"Mostly, you gain strength when you learn to listen to your own voice and live life on your own terms." - Sara Eckel
Among my friends, I’m known as the one who never likes anyone’s boyfriend. It’s rare when I think someone is good enough for one of my friends, because I often believe they deserve so much better. I see the losers they settle for who treat them horribly, yet they defend the jerks and stay with them. At the same time, my friends often say I deserve better too. Recently I wondered why my friends think I deserve better, but don’t think they deserve better for themselves. It’s a very relatable question: Why do my loved ones deserve someone good, but I’ll settle for less? You can ask this question in regards to any kind of relationship you have in your life.
First off, when do you know when you’re settling for less? Terry Gaspard, a licensed therapist, lists five signs to tell if you are settling for less than you deserve in a relationship:
- “The relationship brings you down and your significant other doesn’t inspire you to do your best.”
- “You are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship.”
- “You’ve been cheated on repeatedly.”
- “Since your partner is unable to compromise, you morph into someone else to accommodate his or her expectations, needs, or desires.”
Virginia Clark adds that we settle because we don’t take the time to find “the one.” When we find someone who is close enough, or makes us reasonably happy, we try to make that person fit into our image of “the one” perhaps out of fear that we won’t ever truly find what we’re looking for. When we can’t find our ideal partner, we most often lower our standards to simply find a good enough relationship. When things aren’t perfect, “We go out of our way to make things easy, and in the process lose our self-respect and destroy our confidence.”
In Stephanie S. Spielman’s research, she found that people who feared being single were more likely to settle for less in relationships. She also found that people afraid of being alone will stay with unresponsive, less attractive partners. She points out that “Growing up, you probably weren’t given good examples of how to be alone.” It’s incredibly difficult for many people.
But fear of loneliness is not the only reason people accept less than what they deserve. Steven Stosny, Ph.D, who treats people for anger and relationship problems, explains how difficult it is to receive love (especially in a healthy way) when you feel unworthy of love, or unlovable. He says there is a difference to feeling entitled to love and worthy of it. We may know we need it and should have it, but that doesn’t change the way we feel about ourselves.
It’s too common I see someone accept a certain kind of treatment that they won’t allow others to accept, and not just in romantic relationships. I think it’s because they have trouble loving themselves. If you can’t love yourself, how can you accept another person's love for you? On the other hand, when you love someone, you already see that person as lovable, someone who can be loved. Therefore, you see your loved one as someone who deserves to be treated with love.
I have a friend (she’s not the only one like this), who thinks that because she can handle the abuse given to her, then she can accept it. We know ourselves much better that we know others. We know what we can handle, but we don’t know what someone else can. So, if you can handle bad treatment, you’ll continue to accept it until it breaks you. But when someone you care about is being treated badly, you don’t think about whether they can handle it or not. You just think that they don’t deserve it.
So what makes a person lovable? Stosny says that most people respond to that question “by citing qualities like kindness, consideration, concern for others, i.e., various aspects of compassion.” These are easy qualities to see in those we care about, but when we don’t love ourselves enough, these are not qualities we see in ourselves. Stosny says, “If you want to be lovable, you have to be compassionate.” Being compassionate doesn’t automatically make you feel like you can be loved, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Dr. Margaret Paul realized that her self-shame and feeling unworthy of love resulted from a helplessness to control the behavior of other people. She explained that whenever someone treated her badly, she thought it was her fault. If someone was unloving toward her, then maybe she could do something to make that person more loving. What she learned was that though she may have influence over others, she is completely helpless to their behavior. Nothing that she can do can change who they are towards her, but that doesn’t mean that she’s the one who is unworthy of love. The problem lies with the other person.
Accepting bad treatment for yourself, but not for others all comes down to how we see ourselves versus how we see those we care about. Low self-esteem is huge contributor, because it makes it so much harder to believe that you deserve better. Gaspard says, “Breaking up with someone is an act of courage,” and really, ending any kind of unhealthy relationship takes a lot of bravery. She adds that you become stronger when you end a relationship because you accepted that it doesn’t make you the best person you can be.
If you find it difficult to see what you truly deserve, then maybe it’s time you listen to those who care about you. They are seeing something for you that you can’t see for yourself. Walk away from a person or relationship you wouldn’t want your best friend to be in. Hopefully, you’ll learn to love yourself the way others love you.