I was recently on a call, coaching a group of therapists across the country. The conversation turned to women accepting the unacceptable, which happens to be one of my biggest pet peeves with women. One of the male therapists on the call was relieved to hear this perspective from a woman. He then stated with absolute confidence that his wife trained him to be the man he was. He was clear that she would never allow him to treat her poorly…and so he doesn’t.
It was an interesting comment to hear coming from a man. The content wasn’t as surprising to me as the fact that he was so certain that his wife had trained him how to behave (his words). He knew to the core of his being that his wife would not accept unacceptable behavior from him–period. He said that he meant to treat his wife well, but as a young man (48 years ago) he didn’t know when his behavior was out of line and learned from her clarity of direction. He knew that in his younger years he would say something or do something that he thought was fine only to find out from her that it wasn’t. He stopped as soon as he realized she wouldn’t accept it.
Many women struggle with knowing what is and is not acceptable behavior. As a result, they take all sorts of poor behavior from men (and vice a versa—but that’s a different post:-). Typically, however, women are fairly clear about what is and is not acceptable for the other females in their lives. A good indicator, therefore, of poor treatment, is whether or not you would want your daughter, sister, mother or best friend putting up with that treatment. If you wouldn’t want them putting up with it—then you shouldn’t either.
Men learn what is and is not okay regarding the women in their lives because the women show them. Until women stop accepting poor treatment, the men (who are prone to giving poor treatment) will continue to treat them poorly. Not accepting poor treatment does NOT mean yelling at him; it means setting a limit and invoking a consequence. Humans learn via positive and negative consequences. If we speed, we get a speeding ticket. If we don’t care about the ticket, we will speed again and again. The more tickets we get, the more the consequences get ramped up until we lose our license or worse. Typically at some point the stakes get too high for us not to care.
Relationships are the same. If you don’t like how your partner’s treating you—SHOW them. Set a limit and if they don’t listen to the first limit, ramp it up (with your non-violent actions, not your words). Don’t stop with the consequences until the behavior stops—even if that means ending the relationship. Refuse to accept the unacceptable and know this is the only way to ever have healthy relationships.
CHALLENGE: I would love to have the men chime in on this point and see if you’ve noticed this dynamic in your own life. For the women readers, take an inventory of your relationships. If anyone’s treating you poorly, what do you need to DO (not SAY) to end that treatment? Report back your journey!