Should Women Lower Their Standards?

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We get conflicting messages as women as when to lower our standards and when not to.  Sometimes, as little girls, we are told that we are princesses who must never give up and hold out for our knight in shining armor, so that’s what we do, passing up other choices along the way until we meet this imagined savior.  Other times, we are told we shouldn’t be so picky and to accept what comes our way, leading to disastrous consequences.  Because of these mixed messages, it can be hard to know what should really happen.  The truth is that we should do both.  When it comes to our expectations of a partner and relationship, we should lower our expectations if someone doesn’t quite fit the mold of who we were expecting.  If we hold out for that knight on a white horse all of our lives, we may be waiting a long time.  The truth is that most of us have some emotional baggage and/or hang-ups from our childhoods that define who we are, so that means no one is perfect and it will be hard to find someone that is. We are all persons who are constantly learning, coping with past hurt, and  hoping for a better outcome.

However, when it comes to our standards for how we should be treated by a partner and in a relationship, we should never lower those standards.  We most hold steadfast to our beliefs in how we should be treated and never expect less.  When we do lower them, we do not know it, but we are agreeing to a contract where the other person sees that less is expected of them and may treat us worse.  The worst part of this is that as young women, most of us do not know what standards we should be holding, so we blindly go through relationships until we figure out what we like and don’t like and what we can accept and what we can’t.  As parents, it is crucial to instill standards in all of our children at a young age to help them through their journey.  This starts with having standards for yourself and what you are willing to do with your own life.

Above all else, it is the standards that we set for ourselves that should matter more than anything else.  If we can’t even live up to our own standards, how can we expect someone else to live up to them?  And if we fall, we must learn to forgive ourselves as well, because many women are trapped in a cycle of guilt and remorse that doesn’t allow them to move on.  So what standards should we have for ourselves?  They can be as simple as watching how we speak about others and how we treat them.  When we can achieve our own standards, we will begin to understand how we allow others to treat us.  If we see ourselves as worthy, we know we should be treated as such.  Not all of us are looking for a mate, but if we are, we must remember to lower our standards in regards to what we expect them to be, but never in terms of how they treat us.

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Ladies, Stop Mothering Your Boyfriends

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Recently, I was discussing online the topic of handling a boyfriend or husband who isn’t motivated to succeed.  Multiple women saw it as their duty to try to reform their better halves and strongly encourage them to change their lives for the better because they wanted the unit as a whole to succeed.  However, most of these women didn’t realize that when they overstep the boundary of simply encouraging their boyfriends to actively trying to get them to move on, they are no longer treating their boyfriends as a partner but a child.  When women can’t accept that their mates don’t want anything more and are content at where they are after years and years of trying to persuade them, they are wasting their time, patience, and the relationship in the feat.  Does this mean we should never encourage our partners?  Absolutely not.  We should always encourage them to be and do better, but what we want is different than what we expect.  If we want better for our spouses, that is one thing, but to expect better means we are in for a world of hurt when they don’t live up to our expectations.

Women have been wired to be nurturers and to love unconditionally and that is the definition of what a mother does.  Mothers nurture their children and love them unconditionally so that when girls grow up to be women, they somehow think that is how they should love their boyfriends, but that is not the case.  When women do this, they relegate their spouses to the role of children and become increasingly disillusioned with the relationship, thinking that they are always doing more than their fair share when in fact they are taking on more than they should, causing them to despise the other.  Every non-parental relationship should be based on conditional love and clear boundaries.  As women, we tend to lose who we are in helping others and in the end, we resent those that we help if we don’t practice self-care.  When we enter into relationships, we must be aware of the rules of the relationship and how we are willing to help our mates.

Oftentimes, we as women do not really know what we want out of a mate until we date a few men and understand what it is that we want.  At that point, we may already be with someone that we aren’t willing to leave and realize that they are not as ambitious as we’d like.  So what do we do?  We constantly encourage them.  We go out of our way to remind them of things they have to do to better themselves.  We seek out opportunities for them that they may not have sought.  We do this because we want to shape them into the man we want them to be, but have we ever accepted them for who they are?  If your boyfriend is receptive to your advice, that is great, but if he is unwilling to change after many years, he will only see your advice as nagging and resent you for not accepting him.  What is at risk of being hurt here is not our futures, but our expectations.  We may have expected too much out of someone who has always told us who they were, but we refused to listen.  Instead, we saw them for who they could be and remained for that reason.

So how do you stop mothering your boyfriend?  Rein in your own expectations of him and the relationship.  Your wants and needs are important and if they are important enough that he can’t meet them, perhaps you are not in the right relationship.  Sometimes, we as women blame our boyfriends for not growing, when in fact we had the choice to leave all along.  Oftentimes, people only change when they are forced to, so we see many exes blossoming into who we’ve always wanted them to be afterwards, but that change must come at the price of us leaving.  What if you are committed to staying?  Have a frank discussion with him and what you want for him.  If he doesn’t agree, you must honor his wishes; for to simply bulldoze over his wishes and blindly continue on your quest to push him towards greatness is quite like that of an overzealous mother.  And yet, we don’t see it that way.  We see it as love, but love is not pushing someone to do what they don’t want to do.  You may have good intentions, but if he doesn’t see that, it doesn’t matter.

When you rein in your own expectations, there will be less disappointment and grief on your end.  You will spend less time worrying about if he is doing the right thing and more time on enjoying the relationship.  Remember that the more duties you take on in a relationship, the more you will mentally suffer, so lessen your burden if there is nothing you can do to control the situation.  I had an ex who constantly woke up late for his job and I didn’t make it my job to wake him up on time.  His mother chastised me for not doing it as I lived with him and I retorted that I was not his mother.  She immediately sat back and realized the importance of my words.  If it wasn’t my duty to wake him up in the morning, I didn’t have to worry about him getting to work on time.  If it was my duty, I would’ve been very upset every morning.  I let it be known that I refused to mother him in this way and it was his responsibility to get up in time for work.  There were definitely other issues that led to the end our relationship, but in this small way, I refused to be his mother and agreed only to be his partner.

It may sting to try to only be their partner because so much of what happens in their life affects us, but we must realize what we are giving up to try to mother them.  We are giving up our time, piece of mind, and patience.  Then, we will have less patience for other areas in our lives.  In the end, we are really just adjusting our expectations and setting boundaries that we never knew to establish because we’ve always felt as if it were our duty to do these things.  A partner complements you and we may want certain things from them, but we should never expect them if the person has already told us they cannot do those things.  And above all else, if our needs are not being met, we must answer to ourselves before we do to them.

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How To Let Down Your Guard

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Someone asked how you let someone in after a considerably hard break up.  How do you break down your wall and allow another person to truly see you?  The real question is not how to let your guard down, but how do I overcome this hurt that impacted me so greatly.  Once we tackle that question, the first one becomes much easier.  After a break up, we punish ourselves for feeling the way we did.  We think that we made a mistake in letting someone into our most inner spaces, so we push others out.  On the surface, we are upset and angry, but internally, we are deeply hurt and sad.  Thus, it is easier to blame our choices rather than accept what happened to us.

This hurt can be so tremendous that we build walls that no one can scale, but the truth is that the wall only exists so that we never can blame or hurt ourselves again.  In the end, we are the ones who lose out.  So how do we accept what happened to us instead of blaming our choices?  We need to own our own actions and what brought us into that situation, but also recognize that there were things we could not control.  This will allow us to have a fresh perspective on our experiences and guide us towards peace, for peace is acceptance of what you can’t change.  Speak to the other person as if they were there or write them a letter and never mail it.  Talk about your pain.  Acknowledge your guilt and shame and then ultimately, learn to forgive yourself.For when we blame our choices, we tend to shy away from making them again in the future or constantly think about if we made the right choice.  However, if we can learn to accept what happened, we can slowly move on.

If we choose not to acknowledge the pain we have endured, they become chains that we carry with us into each new relationship and interaction, always hindering us from seeing with fresh eyes.  We can let this hurt destroy and change us into someone we don’t recognize or understand all because we can’t process the hurt.  Pain happens, but we must acknowledge it and move forward in order to grow.  If not, we will always remain hurt and scared.  At the surface, we may lash out in anger or internally, we may always feel a sorrow that never goes away.  We are quick to ask how we can move on, but we don’t ask how we can deal with the pain, because the process of that is much harder than simply letting your guard down.

Success Should Change You

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If someone actually reaches fame, fortune, or success, those around them may say that it has changed them and that they are not the same anymore.  This is meant to be disparaging to the individual, but what they don’t know is that success should change a person.  Actually, what is happening is that the individual in question hasn’t really changed, but the nature of their relationship with others have changed.  One might say that it shouldn’t change at all and have no impact on relationships, but those do not understand that those things must change.  In fact, if you don’t alter relationships, you will find yourself at a disadvantage.

There are a myriad of reasons besides success that change and alter relationships, but people tend to cling on to the idea of what the relationship used to be instead of what it has progressed to now.  An example would be a mother who’s child is turning into an adult.  She may still want to treat her child as a child because that’s what she’s always done, but the child is growing up now and the nature of their relationship has changed.  The child yearns to be treated as an adult and the mother yearns for her baby, causing a chasm of how they treat each other.  Another example is when a couple gets married.  One person may want to continue living as they did before they were married and the other expects them to follow different rules but does not lay them out.  The persons themselves in both scenarios haven’t changed, but their relationships have.

As with success, it’s not that the person has changed, but their wealth or power has increased, altering every relationship they have.  If they continue on the same way, they will find that their old relationships will not survive.  To be successful is to be known and that in of itself completely changes every interaction you have with others who never knew you before.  Subtlety, it also changes your personal relationships.  Sometimes, people don’t understand this and continue going on the same way only for the relationships to fall apart.  Success can be a boon and a burden, but if boundaries are set early enough, those around you will understand that things are different now.  They may view it as if you have changed, but that is not the truth.  You are simply protecting your relationships with them.

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Mourning a Break-up: The hurt you feel

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When you go through a break-up, you will hear things like ‘You’ll laugh about this in a few years,’ and ‘You’ll find better,’ but these things are only helpful once you’ve gone through the entire experience and come out the other side.  These comments also downplay the hurt and pain you are feeling in the moment.  Sometimes, your identity is wrapped up in the relationship, so much so that when it ends, you lose who you are and your fear for the future increases because the safety net is no longer there.  With the attachment theory, partners in a relationship generally look to each other for security, comfort, and closeness.  A break-up can sometimes mean that you are completely lost and emotionally scarred, and it does not help to hear others talk about it as if it is meaningless.  These people mean well and are in correct in their assumptions that you will one day laugh about it, but they do not realize they are minimizing your pain.

There is no research on the direct correlation between break-ups and suicides, but they do happen.  Break-ups are serious and when they aren’t treated as such, there is a stigma around it where the person thinks they must also act like it doesn’t matter when they are crying for help internally.  Many people laughed at Selena Gomez for going to therapy after her break-up to Justin Bieber, but what she did shines a light on how break-ups should be viewed.  Those who scoff at these things have also gone through a break-up, but no longer remember the immediate pain that occurred, and as such, they devalue the experience of those who are currently going through it.  It affects you if you admit it or not.  Sometimes, a break up will devastate you and sometimes, it will free you, but either way, it is a loss that must be mourned.  If we don’t take the time to mourn the death of our relationships, we will never acknowledge the depth and breadth of what it once meant to us and what it means to not have it anymore.

There is nothing that will ease the pain and the process is different for everyone, but know that whatever you experience is true and real.  If it doesn’t hurt, then you weren’t investing as much as you should have into the relationship or it was already dead at that point.  Even when you leave an abusive relationship, it is odd to feel sadness because you know you shouldn’t be in it, but it’s okay to mourn it.  With abusive relationships, you still have the right to feel whatever you feel afterwards.  If you don’t process your feelings, you may be prone to enter the same type of partnership again.  Break-ups are a time for reflection: to think about who you are and what you want.  It means giving yourself time to grow into the person you want to be.  It also means giving yourself time to heal.  Keep yourself busy.  Talk to friends.  Find new activities.  Challenge yourself.  None of these things will help with the pain, but these things will keep you busy.  The key is to find a good balance between contemplation and action.  Too much of just one means you are trying to avoid the hurt.  Either the hurt of going through pain or the hurt of accepting the finality of what has happened.

There are no easy answers.  No sayings that will make everything better.  It simply hurts and it’s okay to hurt.  Talk to your friends and if you need extra help, it is okay to seek out a professional.  The best thing you can do is to take care of your mental health.  Just take it one day at a time and don’t give up.  Sometimes when we break up, we come up with ‘what if’ scenarios.  What if I never find anyone else again?  Face that fear.  Answer that question.  What if you never find anyone again?  One day, you will be able to answer  with ‘I’ll be okay, then,’ and you’ll know you’re on the other side, but until then, don’t let others or yourself minimize your pain.

 

The Abusive Gentleman

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I once had an ex who never once laid a hand on me because he was taught that a gentleman would never do such a thing, and as such, he considered himself a gentleman. He did, however, emotionally abuse me.  He had never learned not to emotionally abuse someone and although this was ultimately his failing and not his parents, it persisted in our relationship because I was also never taught to reject emotional abuse and recognize it for what it was.  For me, I was always fiercely vocal about my opinions and let him know when he did something wrong like punch a hole in the wall or yell at me in front of strangers like I was a child.  Because I thought I addressed the situation, I didn’t see myself as being emotionally abused and he had no idea that is what he was doing.

Emotional abuse can take many forms, and in my case, he was very verbal in telling me how I did things wrong, how I needed to conform to his liking, and isolated me from others who may have told me differently.  I wanted the relationship to work so badly that I ignored all these signs and stayed, but advocated for myself as well.  I developed a small gambling habit because it took my mind off my troubles and I realize now that if it starts up again, there is something else in my life that I’m avoiding.  He was always unhappy with me, but I know now that it was because he was very unhappy with who he was and instead, projected it unto me and that he wanted to make me as miserable as he was so he could feel better about himself.  The abuse is never about the victim.  It’s about what is happening to the abuser, but they make the victim feel as if it is their fault.

I now have a son and know that this something I must teach him.  First off, emotional abuse is abuse and just because you don’t hit a woman does not mean you’re a good man if you’re still berating them.  Secondly, I think we need to teach our boys how to handle rejection, what self-reflection is, and most importantly, build their self-worth.  The truth is, many boys may have a high self-esteem in that they see themselves worthy of more, but some of them feel as if they don’t deserve it and this causes them to lash out.  They may be able to get the job or the girl because they see they are worthy of, but deep down, they may feel as if they don’t really deserve it, so they sabotage themselves by losing what they got.  Of course, not all boys are like this, but I guarantee you that the ones who are abusive are and if we don’t address this issue when they are young, it will only grow larger as they do.

A Successful Marriage is Not Important

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We hear that question a lot.  How do you have a successful marriage?  In the midst of any marriage, no two people can answer that question because a successful marriage only occurs when they are both dead and still married to each other.  A successful marriage means that you remain together through thick and thin and never part, but that shouldn’t be what we should focus on.  Instead of focusing on an enduring marriage, we should focus on if we are happy in the moment in our relationships.  Oftentimes, we may even think we are successful and there are celebrities who write books about how well their marriages are going only for the relationship to disintegrate right after the book is published.

We then ask what happened?  What happened is that relationships are organic and people and circumstances change.  We should not judge a relationship by it’s longevity, but instead what is happening in the moment with the couple.  Are you both happy?  Content?  Respectful?  If you are in that moment, that is all that matters.  For the thing is, that could all change overnight due to no fault of your own.  Does that mean that you should stay in a bad relationship for the rest of your life because that is the picture of perfection we’ve been told all our lives?  The truth is, it is better to be divorced and happy than it is to be married until you die and miserable.

People change and so do relationships and that is okay.  What isn’t okay is staying together because society tells you that is what you’re supposed to do.  A successful relationship is organic and ever changing.  If it means you separate because that is the healthy thing to do, you have completed the transition into a successful non-romantic relationship.  It’s time we start thinking about what success means to us and how it can ultimately ruin our lives if we let it consume us.  If success is vindication that you out-lived the nay-sayers, your relationship may not be as stable as you’d imagine.  However, if your definition of success depends on how you treat each other and how you value each other’s opinions and happiness, you may see that your definition is all that matters.