When I was a little girl, I remember my mother saying to us 3 kids often, “Don’t you dare talk to me like that!” when we got fresh.
She hissed it at us when we were rude or disrespectful to her. Or when we raised our voices and dared to talk back.
We learned through both my parents to treat them with respect. And when we didn’t, there were consequences. Whether it was being grounded, having something we valued taken away or shamed with a good verbal lashing, they taught us how to treat them.
And so we learned early on to treat them with love and respect. Anything less would not be tolerated.
Why don’t we do this with other people in our lives?
How many of us allow people we care about to treat us in ways we would never accept from a stranger or casual acquaintance?
How many of us repeatedly excuse other people’s bad behavior with justifications, giving them chance after chance to show up differently , telling ourselves that they just don’t know better or they were angry or that we somehow deserve it?
We need to raise the bar on our expectations of other people.
The truth of the matter is, most of us are not much different than children. We see how much we can get away with before anyone does anything about it.
We lash out at our significant other. We don’t follow through on what we say we’re going to do for friends. We blow people off, don’t return phone calls or text messages or respond to another person’s request to talk because we just “don’t want to deal”.
We act insensitively or selfishly towards someone who is always there for us and than tell that person we’re sorry time and time again….
And then we do the same thing to that person (and probably many other people) all over again.
You know why? Because the other person is allowing it.
We allow people to do this to us.
And so they think it’s OK. Because there aren’t any real consequences to their actions. They know if they fuck up again, you’re still going to be right there. Yea, maybe you’ll get pissed off and you’ll have another nasty fight .
If you’re friends or married, maybe you won’t talk to each other for a few days. If you’re in a relationship, maybe you’ll break up before inevitably getting back together.
But than you know what most people do? They sweep it under the rug, keep their fingers crossed that it’s the last time that will happen and foolishly believe that it won’t.
Except it will. Because you just taught that person how to treat you.
I have a client who recently called to talk to me about a guy she just allowed back into her life after cutting off contact with him for the 7th time. This is how the story goes….
They break up because he’s emotionally unavailable, selfish and has a propensity for chasing other women when he’s with her.
After some time goes by, the games begin. He texts her how much he misses her. He sends her cute memes on Instagram.
She ignores him.
He doesn’t give up because he knows if he just keeps up the charm long enough, she’s eventually going to cave and respond. Because she always does and he counts on history repeating itself.
Once he gets back into her good graces, he starts the cycle again. One foot in, one foot out. All in with her one minute, completely distant and aloof the next.
Soon she starts stalking his social media pages (remember this is just history repeating itself) and notices him chatting up other girls. She starts catching him texting other women when he thinks she’s not paying attention.
She becomes jealous. He becomes emotionally unavailable… again.
They fight constantly. He convinces her that she’s jealous, possessive and crazy. She flips out, tells him him that it’s over and never to call her again. She goes through the whole ritual of un-friending him on Facebook, unfollowing him on Instagram, blocking his number.
And yet… even after all this effort, he somehow makes his way back through her door every single time.
She’s taught him how to treat her. By not following through on the consequences of his actions and behavior (you will not be allowed in my life anymore) he’s learned that it’s perfectly acceptance to behave in this way.
So this is what I’m inviting all of us to do…
TEACH PEOPLE BETTER.
Teach them to do better. Give them a 2nd chance to show up differently. Accept their apology. We all make mistakes. We all f*ck up. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.
A handful of times. I’m a former softball player. So my motto is 3 strikes and you’re out.
By the 3rd time, there had better be some consequences and real boundaries put into place or you’re in for a lifetime of pain and suffering.
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