One of the most frequent questions I've received during my years of intuitive advising is how to exit cycles of accepting less than desirable or flat-out disrespectful behavior from others and attract healthier, more reciprocal relationships where partners feel genuinely loved and appreciated. My clients would typically ask things such as, "Why do the men I date always lie to me?" "Why do the people around me seem to take endlessly and leave me drained and depleted without ever giving thanks?" "Why does my spouse/partner/boss/relative treat me like a child and speak to me in such a condescending manner?"
The common theme is tolerating unacceptable behavior and not knowing how and where to draw the line so the behavior will shift to the appreciation they desire. Below I describe the seven most effective ways to stop settling for less than you deserve in relationships:
1. Gain awareness.
Before anything will change, it's crucial to be willing to recognize the patterns that have been on repeat so you're able to adjust your actions accordingly. Exiting denial means investing in reality versus fantasy. Self-forgiveness here may be necessary to move forward, as most people resist admitting what is happening because they feel ashamed or responsible for the abusive behavior. There is no shame in awareness. Awareness is consciousness and evolution.
2. Know your values and your needs—and be specific.
Define in crystal-clear terms what is acceptable for you to the other (e.g., "no flirting" versus "no physical touching or seductive language/body language"). It's not reasonable to expect others to read your mind, and only YOU know what you need in order to feel healthy and supported. It's up to you to get clear and then clearly express that to the appropriate parties involved.
3. Be assertive about what you need instead of begging or nagging.
When you beg or nag another to reciprocate in a relationship, what you're really showing them is that your unhappiness is dependent on what they do or say and that you aren't capable of meeting those needs on your own. In this, you are giving away your power and expecting them to do what may only be done by YOU. Happiness is an inside job. Rather than beg someone to meet your needs, meet them on your own and then express what you need from others in a confident manner, trusting that they are fully capable of and willing to provide reciprocation. If they're not, it may time to end the relationship.
This will likely require practice and/or some type of assertiveness coaching or training. The good news is, once you're in energetic alignment with your needs, new people and situations will begin entering your life easily and effortlessly (the Law of Attraction works! Like attracts like) as the old behaviors fall away.
4. Don't just make empty threats or promises.
If the boundaries you create for healthy relationships are expressed and then violated, you must be consistent in enforcing them. Flaky boundaries lead to flaky relationships. Stand firm in your needs, and do not accept anything less than or you won't be taken seriously and you'll be back at square one again.
5. Connect with like-minded individuals.
Find a mentor or a person you'd like to emulate that supports you in speaking your authentic truth: The best way to get started with this is to practice with close friends or those you trust first. If you feel the friends in your life aren't able to support you at the moment, find a celebrity or someone you admire and learn from them/study their behavior (for example, Tony Robbins said in his early days, because he had little to no support system to grow, he spent most of his spare time reading, taking educational/personal growth courses, and studying the masters in his field in great detail. He figured if he did what they did, he'd be on his way to mastery, too. I'd say it was a success!)
6. Know your "red flags."
How does your Higher, Wiser Self speak to you? We all have an internal GPS system guided by our emotions, physical sensations, and mental impressions. When you feel something is off and out of alignment for you, do you get a knot in your throat? A sinking feeling in your stomach? A vision in your mind's eye? Once you've pinpointed your unique "red flag" symptoms, if a behavior or decision doesn't feel expansive or inspiring, honor your intuition and just say no.
7. Find others to meet your needs—not just one person.
This is especially common in romantic relationships. People tend to put so much pressure on one person that the relationship begins to crumble under the stress and strain of unrealistic expectations. One person (aka your partner) cannot possibly fulfill every need of yours. Expecting them to do so is unreasonable and setting yourself up to be disappointed. For example, "I love yoga, and so therefore my partner should love yoga, too. Because if that person really loves me, they'll also love all the things that I do…" "Should" statements are conditional and setting up conditions to love/be loved is a recipe for relationship disaster. Unconditional love requires compassion, empathy, nonjudgment, and a willingness to release expectations. Find activities outside of your relationship (hobbies, groups, recreational activities) to create connection with others so that additional needs may be met.