It seems that many people I know are struggling right now with the way that they are being treated by those that they love.
It seems to me, that if you are honest and act with integrity that others both count on that and take advantage of it at the same time.
They treat you like you aren’t worthy of the dirt beneath their feet but at the same time expect you to always respond to their bad treatment of you with respect and common decency.
If you dare to fall from the pedestal on which they have placed you, and respond out of hurt and pain, your fall from grace is such that they now blame you for their own maltreatment of you.
You aren’t living up to their expectations of you.
How dare you not just accept their poor treatment and instantly forgive them their transgressions?
The double standard leaves me speechless.
I’ve always believed that we teach others how to treat us and I still believe that that is true but somehow we need to add to this.
It’s not enough to show others how we want to be treated by how we treat them but we need to go a step further.
We need to set acceptable boundaries and uphold them.
It’s not enough for me not to shout at you, to teach you that I don’t want to be shouted at, but I also need to not accept your shouting at me ever.
Instead of making excuses and understanding why you’re shouting I need to never accept it, to begin with.
This is not acceptable.
I’ll discuss this with you when you’re ready to discuss it calmly.
The problem is that when I allow you to shout at me once, you learn that that is OK. That I will allow it, that I will make excuses and understand that you’re shouting out of guilt, pain or shame.
However, we never have that conversation. The one where I tell you that I allowed you to shout on that specific occasion because I understood, but that shouting at me is not acceptable.
I assume that you understand that without my explaining it.
Why wouldn’t I assume that?
I don’t shout at you, so you know, don’t you? that I don’t expect to be shouted at.
The problem is that now a precedent has been set. The next time that you’re emotional you will use me as your scapegoat because now I’ve taught you that it’s OK to shout at me because I will excuse your behaviour.
The hundreds, if not millions of times, that I’ve taught you by my example that shouting is not OK are forgotten, that one time that I allowed it is all that’s remembered.
Why is this?
I truly don’t understand how my just once allowing something overrides all the other occasions. But somehow it does.
When you break plans with me without apologising, before or after, I need to stop understanding that somebody else came first, and explain that I was hurt, that I need an apology that has value; your assurance that you will do all that you can to make sure that you won’t do this to me again. Followed by your actually doing so.
However yet again, I will tend to make the excuses. Of course, they came first, they’re your family, it was an ‘emergency’, of course, I was fine and not counting on our spending time together.
These are just two examples.
When I think about this the common threads that I’ve noticed when hearing my friends articulate this struggle with how they’re being treated by others tend to be that they:
- Are quick to put others before ourselves,
- Are more empathetic than most, and tend to understand the feelings behind the actual behaviour, and
- Have usually been, or still are, in a close relationship with a narcissist (either a parent, spouse or both).
So how then do we change this?
How do we set good, healthy boundaries and still remain true to ourselves?
Why is it that when we set the simplest of boundaries those who are meant to love us, to care for us, are so quick to tear us down?
I think it’s because we’re changing the rules.
You’ve grown accustomed to the fact that we will tolerate your failings, your ill treatment of us; that we will make excuses for your bad behaviour.
We will understand that your shouting at us is not because you’re really mad at us, but rather that you have other feelings that need to be dealt with and anger is easier for you to manage so we allow you to act out towards us in our desire to help you.
However, we need to change the rules.
We need to start putting ourselves first.
We need to demand that you treat us with respect and common decency.
When you don’t like it, when you treat us worse as a consequence we need to not back down but rather hold fast to what is right for us.
We’re not to blame for your own inadequacies.
We’re not to blame for your poor behaviour.
We’re not to blame for your inability to manage your own emotions healthily.
However, we are to blame for how we’ve allowed you to treat us.
We have taught you to treat us with disrespect.
We have taught you to not treat us with common decency.
We have taught you to take out your feelings on us.
We have taught you that it is all right to treat us like nothing and then to carry on as so nothing ever happened.
We have done this because we have allowed it.
It’s not enough for us to teach you how to treat us by how we act and how we treat you.
For you just take advantage of that.
You expect us to treat you with respect, regardless of how you treat us because that is how we have always treated you.
You expect us to treat you with common decency when you treat us as less than dirt because that is how we have always treated you.
You expect to be able to take your feelings out on us because we have always allowed you to do so.
You expect to be able to blow up at us, physically, emotionally, and verbally; for you to deal with your feelings in that way and then for you to just go on as so nothing has happened.
For we never taught you what that does to us.
We never told you that we take on your emotions, your pain and add it to your own.
We have allowed this.
Changing this is going to be hard.
It will be hard for you.
You will need to learn that we do have boundaries.
That we will no longer allow you to cross them.
That we will put ourselves first at times.
That we will expect you to be accountable for your behaviour and your treatment of us; that no longer will we just move on and ignore it.
However, the person who will find this hardest is not you.
For we have to balance finding a way of setting these boundaries, that are essential for our well-being, for our very survival, with also remaining true to ourselves.
We need to continue to act with honesty, with integrity.
To continue to teach you how to treat us by the way that we act and behave.
For that is core to our very being and to do otherwise would be anathema to us.
We teach you how to treat us. So while my friends and I are learning how to do that with healthy boundaries I implore each of you to think about how the people in your life treat you, and how you treat them.
Are you one of those people who ride roughshod over those of us that act with honesty and integrity? Be honest with yourself. If so, then I implore you to look at how we treat you, and try emulating that in how you treat us. When we start setting boundaries with you, understand that we need to take care of ourselves. Respect our boundaries because if you don’t we will, one day, just walk away. We’ll have no other choice.
If you’re one of those being hurt by how others are treating you then I implore you to start setting healthy boundaries, and sticking to them. Start small. Walk away rather than be shouted at. Insist on people being calm before you’ll talk with them.
Treat yourself the way the way you wish to be treated.