My punch line when my girlfriends tell me about men treating them poorly: “You deserve better”.
I am the guru of self-empowerment when it comes to giving other women advice on how they should be treated by the men in their lives.Literally, I can hear myself say “Gurl, you need to give him the flip because he ain’t good for you”. But you know what they say, right? Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Well, I am the embodiment of that saying when it comes to a particular man in my life. You know that initial moment in romantic comedies where girl meets boy? Like when Matthew McConaughey rescues Jennifer Lopez from being hit by a wayward bin in The Wedding Planner. I thought I had one of those magical moments at the start of last year.
This is why being an eternal romantic sucks, because a simple hello becomes a sign of ‘Oh, it’s meant to be’, when in actuality, it really is just a‘hello’. I don’t know what it was he did or said but I tripped and fell, dare I say, head over heels. Normally, being captivated by a seriously handsome guy isn’t something I would complain about. However, my captor did not know how to treat me with the respect that I deserved: dates were planned an hour in advance, cancellations occurred last minute, there was no appreciation of my efforts and having a conversation was like solving a riddle. Regardless, I put up with it. I was convinced that underneath this ‘asshole’ façade was a good man with a good heart. Needless to say, I eventually came to the realisation that even doormats were treated better than I was, and that tears were frequently spilled for a guy who, at every opportunity, made me feel pathetic.
Dating him took a toll on me psychologically. Being someone who is semi-confident in myself I started travelling backwards, with his behaviour defeating and diminishing my self-worth. Obviously, he was treating me poorly because I wasn’t good enough, right?
Here I was, an attractive, kind and successful 24 year old aspiring for greatness, allowing someone to make me feel exactly the opposite: small and insignificant. His inability to see my worth did not mean that I had none. I wasn’t the problem. But I had a solution. And the solution involved me walking away.
The end of that experience allowed me to regain my sense of my self-confidence and self-worth. But it wouldn’t be exciting if he didn’t reappear again would it?
Six months later he was back wanting see me because “it had been too long…”. I was a sucker for giving people second chances and it just so happened I had a soft spot for him…so we went out for dinner. That date was so convincingly good that it easily fell in my top three (yes, I do keep records). I was hopeful, PRAYING, that this time around things would be different, that he wouldn’t be fickle and reckless with my heart. Truth is, most people don’t change. They make small adjustments. That was what had happened in this situation; he had made minor adjustments thinking that it was going to be enough to get me across the finish line. But, when you care about someone, when you sincerely harbor feelings for them, minor just doesn’t cut it.
We dismiss men who behave like him as being stereotypical ‘assholes’. In such situations it’s only fair to assume such sentiments, however, if you were to dig beyond the surface you would learn there is more than meets the eye. Upon reflection what I observed was that, behind the last minute cancellations, the inability to communicate and the constant use of “maybe” and “hopefully” was a man imbedded with fear and insecurity. His insecurities were so ingrained within his sense of self that he feared being vulnerable to someone else. By abusing my sincere feelings towards him, it allowed him to feel temporarily dominant, powerful. In reality, it seems that what he struggled with most was power within himself.
Louise Hay wrote “I love myself, therefore, I behave in a loving way to all people”. What I took from this quote was that when one does not cherish, love and respect themselves they simply cannot reciprocate these feelings to others. Often, these individuals are absorbed by the negativity of their past and caged by regret. Their inability to let go of the past keeps them from moving forward.
As a woman, I believed it was a demonstration of commitment and love to tolerate his disparaging behaviour and to give him the opportunity to redeem himself by forgiving and forgetting his prior faults. In the course of this relationship, I neglected the fact that caring for someone else did not mean that I should also stop caring for myself, and that if I wanted to care for myself, I needed remove myself from future harm or hurt.
Although it is ingrained in me to do good and help others, what this experience has taught me is that I cannot help those that do not want to be helped. I cannot fix someone or teach them to love themselves. And I most certainly cannot fall victim to their emotional release when they’re going through their own process of self-discovery OR self-destruction.
I am a person and I too deserve to be treated with love and respect. Just like everyone else I am worthy of that and if not more.