Over dinner with two of my closest girlfriends, we recently got into the discussion of how we all are somehow attracted to “assholes.” We questioned why we lie in bed and daydream of long mornings with people that treat us right but get hung up on people that don’t return our messages, cancel dates, and treat us with less romantic respect than we deserve. People have forever been asking why good guys finish last. Here’s why it’s so easy to sabotage ourselves and what we can do to stop.
1. When expectations are low, it’s hard to be disappointed.
It’s really easy to gravitate towards people who are predictable and won’t let you down. Normally, these are traits that you would associate with positive relationships, but setting a low bar usually means that you won’t get hurt. Or if you do, at least you were expecting it. It’s easier to bounce back from something that seems logical than by expecting someone to treat you well and being surprised along the way.
Know your worth. If a person you’re involved with is treating you worse than a platonic friend would, there’s an issue. Know that if this is the case it says more about that person than it does about you. Setting a high bar might mean you’re less involved with people—because the pool of people who are worth your time and energy is now smaller—but that means that you’ll have more emotional energy for when the right person does come around.
2. There’s a twisted sense of moral superiority.
For most people, it’s ten times harder to examine personal shortcomings than those of other people. When you’re involved with someone who you believe will act below your level of decency, there is no need to ever question if you have been in the wrong. There’s a false sense of security in knowing that there’s someone else to blame when bad things happen.
Consciously choose to spend time with people who are lifting you up. The most successful relationships, platonic or otherwise, are the ones that make you your best self. Goodness multiplies when it’s reciprocated. Wait for someone that brings their best self to you so you’ll do the same in return.
3. It’s easy to think people can be changed.
Obviously, everyone believes that they are worthy of the best treatment. Couple this with the optimistic assumption that most people have good intentions and you get the toxic belief that you can change people, the way they feel, and their motivations.
You can always try to lead by example but that necessitates people choosing to follow. Accept that there are things that are out of your control. People are one of those things. It’s often scary to admit to ourselves that we cannot curate the scenes of our life, but we do get curate the characters. Start there.
4. We mistakenly believe it’s the only option.
We’re living in a society that caters to immediate gratification. It’s not easy to tell ourselves to wait for someone who is worth the emotional investment because the concept of waiting for something that is only a possibility and not a guarantee is beyond us. Also, anyone who has already been unlucky in love can easily convince themselves that based on experience there isn’t anyone out there that will treat them properly. But this ends up being a crazy negative feed back cycle that keeps causing people to get involved with unworthy people, which only further proves the point that “this is the only option.”
Have patience and disregard the belief that there are no good people out there. Obviously, if you can know that someone is bad, relative to other people, then there are good people in your life already. The fact that there hasn’t been one you’ve been romantically involved with isn’t to say that they aren’t out there. You have to start by believing they are because you’re not going to find what you don’t think exists. Surround yourself with the good people in your life and they’ll connect you to more good people. Soon, your circle is growing and your chances of finding someone you click with are multiplying.
5. Drama often feels like attention.
Where there is constant drama, there is constant engagement. If not with the person that’s contributing to it, then at least with your support group and friends. It’s somehow gratifying to have stories to tell, to need to ask for advice, to be passing around screenshots and asking, “What do you think of this?” If the person you’re involved with doesn’t love and support you at least your friends will—doubly so when they know you’re not being treated the way you deserve.
Examine how you feel after arguing with the person you’re involved with or gossiping about them with friends. Is it really satisfaction that you feel? If so, how long does it last? When someone is good for you, you’ll never feel like you need to seek attention because they will be attentive enough that you never feel disregarded. This type of satisfaction is constant. Ditch the drama and spend some time listening. In being on the listening end, on the panel of advisors so to speak, you’ll be able to learn a lot about yourself and what you need and want based on the way you counsel friends.
6. It’s a nice way to cop out from dealing with our own insecurities.
When you know someone isn’t going to commit to you, you don’t have to commit to them. When you know someone isn’t really dying to see you, it doesn’t matter if you blow them off. Being with people who don’t treat us well tacitly allows us to be less than our best selves without anyone asking too many questions. Without us asking many questions of ourselves. When no one is reciprocating or holding you accountable, you can effectively disregard the things that you know you need to work on yourself.
Forget spending time with someone else. Spend time with yourself, first and foremost. Indulge yourself. Question yourself. Test yourself. The relationship you have with yourself ultimately serves as the foundation that all other relationships are built upon. Then, when you know the type of person that you want to be and you give yourself to someone that deserves that type of person, they will hold you accountable and help you grow. They’ll act as a mirror, reciprocating your efforts by giving their best self to you as well.