October 9 - How Am I Training You to Treat Me?

“Why does he treat me this way? I am so miserable.” This is a message I hear far too many women expressing these days.

Mothers and fathers cry out, “I can’t stand the way my child acts, and there is nothing I can do about it. I feel so helpless…and so hurt.”

Men often say, “I don’t deserve this kind of treatment. Who does she (wife, significant other, boss, mother, daughter, etc.) think she is?”

In the three scenarios mentioned above, the missing “peace” can be found if these individuals will recognize that they are allowing and enabling themselves to be mistreated in this fashion. It is also important for them to identify that they are actually even contributing to the other’s expectation that it is okay to continue to do so! They are perceiving themselves as victims rather than asking, “How am I training this other person to treat me…what can I do to change this dynamic?” Without realizing it, we are usually very consistent in our reactions.

  I see women return again and again for treatment that should never be tolerated. I see them make excuses for verbal abuse, alcoholism, infidelity, being ignored, etc. I see them hoping to change their men, or searching for what they have done wrong to “cause” the unacceptable behaviors.

I hear mothers admit that they often give in to their children’s temper tantrums because they are tired…or it is easier…or they feel guilty…or they feel sorry for them…or because they haven’t gotten in touch with their own pain, so they cannot be with the pain of their children as they are learning.

I observe men not daring to upset their wives with the truth of how they feel…so they remain quiet and fume just underneath the surface. From the outside looking in, one might think they are impervious to the criticism, exasperation, and humiliation. But it is not unusual for these periods of quiet resentment to be accompanied by passive/aggressive behaviors and secret ways to get their needs met. No one is happy while this dynamic is in place.

If you look to see what immediately follows any unacceptable behaviors of your loved ones, you will see how you are training them to treat you. For example, if your children throw temper tantrums and you eventually wear down and give them what they want, they will associate the temper tantrums as that which produced the rewards and be prone to repeat the behaviors over and over again!

 However, if the unacceptable behavior is “rewarded” with time out in a boring location, e.g., the utility room, they will then connect those two and the behavior will eventually be extinguished.

If your husband abuses you verbally or drinks alcoholically and you try harder and harder to please as a result, expect the abuse to continue. He is actually benefiting from the very behavior that you are hoping to extinguish. But if you let him know that you will no longer live with such behavior, he is more likely to have an incentive to want to recover.

If your wife constantly criticizes everything you say or do or loses her temper time and time again…and you never let her know your feelings or issue any consequences for her actions…she will probably never have the consciousness or the inclination to change her behavior. She has inadvertently been trained to believe that her hurtful behavior is acceptable. However, if you communicate your non-negotiable needs with love and give her a chance to decide whether or not she desires to invest in herself and in your marriage, you have opened the door to the development of a thrilling lifetime relationship.

If we truly want to enable a new way of being treated, we must be willing to be rigorously consistent with issuing our consequences.

If we revert back to the old “rewards” even for a moment, we actually solidly reinforce the unacceptable behavior.

We must be willing to issue unpleasant, yet appropriate, consequences for the behavior we want to extinguish. We should be able to allow our children, spouses, bosses, whomever to experience the natural and appropriate consequences of their choices if we want them to learn how to make better ones.

If I am married to a practicing alcoholic and want to enable his recovery, for example, I must be willing to walk away from the behavior while still staying attached to his heart. If I really love my children, I will allow them to suffer the consequences of their misbehaviors while letting them know they are loved very much. If a man truly loves his wife, he will risk triggering her anger in order to enable their personal development and relationship.

There is something about the mixture of love and consequences that allows miracles to occur…almost every time…consistently.

  How do you train others to treat you? What do you do immediately following behaviors that you find difficult to tolerate? Are you willing to risk not being liked for a while in order to create a healthier relationship? Do you have the personal discipline that will allow you to be consistent consistently? Are you willing to mix equal doses of love and consequences to create a miracle? Are you willing to train others to treat you with respect?

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