by: E.B. Johnson
Love is a complex thing. When we fall for someone, we can find ourselves on a path with a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes we’re close and things are good, but life can also test us and challenge the way we relate to one another. No matter how tough life gets, though, there are certain behaviors that we should never engage in if we truly love our partners, or respect their needs and their happiness.
Love demands a commitment to respect.
What do you think of when you imagine the love? Usually, we think of good memories or good experiences we hope to have. We don’t often imagine the hardships that will come our way, or those tough moments in-between when communicating becomes the hardest part of holding things together. Love is also about how we behave and react throughout the entirety of our relationship. It’s about a commitment to respect throughout our commitment to one another.
There can be no happy or equitable relationship without a foundation of respect. We have to respect the needs of one another, and we have to have respect for the commitment we’ve made to one another. We don’t hurt our partners intentionally, and we don’t go out of our way to injure their feelings or make them feel small.
Does your partner respect you and your emotions? Do they make space for you in your heart and in the home? What about the commitment you’ve made to one another? Do they respect the sanctity of the agreements you’ve made together? Do they respect your friends? Do they come home when they say they will? We deserve to be loved the way we want to be loved, but that can only happen when we wake up and accept the behaviors of someone who doesn’t love us.
The behaviors we don’t engage in when we’re in love.
Love is a big concept, and it’s an even bigger idea to invest in with someone else. It takes a lot to love someone. We have to respect them, value them, and want their happiness as much as our own. All of that considered, when we truly love someone, there are certain behaviors we don’t engage in.
Picking petty fights
Does your partner spend a lot of time picking petty fights with you? When superficial issues become major irritations, we can be dealing with someone who is intentionally driving us away. Loving someone requires that we don’t treat them this way. Instead, we should seek to communicate with them and avoid conflict through candid and upfront honesty at every turn.
Dismissing or discouraging
Dismissing and discouraging our partner’s emotions or ideas is one of the most hurtful things we can do it. This isn’t a behavior we engage in when we love someone. When you truly love someone for who they are you, you are willing to listen to them and you hold their feelings and needs as valid without question. You also don’t discourage them or tear them down.
Does your partner or spouse make you feel like an inconvenience or a burden just for existing or asking for help when you need it? It’s normal to want and need the support or presence of your partner. When that other person loves and values themselves over us, however, they may shame you or make themselves unavailable when you need them most. Perhaps they brush you off like an inconvenience, or blowup in aggravation when you push them for support.
Partners who love us don’t ask us to abandon our friends or family for them. They don’t pick fights with your family in order to drive them away. Instead, they support your relationships outside of the relationship you share with them. On the same end, you shouldn’t be entirely isolated from one another’s friend groups. Does your partner keep you away from their friends as a “secret”? This isn’t the behavior of someone in love.
Weaponizing toxic jealousy
Jealousy is a horribly toxic trait, and it can bury a serious wedge in the middle of our relationships. A partner who weaponizes their jealousy in order to manipulate your behavior is not someone who loves you unconditionally. It’s someone who is trying to control you into acting in a way they desire. We shouldn’t seek to make our partners jealous. When we love someone, there’s no need for it.
We all make our own decisions in this life, and that doesn’t change when we get into a romantic relationship. A loving partner encourages you to make the right decisions for yourself, but they also don’t criticize the decisions you do make — whether those are the same decisions or not. Your partner should support you and be there for you no matter what you decide to do with the future that you’re building beside theirs.
Making endless comparisons
Comparisons are toxic, especially when used within the frame of an intimate relationship. Does your partner constantly compare you to their ex? Do they talk about past relationships more than needed, or make it clear that they’re imagining a future without you? This type of comparison isn’t loving or motivational, it’s a means of making you feel insecure about your place beside them; it’s a scare tactic meant to manipulate your behavior.
Some partners use public humiliation as a means of controlling their partner or belittling their sense of self-confidence. They might air out problems in public, or go out of their way to embarrass you with friends, family, coworkers. More often than not, they also have a huge ego and even bigger insecurities, which they keep buried away deep out of sight.
Engaging in infidelity
A loving and respectful relationship is one in which the commitment made to one another is honored. In a monogamous relationship, that includes remaining physically and emotionally faithful to the person that you’re with. A partner who regularly (or openly) engages in infidelity is not one who is displaying loving behavior. On the contrary, they’re displaying a sense of selfishness and disrespect of the highest degree.
Put downs and regular abuse
It’s not normal to be put down or abused (in any form) by your partner. Do they make you feel alone? Do they belittle you for the things you want or the happiness you achieve? These put downs make you feel bad about yourself, your life, or your body, and destroy your self-esteem. Partners who behave this way don’t love you. Especially when they abuse you or threaten your mental and physical wellbeing and safety.
What to do when you spot these behaviors.
Have you noticed your partner engaging in unloving or belittling behaviors? You have to take note and take action, lest you get stuck in a relationship that leaves you feeling empty, alone, and without the things and people who provide you with a sense of love and belonging.
1. Immediately create some space
The first thing you need to do is create some space for yourself. Doubt within a relationship is hurtful, and it’s hard to process when you’re in the midst of your emotions. You need to give yourself some physical and emotional space from your partner, so that you can see your position from a different vantage point. Are you simply going through a rough patch? Or are you dealing with someone who doesn’t love you.
Give yourself a little room to breathe and think through things. Find a few minutes each day to be alone and journal behind a locked door. Write down what’s going on in your relationship and describe how you’re feeling. Name specific incidents and record your partner’s behaviors so that you can spot any patterns that are becoming the norm.
Take some time to decompress and allow yourself to clear your mind and your emotions. Before you can take any further action, you need to put yourself in a clear state of thinking. Invest in some self-care and recharge your battery (as best you can) before moving forward. Nourish your physical and emotional bodies and prepare yourself to face the truth and the reality of where you’re at and what you want.
2. Pull off the rose-tinted glasses
Once you’ve taken some time and space to create a bit more emotional equilibrium, you have to brace yourself and start facing reality for what it is. You’ve got to pull off the rose-tinted glasses and see your partner for who they really are and how they’re really treating you. Be radically honest about how you feel. When you talk to them, do they make you feel small? When you open up to them, does it feel like a risk?
Accept where you’re at, who your partner is, and how you are actually being affected. Break down the reality of your relationship and question every aspect of it. Are you over-committing to someone who isn’t as invested as you are? Are they crossing the line and pushing you beyond your limits?
Pretending your partner is kinder than they are won’t fix them. Turning a blind eye to their bad behavior won’t make it go away, and it won’t make you any happier. Even if you don’t want to admit how you’re being treated, your subconscious sees and knows all. Until you wake yourself up and see your relationship for what it is you will continue to struggle with resentment and hardship together.
3. Get clear on what you want
Recognizing the potential issues in your relationship is relatively meaningless if you don’t also know (and embrace) what it is you really want from your partner. Before you confront them or take drastic action, you need to double down and be sure you know what direction you’re heading in. What do you want from them? What do you want from your future? Embracing and acknowledging what you deserve is crucial.
Spend some time visualizing the traits you want from an ideal partner or an ideal relationship. Focus on your self-worth and the knowledge that you have unique needs that deserve to be met and fulfilled within a loving, safe, stable, and respectful relationship.
Don’t play down what you really need in order to fit someone in who doesn’t really want to be in your life. There’s only so much room in your social circles, and you only have so much energy to give the world. Do you really want to spend it with someone who treats you poorly or disrespects you? The more clear you are on what you want, the more visible the flaws in your current relationship will become.
4. Lean into your support systems
There is not enough that can be said about the value of support systems when we’re dealing with relationship trouble. This includes our closest friends and family members, as well as any other loved ones we trust or depend on. When we’re struggling to confront a partner who treats us badly, they can be an invaluable source of both perspective and support which motivates us and pushes us to take the right action that’s needed.
Lean into your support systems. Reach out to those you trust the most and ask them for their help and for their advice. Our friends often see things that we’re too afraid to see — both in ourselves and in the way our partner’s treat us. Allow yourself to see your reflection through their eyes.
We deserve as much love and respect from our intimate partners as we get from our friends and our family. Until you get there, allow the strength of your support systems to move you toward the action you need to take. Rebuild your sense of self and your sense of confidence through the love they give to you. Don’t be afraid to open up. A relationship struggle is not a failure. It’s simply another change in life.
5. Take integrity-aligned action
All the steps above do little if we don’t follow them up with the right aligned action to protect our rights and our wellbeing. We can’t stay with the wrong partner and hope to build the perfect relationship or the perfect life. If you’ve exhausted communication and the disloyal behavior is still continuing, you’re going to have to make some tough decisions and ensure you take action that’s in-line with your integrity.
Sit your partner down and have a frank and honest conversation about what’s going on and how you’re feeling. Find a safe time and place in which you can both express yourselves without being interrupted. Don’t use irritating language and avoid a major blow up by also avoiding blaming language or accusations.
Your partner may not even realize how they’re treating you, so focus on what you really know — your own feelings and perspective. Let them know your plans for the future and what you want to make out of your relationship. Be strong and hold faith in your needs and the things that you want. Whether you walk away or not is entirely up to you, but that decision needs to align with your values. Are you willing to settle? Or do you want to find a partner and a relationship that aligns with your values and your needs?
Putting it all together…
When we truly love someone, there are certain behaviors we don’t engage in and certain thought patterns that we drop. Learning to build a life with someone else is hard, and it requires a lot of compromise. When we find ourselves with someone who acts contrary to their love for us, it’s important that we question our relationship. Are you where you want to be with your partner? Or is time to reconfigure your romantic situation?
Immediately create some space (both physically and emotionally) between you and the person you believe to be toxic or unloving. Use this space to process your thoughts and find your calm. You’re going to have to take some serious action, so you need to be clearheaded. Pull off the rose-tinted glasses and get clear on where you and your partner really are. Then, take some time to focus on your future and what you truly want from both a relationship and a partner. You have to embrace what you really deserve too, though. Take integrity-aligned action and start taking steps to build a relationship that brings you actual love and fulfillment.