In an ideal world, our romantic relationships would be one of the biggest sources of joy in our lives. They would support us in hard times and make the good times even better by having someone to share them with.
But this is not an ideal world.
Not all romantic partners are created equal. Some will treat you badly and fail to respect you the way you should be respected.
But often, the reason someone allows a partner’s bad behavior is because they lack the self-respect to create healthy boundaries.
If you allow your partner to get away with these behaviors, it may be a sign that you lack self-respect.
1) Neglect and indifference
There are so many ways a partner can show neglect and indifference in a relationship. But if you tolerate them, it’s a sign that you have an unhealthy lack of self-respect.
Maybe you have a partner who doesn’t listen to what you say. Maybe they don’t show up for events that are important to you. Maybe they don’t make an effort to get along with your friends and family.
These can seem like small things, but over the long term, they can add up to an extremely dysfunctional relationship.
I’m not saying that a partner has to be so obsessed with you that they lose sight of themselves. But I am saying that any relationship requires both partners to actually care about each other’s lives, opinions, and preferences.
If you don’t have that, why are you in a relationship at all?
2) Disrespectful communication
Even the most harmonious relationship will sometimes have arguments and fights. But I’m not talking about that.
Instead, I’m talking about a pattern of communication that doesn’t show the basic respect partners should have for one another.
Psychologist Cortney S. Warren identifies ten different forms of disrespectful communication in relationships:
- Direct putdowns, such as calling someone stupid or a loser
- Targeting vulnerability by criticizing their partner for something they know the other person is sensitive about
- Being passive-aggressive
- Stonewalling/the silent treatment
- Defecting responsibility
- Disrespectful body language, including eye-rolling, shrugging, headshaking, etc.
- Emotional aggression, including screaming and shouting
These are all terrible ways for a partner to communicate with you. And if you are willing to allow someone to treat you that way, it indicates that you don’t respect yourself any more than they do.
3) Control and isolation
Controlling behavior is a major red flag in any relationship.
Isolation is one form of controlling behavior. That means a partner will try to isolate you from friends, family, and anybody else who might provide emotional or other support.
The goal here is to make you rely completely on your partner so that they can control your behavior.
However, there are other forms of control that manipulative partners may use in a relationship.
They may tell you who you can or can’t spend time with. They may tell you what you can or can’t wear. They may forbid you from certain activities or force you to do others.
There’s no place for controlling behavior in a healthy relationship. And if you allow this kind of control, it’s a good sign you don’t respect yourself enough.
4) Inconsistent commitment
There are few things more infuriating than someone who runs both hot and cold.
One minute, they seem super into you and the relationship you’re building together. And the next, it seems like they couldn’t care less.
It’s easy to think that this is just some kind of mistake, especially in the early stages of a relationship. But as time goes by and this inconsistent behavior continues, you may want to rethink your relationship with this person.
If someone is into you, they will show it. On the other hand, if you are never quite sure you stand with them, it’s safest to assume that this relationship isn’t going anywhere.
5) Invasion of privacy
Privacy is so important in a relationship. Just because you are seeing someone doesn’t mean you surrender all right to a private life.
But it often amazes me how often people seem to think they aren’t allowed to have a life of their own.
When you get into an intimate relationship with someone, you necessarily surrender some privacy. That’s especially true if you live together, and even more true if you start a family.
But relationships are built on trust. And if someone constantly invades your privacy, it’s a good sign they don’t trust you.
I’m talking about a partner who insists on reading your text messages, supervising your social media usage, or tracking your whereabouts.
The thing is, when trust vanishes from a relationship, the relationship is already dead. Allowing someone to invade your privacy like that just demonstrates that you don’t have enough respect for yourself.
6) Financial abuse
It took years before my partner and I opened a joint bank account. Still, to this day, as well as our joint account, we each maintain separate savings, checking, and credit card accounts.
After all, we are both adults, and we both work for our money. While there are lots of bills we share, we both also have our own money to spend as we like.
But a manipulative partner may use money as another way to control you.
Perhaps they don’t let you have your own bank account. Perhaps they control your money. Perhaps they don’t allow you to work.
“Some people use financial abuse as their primary method of controlling the person,” says psychiatrist Jeff Ditzell. “Other people may use financial abuse to manipulate the victim into staying with their partner or spouse.”
Abusers often frame financial abuse as an attempt to help their victims. They may argue that you’re not good enough with money or not competent enough to run your own finances.
But letting someone control you like that is a clear sign of a lack of self-respect.
This is a broad category of behavior that can take many different forms.
Manipulation is, by its nature, hard to spot. After all, if it were obvious, it wouldn’t work.
Forms of manipulation in relationships include:
- Playing the victim
- Triangulation, or bringing other people into a relationship dispute to support their argument
- Constantly changing expectations
- Overstepping boundaries
- Invalidating the other person’s feelings
There are almost as many different means of manipulation as there are manipulators. But once you start to spot the signs that someone is trying to control your behavior, you need to find the self-respect to either confront them or end the relationship.
8) Ignoring boundaries
Boundaries are absolutely key to healthy relationships.
Boundaries are the lines we draw that tell people what kind of behavior we will accept, and what we want. Boundaries are not intended to control the behavior of another person. Instead, they protect you by determining your own behavior.
For example, you can’t stop someone from saying demeaning things about you. But you can refuse to be around a person who treats you that way.
If you have trouble setting boundaries in a relationship, maybe because you don’t want to argue with your partner, it may be a sign you lack a basic level of self-respect. Because it takes respecting yourself enough to demand the appropriate level of respect from others.
9) Sexual coercion
This is a major red flag in any relationship.
Being in a sexual relationship with another person has to involve consent. And consent can be withdrawn at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all.
Anyone who doesn’t respect that doesn’t respect you as a person.
Just because you’ve had sex with someone before doesn’t mean you always want to have sex with them when they want it. Also, you have a right to refuse to perform certain sex acts, no matter how much your partner may try to convince you.
Bodily autonomy is absolutely key, and that doesn’t change just because you are in a relationship.
If you allow others to coerce you into having sex or doing things in the bedroom you don’t want to do – whether they do it by force, by threats, or by sulking and emotional blackmail – you clearly don’t respect yourself nearly enough.
This is a classic tactic of manipulators, and is a psychological term that has now entered popular culture.
Gaslighting often involves lying, but it goes deeper than that. According to the American Psychological Association, gaslighting means “to manipulate another person into doubting their perceptions, experiences, or understanding of events.”
Over time, this can make a person question their grip on reality.
It takes enormous strength to resist someone who is actively trying to gaslight you. You need the self-respect and self-belief to stick to what you know to be the truth, no matter what the manipulator tries to convince you of.
11) Verbal abuse
I already mentioned disrespectful communication and indifference. But verbal abuse takes that to the next level, and is completely unacceptable behavior in any relationship.
Verbal abuse, like most forms of abuse, can take many different forms. It may be constant belittling jokes that, when you challenge them, the person using them says you are taking too seriously. It can be shouting and screaming, threats, or many other toxic forms of communication.
But there’s never any excuse. And if you put up with verbal abuse, it’s a clear sign you lack self-respect.
12) Physical abuse
Finally, let’s talk about physical abuse.
There is never any excuse for any form of physical abuse in a relationship, no matter what. No one should be physically harming a person they claim to care about, intentionally or not.
If you are being abused, there are multiple places you can go for help. Never allow someone to hurt you intentionally, not even once.
How you let others treat you shows you how you feel about yourself
If your partner engages in these behaviors, and they are still your partner, you need to work on your self-respect.
Some of these behaviors can be fixed. Some can only be avoided by ending the relationship.
But either way, you need to have the self-respect to understand your own value and change your life for the better.