance abuse before becoming involved with someone, this is a tell-tale sign that you’re not ready for the ups and downs of a relationship. Substances become a crutch for when the going gets tough and if you can’t handle stress while sober, then there’s a good chance that you will not be able to clear-headedly and transparently handle relationship stress that arises.

4. You go into the relationship with the expectation (or hidden agenda) that your partner will finance your life.

Please don’t get me wrong, I know that when you get married, or begin a partnership with someone, the finances will be evaluated. There should be discussion (from the beginning) about how much each person will contribute and what the budget is.

I’m referring to the mindset of marrying for money. You become involved with someone for financial security, quit your job, and swear that you are now a ‘kept’ man or woman. Unless that is the understanding in your relationship, then this is completely unfair to your partner.

We are all adults. We should be taking care of ourselves and when we do meet someone, we should be confident in our ability to care for ourselves. What happens if your partner decides to leave you and you don’t have a penny to your name or decided to drop out of college because your lover was there and you “just didn’t need to work so hard anymore”?

Life happens. People leave one another. It is a sad and hard truth but it is a truth. If you’re unable to support yourself and go into the situation where you’re expecting to be cared for completely in the financial department—then take a step back. You’re not ready to be in a relationship.

You must learn how to take care of yourself independent of anyone, first. Financial independence is freeing and your level of self-efficacy/belief in yourself raises exponentially when you’re able to provide for yourself.

5. You’re insecure to the point it affects your daily living.

We all struggle with moments of insecurity but usually the clinical rule of thumb on whether or not something is a diagnosable issue is whether or not it’s impacting your life and your ability to carry out your daily functioning.

Do you depend on other people for validation of how wonderful you are, unable to realize your value on your own [read self-worth]?

Do you struggle with liking who you are as a person and does this affect your ability to interact with others?

Do you focus more on your outward appearance than you do on cultivating your soul’s appearance?

If you answered yes to those questions then insecurity may be an inhibiting visitor in your life that is taking up the space that a healthy, potential lover could be. Hold off on starting the new relationship and focus on the development of self-esteem and knowing your worth in the world.

 “As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.” ― Nic Sheff

6. You don’t know what you will and will not accept in a relationship.

There are the main non-negotiables that I mentioned in my previous post (#Relationshipgoals we should all strive for, 6 non-negotiables traits), but how about the day-to-day interactions that occur that essentially teach another person how to treat you?

Bringing it to life: you’re home on a Saturday night, when your new suitor or suitress texts you. It’s 11:30 and you’ve got your jammies on and are about to call it a night…they ask what you’re doing and do you want to hang out? Would you respond or would you ignore it? I’ve seen men and women respond in various ways but more often than not, the people who allowed the person to come over never had a lasting relationship with the other person.

Figure out what your boundaries are. You teach another person how you want to be treated by allowing them to behave in certain ways with you. When someone is truly interested in you, they will meet you where you’re at and treat you the way you expect to be treated.

Before reacting on a situation, always think about what message you’re sending by allowing it to happen or conversely, not happen.

You are in charge of what you will and will not accept in a relationship.

7. You’ve never owned a pet.

Aright, you can laugh. This one is a bit optional but the validity is there. You will learn so much about yourself when you own a pet. Gone are the days of going out after work, instead it’s “I’ll meet you guys there in 30, I have to go let my dog out!” No more staying the night out unexpectedly, because you now have a little furry buddy that is dependent on you to be fed, let out, and taken care of.

Owning a pet equates to having an added voluntary level of responsibility.

Taking on a new relationship is also usually an added voluntary level of responsibility. Relationships with both your pet and your human have to be nurtured. And owning a pet can be a great precursor to knowing how to show up when you say you will and just step outside of yourself and care for another being.

Tying it all together…

The start of a new, healthy relationship has the potential to be one of the most beautiful experiences in your life! However, in order for a new relationship to be successful, you must deal with inner demons, making sure that you are healed from your past and are currently living a healthy existence. One that is free from inhibiting insecurity, substance abuse, and turning a blind eye to unacceptable treatment from others.

You are worthy of finding your other half. But when you meet them, I encourage you to take responsibility and action in being the best version of yourself that you can be.

 

New day, new opportunities for growth!

 

Wishing you a healthy relationship with yourself and others today and every day,

Rachel Ann