I saw a quote posted somewhere the other day that proclaimed You deserve what you accept. That so resonated with me. I spent a lot of time in my life lamenting the fact that I wasn’t getting what I deserved in relationships. I would rail on and on about it time after time – to my partner and to my friends. My friends would support me and assure me that indeed I did not deserve that type of treatment. One day as I was reading Melody Beattie’s words of wisdom, I read a passage in her meditation book about getting what we deserve in relationships. She said that if we go on and on about not being treated as we deserve, we probably should turn around and start convincing ourselves of that. At first that may not make much sense because you’d think I already knew that since I wouldn’t shut up about it. But, if I really knew it deep down in my bones, it was my responsibility to make some changes. I can’t change other people …. period…. slash … end of story.
What I realized is that if I accepted it, I deserved it. That was what my journey from codependency was all about. I learned to understand what was mine and what was someone else’s choice. It doesn’t mean that I’ll never be in another relationship where I don’t get perfect treatment. No relationship is perfect, and not all relationships need to be perfect. I may be in some relationships because they are fun and short-term. I may accept less than what I’d ultimately like because of the circumstances or the way I feel about the person. But, I have to know very clearly that this is MY choice. If I find myself starting to get ticked off about the way I’m treated, I really need to step back and evaluate whether my needs have changed in the relationship and if I’m still willing to accept the status quo. I can ask for what I want, but if I have to ask more than once, I have to realize that it is not going to change. I have a decision to make. Sometimes I will change the level of closeness in the relationship to compensate but the dance of disconnecting has begun. I may find that a different level of relationship with this person is palatable. Or, I may decide to walk away for good. By reacting in a way that feels comfortable to me, I can sometimes save the relationship. But the relationship will probably change. It has to. If I don’t make my own move away and instead keep nagging for change, the relationship is doomed. Then, I set up a pattern of resentments and defensiveness that is almost impossible to escape. It’s no longer healthy for either of us.
“I will not try to convince you to love me, to respect me, to commit to me. I deserve better than that; I AM BETTER THAN THAT…Goodbye.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
I think of relationships like a circle. You and I are inside this circle if we are in relationship. If we are just starting the relationship, we might step in and out of the circle to see if its comfortable. Once we both decide that this is a relationship, we both adjust the outer exterior of the circle to the extent that we feel comfortable. With some people, it’s a WIDE circle. We give each other lots of space. If I do something, there is lots of space in between us, so it doesn’t impact you as much. As we get closer, we can adjust the exterior to put us closer together. But, if you tighten it, and I don’t like it, I get to adjust it back. They say in romantic relationships the hormonal rush we get that encourages us to mate makes us feel that the boundaries between us disappear. We collapse our boundaries to get close, and we feel safe and comfortable with that even if we haven’t had the right amount of time or experience to know if we really are safe. It’s why after 3 months or so, a lot of dating relationships implode. People get really close and comfortable but then all of a sudden the hormones stop rushing, and one or the other realizes that they aren’t really safe here this close with this person. Instead of working with the adjustments, many just exit the circle. It’s too much … too soon. So, if I keep that analogy, I have to make two decisions when a relationship is not working. The first is whether or not I want to stay in a circle with this person. The second is about the amount of space I need to be comfortable. Then, the negotiations begin. The other thing I have to realize is that the other person has the same adjustments I have. And, we can’t get in a tug of war readjusting or reacting to the other person’s adjustments without causing a lot of inter-relational problems. That’s called controlling. You cannot control a relationship.
There are some things nobody deserves. Nobody deserves to be abused. I consider abusive relationships to be similar to a noose. There’s something tugging on the outside making it tighter and more restrictive until one of us dies or escapes. I personally have drawn the line where I don’t hop into circles with abusers anymore. I can interact with them, but they are not in a relationship with me. But, I know lots of people who tolerate that kind of behavior, and many who don’t even recognize it to be something intolerable. They accept it …. again … and again …. and again. The noose tightens. They are trapped. They don’t technically deserve it because I don’t think anybody does, but by the fact that they continue to choose to accept it, they are signing up for it. I know that I didn’t really believe I deserved better. I thought I deserved whatever I got, and I should be happy to have it. It was hard because I had to get out of the noose of abuse before I could dig out of the hole of low self-esteem. I had to have some stronger circles elsewhere that built me up enough to finally break free. If someone is abusive, be realistic about that. They aren’t going to listen to your pleas that you deserve better. If they could hear you, they would never have started doing it. Abusers, addicts and criminals are sick people. They are not bad people, but they are INCAPABLE of a healthy relationship due to forces that neither one of you can control. So, when they hear your plea that you don’t deserve it, they don’t even understand what you are talking about. They just hear that Charlie Brown teacher …. wah… wah .. wah …wah.. wah. You are talking to a person from a foreign land in a foreign language.
What an addict or abuser hears!
I hate it when I hear myself start arguing with somebody because I don’t like the way they are treating me. I ultimately know that the time for making choices has come. I don’t like change either. But, if I can be conscious about what I’m doing and evaluate my two questions, I might be able to save the relationship by adjusting the diameter of the circle. But, I never know how the other person will react. They may not like the extra space and want things back the way they were. The dance of disconnection is fraught with missteps. And with any new step one or the other of us may want to exit the circle. Then, the grieving process begins. The circle has dissolved. I hate that part. But, with some people it’s worth it. The atmosphere of peace and healing that comes in its aftermath is sweet. With others, the loss is very painful. Luckily, if I’ve been diligent, I’ve kept a lot of other circles going where I can rest for awhile. I may find that I tighten a few of those at this point. That’s the beauty of circles. They can easily be adjusted to fit.