Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Pop Thought: Love does not excuse consistent bad behaviour.

It's not because I love you that I should allow you to consistently treat me in ways that are disrespectful of my time, my physical body, my energy, my feelings or my space.
A couple of years back, I was in a relationship with someone I loved very much and who loved me. I knew his love for me was real. However, when I would reach out to connect with him, he would consistently: not respond to my messages, ignore questions or requests, make no effort to contact me, give me "the silent treatment", etc. I always got the image of being a dog locked in a room with him on the other side of the door holding the door shut with his foot. Then, all of a sudden, when he decided it was time, he would reach out and open the door. We would then get together. When we were together, I knew he loved me and his love was enticing and delicious to me but his behaviour was unacceptable and I had to end the relationship. Not in anger, just with the knowledge that I deserve (and need) to be treated with respect. Even now, we love each other and we are not together and that feels right.

Recently, a friend was telling me about a budding friendship/possible relationship he was experiencing. It was both exciting and very painful and confusing. When he would just bump into the woman by accident, she was always incredibly enthusiastic about seeing him. Huge, warm hugs, giant smiles, deep eye contact, long conversations in hallways. He could see from her reactions that she sincerely enjoyed his company. However, as soon as they would make a plan to see each other (whether he initiated or she did, whether the next day or the next week) she would either not be there when he would go to meet her or she would send him a note to cancel with a feeble, implausible excuse. The distressing behaviour was very consistent and she is now locked out of his heart. Their relationship will go no further.

And then there are those who often hit their partners and truly regret what they've done. And those that often cheat on their partners and really wish they hadn't. Or those who simply don't or can't help their lover when help is requested. There are always two sides to any story and in most cases people deserve a second chance but when we're talking about 3rd, 4th and 5th chances something is very off and needs to be reassessed.

Often, it's emotional immaturity, childhood attachment styles, trauma or some other mental health issue that gets in the way of the love that is really there. These causes are sad and not necessarily the person's fault. However, the healing is absolutely that person's responsibility. 

Image by geralt on
Love isn't always enough and, despite what rom-coms might try to tell us, it doesn't heal all wounds... unfortunately. Love can help, support and encourage but the person themselves are the only ones who can take the necessary action-steps to change. If they're not open to becoming aware of their issues or are not willing or able to broach the subject or make strides to adopt more healthy behaviours then we need to think of ourselves first. It is up to us to decide when love is and isn't enough and when the pain from the behaviour is not worth it. In most relationships, we get to choose how we allow ourselves to be treated. 

In a relationship of any kind, love and painful behaviours are two separate things. We need to measure both the love and the pain that the behaviour causes us and make our choices. Just begin to notice whether you want the person to change their behaviour more than they want it themselves and take that into account. 

If you leave the person, it doesn't necessarily mean you don't love them. It may just mean that their behaviours are no longer acceptable to you, not good for your well-being or your self-esteem/self-respect and those are very valid reasons. Your beloved partner is sometimes doing the best they can and sometimes it's still not enough for you and your needs. And that may be painful to understand but it's valid, too. 

Don't excuse consistent bad conduct because you love someone. Love would be horrified, I think, to be the reason someone would accept disrespectful or unacceptable behaviours. Love wants people to be and feel like their best and most satisfied selves, not distressed or abused in each others' company.