I know I'm not perfect. But my number one rule in life is to realize everyone is equally flawed.
So, while you show mercy, make it a requirement for yourself as well.
Even though I'm now aware of this, I was once in a relationship that left me feeling like I was the sole cause of everything negative that took place. Looking back, I know my childhood played a huge role in this situation: It was one of the reasons I experienced feelings of guilt and shame after any argument that took place between us.
That relationship taught me a lot. But although I'm forever grateful it happened – because I was forced to address things from my past that I was previously unaware of – I do regret always accepting all the blame. It was exhausting and self-inflicting.
My ex was a short-tempered man, and he was an expert at compartmentalizing. He was like this in every scenario of his personal and professional life, and I definitely saw the signs early on in our relationship.
He would become frustrated when I would talk about my day, or if the pace of our conversation wasn't in line with his expectations. He would get annoyed if the subject was something he wasn't interested in.
The larger problems occurred when any minor thing would set off his insecurities and leave him feeling inadequate. Meanwhile, I felt confused and helpless, since my intentions were never to cause this sort of reaction.
In either case, I found myself saying less and wondering how I could better word my statements in order to keep him from becoming frustrated and angry. Somehow, I always convinced myself his rudeness was OK.
I thought I needed to improve, not him.
Subconsciously, I was silencing my voice and self-worth at the same time. No matter who you are, you should always respect the person you're with. Without basic mutual respect for one another, you have nothing.
Since I am naturally an analytical individual and continue to be fascinated by how things work, I find tremendous joy in learning. Therefore, I saw our disagreements as opportunities to grow.
But I took it too far.
Relationships involve TWO people and unfortunately, I was the only one interested in the growth process. Personal development has to be a priority for both people involved. Otherwise, you feel alone and helpless.
I lived in fear that disagreements would repeat themselves or escalate. After they took place, I was the only one with the desire to get to the root cause. I was the only one having uncomfortable conversations.
He had also gone through some difficult childhood circumstances, so I used that as an excuse for his behavior. Instead, I chose to only focus on his positive traits.
Meanwhile, I kept ignoring the disrespectful tone in which he'd speak to me, leaving me to accept all the blame.
My thoughts became repetitive and full of excuses.
"Well, if I just avoid bringing this up again, maybe he'll be nicer..."
"I shouldn't remind him I love this city because he thinks I dislike his city, and that'll lead to another fight..."
Although always accepting the blame increased my patience, it simultaneously lowered my standards. Growing up, I was taught to always accept what was given to me: end of story.
So, as an adult, how was I supposed to know things should be different? Yet, something always didn't feel right, and it left me crying myself to sleep.
[pullquote]Although always accepting the blame increased my patience, it simultaneously lowered my standards.[/pullquote]
The more excuses I made for his behavior, the more I was telling myself my boundaries didn't matter.
But they did.
It's taken me years (and tears) to realize what I have to say is important.
Many times, this process has felt like a roller coaster: Just when I think I'm beginning to value myself, I hit rock bottom and doubt I'm worthy of being heard.
But these days, that roller coaster is more linear and upward-moving... even though it took some major relationship regrets to get there.