How You're Keeping Yourself Single and Unhappy
By Mary R. Dittman, M.B.A.
I just wanted him to love me. But he didn’t.
My mother asked me what I wanted in the relationship and all I could come up with was, I want him to love me.
I had no concept about what I wanted from a relationship or how I wanted to feel in my own life. I just wanted a man to love me. I wanted to get married and have a family.
But I hadn’t clarified what I was willing to accept and unwilling to accept in a man and in a relationship. It seemed that the only qualification necessary to date me was that a man act like he might eventually love me. That was enough for me to hang in there.
That’s how I burned up years on relationships where I was devalued, taken for granted, and left feeling like I’d been used.
In one relationship, I tolerated a man going on and on about his ex-girlfriend and thought it was a compliment when he told me he felt like he could talk to me about anything. What I didn’t realize was that his constant monologue about the woman who’d left him meant he was thinking about her, not trying to get to know me.
I’m not alone - a lot of women think that if we’re supportive we can love a man back to wholeness. And once he’s healed, he’ll see how we’ve been there for him and he’ll love us and value us and be loyal to us. That’s why it’s so devastating when he leaves and marries someone else.
We think we’re being loving and long-suffering, but we’re actually devaluing ourselves and making it impossible for a man to respect us. Men don’t respect us if we don’t even respect ourselves enough to not be a dumping ground for all of his garbage.
You may not realize that you are devaluing yourself, but here are three ways you are doing just that:
1. You lack standards or you routinely waive your standards.
For years, I had a list. You know - this list of what your soulmate would be like. The problem was, I would routinely deviate from the list.
A friend of mine is a flight attendant, and she told me that the pre-flight checklist includes “Go / No Go” items. For example: flat tire (No Go). Low oil pressure in an engine (No Go). No running water in the lavatory (Go - put some hand sanitizer in there). A pilot doesn’t look at the checklist and figure that since everything else is fine, that flat tire is manageable. But that’s exactly what I would do in relationships! (By the way - you can read more about having standards here.)
When you lower your standards, you are basically putting yourself on the discount rack. So don’t expect a man to step up and treat you like a queen - you just devalued yourself and knocked yourself off your throne.
For a year, I dated a man with a drinking problem. I thought once we were married and he was totally over his divorce, he wouldn’t drink so much. Later, I heard a college student saying that her date showed up at her dorm room to take her out and he was drunk. Her response: “Are you drunk?! You need to leave, and I won’t be going out with you ever - I don’t date men who are drunk in my presence.” I was impressed and embarrassed; here was a woman at least 25 years my junior who had a perfectly reasonable standard for how a man should behave with her.
2. You make excuses for disrespectful behavior.
I used to excuse my boyfriend’s drinking by saying “that’s what the guys do when they’re golfing all day.”
Another man I dated would routinely be late picking me up. I didn’t want to seem difficult or negative, so I’d say I understood. That was true - I understood he was late, but I had a problem with it. And, of course, I was training him to continue to be late because I was demonstrating that I was okay with it.
3. You don’t use your words.
This used to be a major problem for me. Because I didn’t want to come across as bitchy or negative or controlling, I wouldn’t set boundaries and speak up clearly. Then I would be confused as to why a man thought he could treat me so poorly.
But here’s the truth: people don’t know what our boundaries are if we don’t communicate them.
Here’s what I should have done with Mr. Tardy All the Time: when he called saying he would be 30 minutes late, I should have told him we’d reschedule. I could have left and not been there when he got to my house.
For Dr. Drinker, I should have adopted the young woman’s script: when he called me or showed up slurring his words, I should have sent him away. When he got drunk in my presence, I should have left - even if that meant calling a cab or an Uber.
The reason we tolerate and participate in behavior that devalues us is because we don’t want to make the other person feel bad. They’re probably not trying to hurt us intentionally, we rationalize, so don’t take their behavior as a personal attack.
But, why is it okay for YOU to be upset, and not for the other person to be upset, when it’s HIS behavior that’s the problem?
Contrary to what you see on television, a man who has been allowed to devalue you and mistreat you will not suddenly see you as high-value a few years down the road. If he has been allowed to disrespect you, he doesn’t not feel respect for you and that will not change unless you interrupt the pattern.
Much like a schoolyard bully who won’t leave the nerd alone until the nerd punches the bully in the nose, a man who doesn’t respect you will only start respecting you once you respect yourself. And that starts with not tolerating HIS disrespectful behavior.
Will he pitch a fit when you put your foot down? Count on it. From there, he’ll either leave (you’re better off) or he’ll realize you’re better than he is, which makes you valuable to him, and therefore more desirable.
Ask yourself: are you being unreasonable? It’s not unreasonable to expect someone to be on time for a date, to be sober, and to refrain from talking about other women during a date with you.
Respect yourself and require that others do the same.
Respecting yourself and expecting others to do the same is part of what I call the One-Derful Life: being truly happy and peaceful even though you want a relationship, and even though you don't have one.
Because you ALWAYS have a relationship with yourself!
Before I forget - if you need some help getting over a broken heart, check out my ABC's of healing. You'll be on your way to a One-Derful Life!
What are some of your standards that demonstrate self-respect?
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