At one point or another, we have all heard someone say, “you need to love yourself before you love anyone else.” As true as that may be, most of the time people don’t wait to reach confidence nirvana before starting to seek out relationships. I find myself in that boat too and I have watched plenty of my romantic pursuits fall flat because I cannot properly evaluate my self-worth. For a relationship to work (and work well), it is important to not invalidate your own feelings. Conceptually, that sentiment is obvious, but insecurity rabbit holes can be tempting and oftentimes too easy to fall into.
Recently, I was upset with my boyfriend; after all, most couples quarrel and the relationship I am in is no different. I did what some people do and turned to a friend to sort out my feelings. However, after explaining the situation and venting my frustrations about having been disappointed by my partner, my tone changed.
I took a deep breath before speaking. “I feel like I should have expected to be treated unfairly. It was dumb to think I deserved anything more than that,” I said to my friend.
My friend was taken aback over my shift in attitude. Although I had been visibly upset a second before, I showed a shocking willingness to accept defeat and, even more shocking, accept a skewed perception of myself. Bullying myself into silence was not something I was even aware that I was doing.
“So, what now?” My friend responded, “Are you just going to accept some sort of assumed inferiority to him?”
I took a second to think about it. As much as I hated admitting it, I was creating an unhealthy power dynamic in my relationship. By convincing myself that my feelings were worthless, I had not only justified his behavior, but also unwittingly perpetuated my insecurities. How could I expect my partner to treat me fairly if I was not giving myself the same level of respect and understanding? My friend was right; that mindset put my boyfriend on a pedestal. Up until that point, I had not been so directly confronted with the effects my insecurities had on the power dynamics of my relationship, but having someone there to remind me was a valuable way of keeping myself in check.
When you are in a relationship, you must remind yourself that your partner is your equal. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is not worth your time. Falling into that trap is not unique, so I encourage you to pause and really think about the person you are with or the person you wish to be with. How is your perception of yourself affecting your interactions with them? Because even recognizing that much is a small step that makes a big difference.
Having trouble navigating the St. Olaf dating scene? E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe one of our love columnists will answer them in next week’s issue. All submitted questions will remain anonymous.