As a therapist, I've treated many people who want to know why they allow others to treat them poorly. Sometimes, it's an individual who has entered into an unhealthy romantic relationship where they allow themselves to be disrespected.
At other times, it's an individual who is uncertain how to respond to a colleague who mistreats them.
It's likely that almost all of us have found ourselves in a situation like this at one time or another. Someone treated you poorly and you allowed it to happen. Maybe you allowed it to happen over and over again.
Understanding why you spend time with people who have treated you poorly is key to preventing it from happening again.
Here are seven reasons you might be willing to spend time with people who treat you poorly:
1. You think you're the only person who understands them.
It's easy to convince yourself that you have a special relationship with someone. And you're the only one who truly gets them.
When other people advise you to steer clear, you'll remind yourself that they just don't understand this individual like you do.
2. You see their potential.
It's frustrating when you see someone who seems to be throwing their life away. You know they could do so much better and accomplish so much if they really wanted to.
So you keep focused on how smart, talented, or skilled they are in hopes that someday, they'll get the motivation, energy, and drive to reach their greatest potential.
3. You think you help them change.
You think that you have the knowledge, patience, compassion, or time to support the other person in changing.
And you might convince yourself that without you, the other person won't ever change. So you decide you're tough enough to handle the mistreatment because you're hopeful things will get better.
4. You focus on the good.
If things were bad all the time, it'd be easy to cut the person out of your life. But there's a good chance there are some good times too.
The desire to see the best in people can cause you to focus on the good only. And the more you think about the positive, the more disillusioned you'll become about the reality of the situation.
5. You excuse the bad.
It can be tempting to look for a reason why someone would behave badly. It can't possibly be that the other person is mean, disrespectful or uncaring, right?
Whether you're convinced your colleague had a rough childhood or you think your partner's behavior stems from a high-stress job, excuses allow the mistreatment to continue.
6. They confirm your beliefs about yourself.
If you have a deep-rooted belief that you're a loser or that you're unworthy, you'll surround yourself with people who confirm your conclusions.
It's a vicious cycle that's hard to break. When you're treated poorly, you'll feel worse about yourself. And the worse you feel, the less likely you are to believe you deserve to be treated better.
7. You are afraid of giving that person up.
Whether you are afraid of being lonely, or you think you won't ever find another boss who pays you so much, fear keeps you stuck. You might focus on how bad things might be if you cut someone out of your life.
Over time, you might grow desensitized to the mistreatment you experience. It often evolves slowly and gets worse gradually--so you might underestimate the toll someone is taking on your life.
How to Take Back Your Power
The first step in creating change is to recognize that you deserve to be treated with respect--and to discover why you've allowed someone to mistreat you. Then, you can begin to set healthy boundaries and limit the toll they take on your life.
That may mean saying no when certain things are requested of you (like refusing to loan someone money who never pays you back). Or, it may mean ending a conversation every time the other individual becomes disrespectful (like hanging up the phone every time your business partner begins yelling at you).
There's a good chance the other person won't respond well to your boundaries at first. But if they don't respect your wishes you may need to take more drastic steps--like cut the person out of your life.