Listen to me. You deserve better than scraps.
- When I was a teenager, I let a boy who I was completely unattracted to, who had brown broken teeth and bad breath kiss me because I thought I could do no better.
- When I was in my twenties, I went to a community college, not because I couldn’t afford better, not because I was saving my money, but because I believed I couldn’t academically do better.
- When I went out in the world to get a job, I believed I had no talent, no experience and no education, and so, I took menial jobs that didn’t require any of those things and paid very little.
- When I was a young woman, I married a man I’d only known for 21 days who neglected me, mentally and emotionally abused me and eventually hit me when I said I was leaving. I married him on the side of a highway, no white dress, no wedding reception, no gifts because I didn’t believe I was worth a real wedding or that a man would love me after 21 days.
- And when I was divorced with two kids and back in the dating world, I made myself available to someone who never showered or brushed his teeth, who did drugs, wore dirty clothes and never wanted to have sex. I though he was the best I could find at my age (36!). I thought no one would want a divorced woman with two kids.
So, those are examples of the scraps I fed myself. But what about scraps our partners feed us?
They often hide in these guises:
- Limited or no availability
- Limited or no intimacy
- Limited or no compliments
- Physical, mental or emotional abuse
- Minimal communication
- Being emotionally closed off
- Manipulation, gaslighting, threatening, sabotaging…
The list goes on. But keep in mind that scraps are, generally speaking, relative. A scrap to one person, may not be a scrap to someone else. Case in point: Julie K and I had a phone conference. She really needed to speak to me about a man she recently fell in love with while working as a yoga instructor at a glamorous resort in Rio de Janeiro for two weeks. They fell in love, both promising to stay in touch after she left. But once she was back home, days passed by without a lot of interaction from her lover. He sent her a few texts, they talked once a week, but little by little, he became more unavailable. Julie, at first, was OK with his limited communication because, as he had suggested, this was all he could offer—a long-distance relationship. In her mind, as long as he was locked in to some sort of connection to her she wasn’t going to complain. She was, after all, busy with her own life in Chicago where she owned a Pilates/yoga studio. But, night after night, when she would come home, she was completely alone. She eventually became scared to death he would disappear completely or meet someone else; and so, she started to obsess over him. The more she obsessed the more she would reach out to him and demand some sort of guarantee that they would be together again, or that he should call more often. And the more she did that, the farther he seemed to retreat. At one point in the conversation with me she asked, “Would you accept his behavior? Would you be willing to put up with a long-distance relationship like that?”
I didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely not,” I said. To me, long-distance relationships are completely unappealing. I know myself well enough to know that seeing or hearing from my romantic partner once every few days, weeks, months, etc. is not something I want. To me, that’s a scrap. And I want more. But to someone else, it may not be. In this case, distance wasn’t the only scrap Julie was living off of. She was also accepting an emotional distance. He most likely wanted to end the relationship, but didn’t want to hurt her. While she may have sensed this, a part of her didn’t want to listen or believe it. Only you are the one who knows what a scrap is and what it isn’t.
And only you are the one who decides to accept them or reject them. That’s the hard part. So often we say we don’t want to be treated badly, we say we don’t want scraps, but then we stick around and eat them anyway because we (falsely) believe that’s all there is.
Well, stop telling yourself untruths. There’s more out there. There’s better out there. But you first must believe it. And then you must be willing to walk away when you see scraps thrown at you. Oh yeah, and, you must be firm in your resolve to stop throwing out scraps to someone else either.
Now, when people hear me talk about scraps, they’re all like, Yeah! I don’t deserve scraps! And then they go home to their same partner and demand to be treated like a goddess. Meanwhile, they go home to the same avoidant, disrespectful, abusive unavailable partner. No…it doesn’t work that way!
When you believe you have value, when you believe you are worth not just a little, but a lot, you do not accept dirty, broken teeth, menial jobs, or people who never want to make love to you, hold you, kiss you or be near you (unless, of course, you’re really into those things). When you believe you have value you do not put up with neglect, disrespect, abuse, mind games, cruelty or anything else from someone who is dishing them out.
When you believe in yourself, you teach people how to treat you with respect. When you do not believe in yourself, you teach people that they can treat you any way they want and you will accept it.
Part of believing that you deserve better is having a sense of entitlement. I know. Entitlement has a negative connotation. We tend to use it to describe people negatively. Religiously speaking, any of our Judeo-Christian teachings call on us to be humble and grateful for whatever we’re given. We’re supposed to be content with scraps.
But, when you believe you are entitled to better treatment, you get it. Something in you changes and you no longer accept less. A perfect example of this is food. How many of us would eat from a trash can? Especially if we could afford not to. And unless you were homeless, and might possibly die if you didn’t eat what you could scrounge up, how many of us would choose garbage over food we could either get at a grocery store, restaurant, or make ourselves? Not many. What about junk food? How many of us would eat fast-food every day, or just eat potato chips and soda? The truth is, despite occasional junk food binges, most of us have a sense of entitlement when it comes to food. We want healthy choices in our grocery stores. We want healthy choices for our children. And we want healthy choices for us. We recognize that by eating healthy foods we are doing something good for ourselves. It’s that simple.
So, if we can feel entitled about food, why not feel the same about the people we allow into our lives? Why not feel entitled about work, education, income, friends, and so on?
When we lack a sense of entitlement to who we should meet and fall in love with, when we have no clear sense of what we deserve, we accept darn near anything. We end up with scraps.
And let’s face it, scraps don’t taste good. Eating them is embarrassing. Being seen eating them is even more so. But when it comes to relationships, we often times overlook scraps because we believe we are being fed in other ways—great sex, status, occasional intimacy. We tell ourselves the scraps are worth it.
I’m telling you it’s not worth it. I’m telling you it sounds like you’ve been eating scraps your whole life and by now, you just think this is normal. That scraps taste yummy. And yet, every time you take a bite, you get sick. Relationships are not meant to make you this sick.
Someone once said to me, How empty of me, to be so full of you. It confused me at first. Isn’t that what true love is all about? To be so full of our one true love? Years later, I realized I was so wrong and that this person’s words were more brilliant than I first imagined. I am “empty” if my only thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams are about my partner. What am I bringing to the table? What unique world within me can I offer if I can only mirror back your reflection? So, my advice is to fill yourself with who you are. Fill yourself with abundance of things you love, other than your partner. Fill yourself with a new sense of entitlement. Focus on your worth. Read the Self Esteem section of this book and check out the Resources section for books on self-esteem.