Cue a major eye roll from our friends in stable relationships when we make excuses for a sub-par partnership. “But he texts me back most of the time!” “He tells me I’m pretty when we are in bed together!” “Sometimes he opens the door for me!” We have likely been there at some point in our younger years, but when is it time to start giving stock to some reasonable expectations?
Michelle Afont, relationship expert, divorce lawyer, and multi-published author whose most recent work is The Dang Factor, refers to this bare minimum as a relationship deficit. She acknowledges that “letting go of the tiniest morsel of love and affection can be extremely difficult” when we are so conditioned to operating in this kind of love deficit.
We may have developed this mindset early on, from relationships with our parents. Or maybe we let it happen in our first few romantic encounters, and we’ve automatically acclimated ourselves to this kind of treatment meaning real love. “We tend to tolerate feeling undervalued and unappreciated because of fear, perceived desperation, and quite frankly, timing,” Afont shares. That is, “fear of not finding someone else, and a feeling of romantic hopelessness elevates our tolerance of bad behavior from our partner.”
The first step? No more excuses. Try seeing things for what they are, honestly, with yourself. Ask your trusted friends’ opinion. Decide if what you have is enough to sustain you, or if you’re settling, always waiting for something more.
Secondly, self-love up. “We cannot let our lowest points attract our lowest relationships. That is why it is so important to get yourself to your highest point before you begin to date so that you attract the highest relationship. Low attracts low. At our low points, we settle for that low partner, and consider him as being our equal, when in fact, he is not.”
Afont illuminates the fact that we choose what we deserve. “To be valued and appreciated feels good and elevates our being. If we are 100% willing to be with someone who undervalues us, then we are in essence saying, ‘This is who I am capable of attracting.’ We accept this because we truly feel this is our worth. The key is embracing what you bring to the relationship and the standards you set from this point forward.”
It’s really an act of conditioning. We set patterns for ourselves that are constantly being repeated. Afont makes this clear by saying that most often, our last relationship sets the mindset for our future relationships. “If you have accepted feeling undervalued, chances are, you will accept the same behavior in your next relationship. When people say, ‘Why does she always date losers?’ it is because she truly only feels worthy of that level of partner. We must teach ourselves the value we bring to our relationships.”
If you’ve been feeling a little taken for granted in your current long-term commitment, we aren’t saying to throw in the towel. Afont encourages communication with our partners, and giving them a chance to see and validate our feelings and the opportunity to grow from it. If the love is real, then shifting their awareness is totally possible.
However, if you’re currently single with a path of low-hanging fruit in your wake, maybe it’s time to begin the shift yourself. “Your path forward hinges on the path behind you. In other words, your past relationships, and the standards you have accepted in the past, will set the stage for your future.”