In my early twenties, I dated a guy named Drake.*
Our relationship started out like most: we were excited to be together and we had mutual respect for each other’s time, interests, and needs. The relationship rolled along smoothly for a few months, and then…it just sort of didn’t.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but there came a point when I realized I had lost any say in how or where the relationship was going. Suddenly, I was prioritizing my life around his — Drake’s friends, hobbies, and preferences took precedence over mine. I chalked it up to me being a “cool” girlfriend. So what if I wanted Thai for dinner? Mexican was fine, too. There’s still rice in there somewhere. Drake wanted to go to another bar? So what if I was tired? That’s what Red Bull is for!
I think we’ve all been there at some point — a part of us realizes oh, shit. The other person has total power. We think the answer lies in being passive and submissive, in going with the flow. We think if we keep our mouths shut and ignore our own needs, the other person will realize he has a gem in his pocket. We think he‘ll hold on for dear life. God forbid we speak up about what we want.
But he doesn’t think: “What a sweet and wonderful docile little girlfriend I have.” He thinks: “She’s a fucking doormat.”
I believed I was being generous, caring, and accommodating. In retrospect, I was being too nice.
And the concept of being “too nice” with regard to dating has faced a lot of controversy over the years. I’m a firm believer in the concept of treating others the way you want to be treated, but if you’re constantly suppressing your own needs, you’re going to leave a mark on your subconscious that says, “I am not worthy of respect.”
Toward the end of the relationship, I often found myself on the silent end of my cell phone, wondering when the hell Drake was going to call me. I should’ve said something, but I’d marred my self-worth and was afraid that if I did stand up for myself, he’d leave.
Which is what ended up happening anyway, because what we chase runs away. In retrospect, I didn’t have anything to lose, and I would’ve probably walked away from it with more self-respect than I did.
It took awhile, but I ended up better for it. It was a learning experience, one that explains a human principle that applies to everyone.
It is your attitude about yourself that the rest of the world adopts.
The very notion of trying to earn respect through becoming submissive — whether within a relationship or otherwise — is flawed, because it means placing a low value on ourselves in order to “elevate” (through our actions as a “pleaser”) to a higher level on which we’ve placed someone else.
i.e. Don’t put the, you know, on a pedestal.
And ladies, don’t put dudes on higher ground either.
Doing things for the sake of elevation in someone else’s eyes, rather than out of genuine love, will never fulfill its purpose because it’s an action fixed in a future that will never intersect with the present moment. It’s the “when you love me then I will be happy” complex.
If the dude doesn’t love you and respect you unconditionally already, you have zero incentive to continue chasing. You’ll never catch him.
The shortcut to the attainment of anything is rooted in the choice to embody, in the present moment, what we would like to be. We can choose to see ourselves as complete and worthy of love now, or we can choose the opposite — to see ourselves as something less, as people who are “not quite there yet, but will be.”
Humans want and need to express love. We grow when we’re able to express ourselves honestly and completely in a relationship. If you’re trying to express love and compassion but you’re met with disinterest, don’t try harder. Leave.
Practicing self-love is a skill that can be taught, and because I’ve been down the road without it, I suggest you learn. When you stop trying to be a gem and realize you are a gem, you embody the qualities of one, and it’s effortless. Your self-esteem is worth more than the admiration of a stranger with whom you share a bed.