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I was the textbook example of the nice girl who only dated jerks.

When you’re a person who only likes jerks (i e my former self), it’s easy to mistake “butterflies” as a sign of excitement and thrill in a courtship. But oh, how misleading those feelings are.

The truth is, those “butterflies” can actually be feelings of low self-confidence & doubt which are symptomatic of the constant highs and lows of dating a jerk.

My lousy relationships and dating endeavors took up most of my head space- I was constantly playing every conversation back to myself- studying and analyzing every move.

To be fair, I can’t totally blame the other half in this equation; after all, I was partially to blame for my suffering. I was making a choice. Although subconsciously, I allowed for some pretty awful behavior.

You see, it wasn’t until my late 20s until I was introduced to a magical word which I now base every relationship off of. It doesn’t matter if it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship, this word still applies.

The word I’m talking about is RESPECT

 

WHAT IT’S LIKE TO GET PLAYED…

 

I will never forget the day this word hit me across the face like a cast member of The Real Housewives at a reunion show.

My latest bad guy was some dude from work who I was interested in for a long time. For years, we were hott and cold, off and on, and it left me so dumbfounded most of the time that I had no idea where I stood.  

This relationship brought out the absolute worst in me. I was holding it together on the outside, but on the inside, I was a hott mess. I had no self-confidence and I constantly felt like I was never good enough.

That dark, sick & twisted part of your mind that tells you that ‘you are not worthy‘ was yelling so loudly, I actually believed it. I assumed that if I were really good enough, this guy would see the light of day and commit. 

How sad this is the conclusion I (and so many other women) let myself come to.

As you might have expected, our lukewarm pursuit came to a crashing end and I was crushed. I was crying to my Godmother about it one day, and she looked at me and said: ” Do you think he respects you”?

This question caught me off guard.

“Respect?” I thought. “Honestly I’ve never even thought about it in terms of respect before”.

I have considered an endless amount of other possibilities, such as: maybe if I lost a little weight, got my hair done, or played hard to get for a while he would pay more attention to me.

But never respect.

Respect doesn’t sound sexy.  It’s not something I’ve ever read in any sort of relationship advice column.

I’ve also never heard anyone talk about the importance of respect. So where does respect come into play?

My naivety assumed that human beings respect each other; and if you treat someone with respect they will automatically give it back to you in return.

I know, I know.  How freaking precious was I?

HOW TO TURN THE TABLES IN A RELATIONSHIP

Due to my perpetual rose colored lenses, I didn’t realize that any extra effort was needed for respect.

But I was wrong.  Very wrong.

Respect is something you demand. And earlier the better.

To some degree, grown men have striking similarities to toddlers. They will subtly try to push the boundaries further and further to see what they can get away with.

I don’t know if this is coded deep down in their DNA or what, but all men do this.

Here’s a classic example of a way I let myself be disrespected in the past and not even realize:

Man says he wants to take you out to dinner Wednesday night. By Monday, you already have a new outfit, fresh manicure and are ready to go. Wednesday rolls around and a couple hours before your date, man reaches out to see if he can reschedule?

Now, let’s play the odds here:

There’s a chance that something genuinely came up, and he needs to reschedule. Or, he had a long day of work and is feeling tired. Heck, maybe he double booked himself and forgot he had plans to take another girl out that night.

Here’s what I’ve come to learn- the reason why this happened doesn’t matter to me. What I care about is that it is disrespectful of my time to cancel plans last minute.

I will politely respond, maybe making light of the last minute notice, but I’m open to grabbing dinner another time. However, I am going to make a mental note of this.  And ‘sorry not sorry’ but this is a …

STRIKE ONE

This may seem a little harsh if you’ve never practiced this before.  I certainly would have never thought to do this before I learned about the mysterious world of respect.

But this is the toddler seeing how much he can get away with.  Are you the kind of girl that can be jerked around?  Will it always be ok for him to put his comfort and time before yours?  These first few moves are key to starting on a equal playing field.  

If this happens the next time, or soon after, that’s when it’s time to stand up for yourself and let him know what’s up.  Grab that hypothetical pen and paper because It’s now…. 

STRIKE TWO

Calm and poised as ever, mention that his schedule seems a little hectic right now so maybe this isn’t the best time to try and get together. You also need a little more notice before changing plans.  No hard feelings, this isn’t about “punishing” him, this is about you not taking any BS. 

How you handle situations like this will speak volumes to your self-confidence and subtly demands respect. 

Since this is your life and you make the rules, you can decide how many strikes you want to give until they are out.  I personally adopted a 2-strike policy, though I wouldn’t recommend more than 3. 

Ultimately, one of two things will happen in this scenario: he will be surprised by the way you are handling yourself and want to get his act together to keep seeing you. Or, he will drift off into the distance, maybe try and make an attempt again, but you know better than to get tangled up in that.

Congratulations, you have now successfully weeded out a jerk (or stopped jerk-like behavior in it’s tracks) by knowing your worth and standing up for yourself!

Because here’s what will never happen- a man is never going to come out and say “you know what I just don’t respect you”.

Everything is hidden in their actions. It’s up to you to see the missteps, know when someone is trying to push your boundaries and discover what you will and will not stand for.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IT ALL CLICKS… 

As I mentioned earlier, setting this precedent early on in the relationship is key.  Once you’ve already allowed yourself to be disrespected (so to speak), men typically know what they can get away with and the game is usually over.

But starting your relationship off with mutual respect builds a solid foundation, and you won’t have to worry about trying to go back and patch in the cracks later down the road.  

My initial discovery about respect in relationships with my Godmother sent me down a long path of introspection and self discovery.

She is actually a therapist, so I was getting some pretty awesome therapy for free.  

I became obsessed with figuring out why I got myself into these situations, how I can learn from them,  and how to not make the same mistakes again.  I did a lot of soul searching; I was determined to stop self- sabotaging.

It’s been a long journey but I can now say something that I never thought I would be able to say:

I AM NO LONGER THE GIRL WHO DATES JERKS!

But seriously, this statement makes me want to jump for joy!  I want to be the posterchild for girls who change their dating karma for good. 

Currently, I’m in a healthy, loving, long term relationship with the most awesome human being I have ever met.  He’s honestly so opposite of a jerk, it freaks me out. 

Like a former addict, I am in full recovery mode.

If you feel like you have had similar dating luck- or are stuck on a “certain type”- I want you to know that this is not a curse you have to live with your whole life. This is not something about you that you cannot change!

Screw that, you can change anything about yourself.

I would have saved myself years of heartache had I known this sooner in life.  I want to shout it from the rooftops because I think it’s so important.  

All of those other great things people actually talk about in healthy long-term relationships (supporting each other, listening, doing something to make the other persons life easier etc.) stem from respect.  Without respect these loving gestures wouldn’t exist! 

Everyone has a choice in who they become. I never said the road to salvation would be easy, but if you want to break the habit of dating jerks, demand respect at the get-go and watch what happens.