It is sometimes hard to recognize or believe there is intent behind the hurtful behaviors of a person close to us. This story will show you what I mean:
We were married less than a year when I decided to host a birthday dinner for Alec. I moved into his home after our wedding, not only did it have a fabulous gourmet kitchen, the dining room and front deck overlooked the Pacific Ocean. The perfect setting for a dinner for twelve, the number our table would accommodate. It is what I offered as my gift to Alec.
I explained that I would prepare all the food and the selection of guests would be his choice.
Alec glanced at me briefly and said, “Yes, put in on the calendar.” Then added, “I will combine the party with a day of golf for the men. The women can join us for dinner.” When he gave me his list, the total number of dinner guests added up to forty-six. Forty-eight people for dinner including Alec and me. They all responded yes to the RSVP.
Was I shocked when he handed me the list? Yes. Did I laugh and ask which caterer he would like to hire? No.
I didn’t want to disappoint him or allow him to think I couldn’t handle the challenge. Mostly, I wanted to make him happy.
First things first, I created a spreadsheet for the menu and shopping lists. I contacted a florist and ordered centerpieces. Chairs, tables, and linens were ordered from a rental vendor. I decided to use four different sets of dishes and flatware for that we had in our combined inventory. (I know!!! That meant I’d have all those dishes and flatware to wash!) I contacted a local baker to create the birthday cake. Alec’s favorite wine was purchased along with three other selections to accommodate the guests.
An Intense Two Days of Preparation
Food preparation required every ounce of my stamina for two days. I owned a small coffee business at the time and persuaded several baristas to act as servers for the outdoor event. At the end of the second day of cooking, I barely had time to dress before golfers began to stream in as their wives arrived.
I went to the kitchen to uncover appetizer platters when Alec walked in and demanded, “Why isn’t the music system on? Do I have to remind you of everything?” He glared at me until I reluctantly went to the hallway to set the programmer.
Much later, after I had asked the servers to remove dinner plates and prepare to serve the cake, Alec again came into the kitchen where an employee of Alec’s and his wife were chatting with me as I set out dessert plates while coffee was brewing. His demeanor made his disgust obvious, “What’s taking you so long? You should have served dessert by now!”
The embarrassed couple waited as he abruptly exited the kitchen then they pitched in to help me expedite things. It required all my self-control to hold back a torrent of tears.
The party ended while the guests continued chatting
The evening never slowed to a lull, everyone enjoyed themselves. As they departed, the guests congratulated Alec again on his birthday and thanked us both for a wonderful party. Then I ran downstairs to my office where the servers waited to be paid for the evening. When the last one left, I sat there for a while, absorbing the silence I knew would be shattered when I went back upstairs.
How and Why do so many women tolerate the type of treatment described here?
Examples of how:
- Excuse the Behavior
- He’s had a bad day, he had a terrible childhood, he’s under tremendous stress at work, etc.
- Disbelieve the Behavior
- That’s not who he is, he’s not serious; he doesn’t realize what he said or did is devastating to me.
- Accountability for Bad Behavior… Is there any accountability?
- Almost never in this type of relationship.
- Consequences of Bad Behavior… there is none, instead there is acceptance
- The recipient walks on eggshells, hoping to avoid pushing the wrong button and incurring further wrath.
The reasons why:
- I don’t want to disappoint him (no matter how he treats me)
- Or allow him to think I can’t handle the challenge (I want to live up to his expectations)
- Mostly, I want to make him happy (codependence)
These reasons add up to a driven desire for approval and validation, and the belief that if you try hard enough, you can repair and maintain a relationship.
Believe the Behavior…
There is something important missing in this reasoning. It is the knowledge that truly toxic people:
- know exactly what they are doing. They use bad behavior to manipulate, intimidate and maintain the upper hand in a relationship.
- recognize those who will tolerate disrespect and try even harder to please in close relationships.
- choose people who will tend to blame themselves, are forgiving, and try not to judge harshly.
Instead of allowing your natural empathy and compassion to rule your mind, learn to believe the behavior. And remember that authentic love is not:
Love does not take pleasure in hurting others.
When someone is consistently intolerant, demanding, unforgiving, and derisive… believe the behavior. This is not any type of love or respect. Not brotherly love, nor romantic love, and certainly not Godly love.
When someone demeans you in front of others, shuns you in private, or scoffs at your best efforts… believe the behavior. They do not have your best interests at heart.
Have you ever been in the car with someone who is literally giving you a verbal lashing? And then, when you arrive at your destination, they get out of the car and greet people as if nothing is wrong? They know exactly what they are doing…
Along with learning to believe the behavior, we must learn to love and respect ourselves. We can begin to do this by learning to believe how much we are loved by our Savior. It is to Him, and Him alone we should surrender.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Psalm 119:66
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. John 14:1
You are loved, more than you can imagine.
Blessings my friend,
P.S. If you would like to know more about how to deflect and avoid toxic treatment, drop me an email. It’s confidential. Also… watch for the announcement of my upcoming coaching course: Be Bold. Live Free. 101