Thursday, March 1, 2018

On Self-Respect in Relationships

Pic from September 2014
At my core, I'm a forgiving person. It takes a lot to push me over the edge and get me angry. My ability to be introspective & to understand myself and my feelings on an extremely deep level also allows for me to understand other people, sometimes in a way that they might not even understand themselves.

Being able to put myself in other people's shoes and see things from their perspective is very useful, but it's also fuel for making excuses for them. Perhaps I should be cutting people out of my life a lot sooner than I tend to, as I have the tendency to ignore red flags until there's a lot of them... but the truth is, I like to see the best in people.

I feel that I have changed and grown a lot as a person, and I really value the people that stuck with me through my less-than-inspiring phases. Perhaps I feel that I would like to be that for someone else. Perhaps my incessant chance-giving personality is actually coming from a selfish place.

I remember the first time I actually felt the sharp pain of disrespect in a relationship. 

I had stuck through over a year of red flags. I dated a "wonderful" man that didn't value my company. He resented my presence as if it prevented him from having friends and a social life. He buried his insecurities and blamed them on me. He made me feel guilty for "leaving him" and going home for holidays. He demanded we go on "a break" over Summer so he could truly enjoy himself, and then took it all back when he realised he wasn't able to have the fun he wanted, even though I wasn't there to "prevent" him. He blamed my love for all that he was lacking.

I knew that none of it was actually my fault and that he was just projecting, so I used my ability to understand him as an excuse for his behaviour. But then, he disappeared.

I didn't hear from him for 2 weeks. After over a year together, forgiving him through all the hurtful things he did and said, he ghosted me. Not one text. I suppose he was used to my relentless love and understanding, because when I confronted him, he made all the excuses for himself that I usually would have.

It was too late.

You see, things change very quickly for me. I forgive, and I forgive, and I forgive, until I have nothing left in me to forgive anymore. My ability to understand & let things go slowly bottles up until I have 200 fair-enough reasons to be done, and then I'm done. I suddenly wanted him to love & respect me the way that I deserved, but why would he? I let him take me for granted for that long, nothing was about to change overnight.

I really loved him. Nowadays, I'm able to admit that he was the first and only person that I truly loved up until last year. 7 years is a long time to be hung up on someone. Through other relationships, moving countries, changing universities and having 0 contact with him, he was still the person that I compared everyone to. I still wondered how he was doing and fought the urge to get back in touch with him every day.

* There is so much more to this story - and maybe one day I will share it.

I find it pretty difficult to stand up for myself and demand to have my feelings taken into consideration in a relationship. My main focus is my partner's happiness and I am willing to bend over backwards for them. What I have learned is that you cannot do that for someone that doesn't do it for you in return. If you're always looking out for someone else, who is going to look out for you?

It took me years to really learn this and to prioritise my self-respect above all else. Looking out for yourself & demanding the same level of consideration and respect is not a bad or selfish thing. It is absolutely necessary. It does not make you a "crazy girlfriend" or "needy" to expect the most basic level of communication and emotional availability.

There is only so much you can give someone, while receiving nothing in return, before you burn yourself out. Learning to put my own self-respect before my love for someone else has been the hardest & longest lesson I have ever had to learn in my whole life.

I think I'm pretty good at it nowadays, but I still slip up sometimes.

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