This is a topic that comes up often in individual and couples work in therapy. Why do we accept the love we think we deserve, and where did we get the idea that we are not worthy of a better love than the ones we currently receive. I always tell patients that you attract they type of person who is a reflection of how you are feeling about yourself at any given time. By changing how you feel about yourself, by knowing you deserve better, you will work to increase your self-esteem and self-concept, and you will end up with better people in the long run. Let's discuss some reasons this can happen, and a few ways that you can change this unhealthy cycle.
Terry Gaspard, a blogger for The Huffington Post, points out 5 important patterns showing how we accept less love than we actually deserve. These are important because they are a cycle we need to break if we are ever to be open to the type of love that we will hopefully grow to know we deserve. The current negative patterns are:
•The relationship brings you down and your significant other doesn't inspire you to do your best. Perhaps he/she is overly critical or too focused on his/her needs to be supportive of you.
•You feel you have to change yourself -- your values, goals, or dreams -- for your partner to accept you.
•You are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship. You may have hidden this from family or friends due to shame or codependency issues -- putting your partner's needs before your own.
•You've been cheated on repeatedly and keep giving him or her more chances in spite of the fact that he or she has proven to be untrustworthy.
•You sacrifice too much. Since your partner is unable to compromise, you morph into someone else to accommodate his or her expectations, needs, or desires
We have to start by breaking any family of origin issues. Often women are repeating the unhealthy cycles those experiences growing up. Whether it was seeing their dad abuse their mom, their mom not stand up to their dad, or the first time they heard their mother ask them if they can forgive their partner for something that others feel is unforgivable. This helps to form a cycle that tells the person that they do not deserve more, that this is what normal love is, and that this is what they deserve. They have to learn for themselves that this is not what a healthy relationship looks like, and that they deserve more. Another important barrier they have to break down is any thought that they are not enough, that they need to be more to be worthy of the love they want, but truly deserve. This can again be family of origin teaching this belief, but it can also be cultural as well.
Another important factor is when the person starts to really look hard at what they will and will not tolerate in a relationship. When a shift starts to take place in what they have been accepting, and what they are growing to know they deserve. This helps to build their strength, and allows them to make healthier decisions in the people they choose to surround themselves with, and makes them more likely to leave a relationship that is not meeting their emotional needs. That is empowering, the moment where the shift takes place, where the person starts to tell themselves that they know they deserve more and they act on it.
Another important piece is as we grow and change, we start to shift the image we have of ourselves. We begin our day with yoga, mantras, meditation, instead of checking e-mails, taking care of someone else's needs or putting everyone's needs before our own. We have finally given ourselves permission to make ourselves a priority. To start the day with a good tone, and carry that message throughout. Someone who can learn to make themselves a priority, and to convince themselves that they matter too, is someone who is on the road to choosing people more deserving of that type of person.
Lastly, and most importantly, so what honors and respects you. No one is going to treat you any better than you treat yourself. Set an example. Show that you make yourself a high priority, and that you know you are someone deserving of great things. This means in all areas of your life, especially your relationships. You are special, you are worthy, and you should be surrounded by people who see that and treat you with that level of respect and admiration as well. When you get to the point where you are a partnership of equals, and you are with someone who builds you up instead of breaks you down, you are finally accepting the love you deserve!