I find that both men and women have trouble standing up for themselves in relationships. I often hear my clients talk about putting up with disrespectful behavior from their partners.
People who cannot stand up to abusive or disrespectful behavior will continue to be mistreated. You can change this pattern by learning how to take an uncompromising stand.
Being critical is not taking a stand
It’s easy to mistake taking a stand for being critical. If your partner feels criticized by you, they end up feeling inadequate, which prevents them from listening to you and developing the mutual respect essential to your relationship.
If you have stood up for yourself without criticism and your partner is still behaving unreasonably, standing up for yourself may not be enough. If your partner’s behavior toward you continues to be blatantly disrespectful, it’s time to take an uncompromising stand.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you act for yourself instead of acting against your partner.
4 steps to taking an uncompromising stand
1. Tell your partner to STOP!
Let your partner know that their behavior is not okay with you.
2. Stop participating and withdraw
The purpose of withdrawing from your partner is to stop the cycle of disrespect. You are not trying to change or punish your partner. Through pulling away, you are letting your partner know that business, as usual, will not continue.
3. Decide how much you will withdraw and for how long
It may simply mean that you don’t hang out with your partner on Friday night as usual. Or it may mean that you need to separate altogether from your partner. Whatever course you choose, make a plan and stick to it.
4. Consult a therapist to help walk you through these steps
Remember, this isn’t easy to do without the support of a professional. The point is that you need to focus on what you need and what you will or won’t tolerate. Again, it’s about acting for you, not against your partner.
These ideas come from the book Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy by Brent Atkinson.
If you are dealing with a domestic violence situation, these guidelines likely are inadequate. Please seek out counseling and call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.