Everyone deserves love- to find someone to love and to be loved. For some of us, this can be a difficult concept. There are people who are out there with intentions to hurt us because they are hurting themselves. They want to destroy others and don’t care about the feelings they shatter in the process.

Some of us don’t believe that we are worth real, lasting love. We don’t think that we will find someone that can love us for the quirks and other things we may hold inside. We may not feel that we are pretty, handsome, skinny or otherwise good enough to be even looked at by those we really want. We may feel too broken to be loved, even when someone else can see past the brokenness to love us anyway.

We may not realize it, but our standards lower as we think less positively about ourselves. We tend to pick partners that treat us the way we feel we should be treated, which sometimes makes things a lot worse. If we feel we should be treated in abusive ways, or that is all we know, it’s hard to seek out something else.

Starting From Scratch

To be able to set standards for love and relationships, you have to start with setting some standards for yourself. This most likely includes a reflection on what you want in a partner, which may change as you seek better relationships. You will also have to do a lot of work on yourself- self- worth, self- love, and confidence are three big areas to concentrate on.

What do you want in a partner? This varies for everyone, but most want someone that shares their interests (music, hobbies, etc.), has a good sense of humor, cares about others, and other likable qualities. This question is an important one so that you know what to look for but don’t kick someone out of your life because they are missing one or two small things on the list. You may miss out on “the one” because he had blue eyes instead of the green you were looking for. If they’re missing something huge, however, like not being empathetic to your mental health (or other major) needs, then, by all means, let that one go.

After you have figured out what you want in a partner, it’s time to think about what you will and will not tolerate in a partner. My list is very short- I do not tolerate any kind of abuse towards myself or my kids. My husband is aware of this, and I can’t imagine him raising a finger towards any of us. He has been verbally and emotionally abusive in the past, and sadly, I did tolerate it. I didn’t think I deserved better, and I went into a dark place in my mind. I was able to come out of it, but it was not easy.

After the loss of someone I cared about and two years of therapy, he knows that is no longer an option. Some people are more tolerant than others, but everyone needs boundaries and to know what their limits are. What can you tolerate without damaging who you are, your self-worth and confidence? It’s a big question- but it can dramatically change what and how you think.

Another big question is: why do you think you are not worth love and/or a loving partner? This is where the work on your self- esteem, and self-worth comes in. It may require therapy and there is no shame in that. Some of my work in therapy centered on this topic. Even if therapy isn’t for you, the work you do to improve your self-esteem and self-worth will pay off in many areas in your life, not just in romance. There are workbooks and journals that you can use to help make these changes.

Making The Changes Work (And Stick!)

Once you know what you want in a partner and what you will and will not deal with, it’s time to make those changes work for you. This isn’t to say to run out and meet someone just to try these new ideas out. That may end in disaster! Someone will come into your life and at that point, it will be time to see if that person is the right one.

Arguments are a typical part of any relationship- but will you tolerate being berated, hit or beaten as in in the past? When do you talk to someone about that- before or after an argument? During? It depends. Example: this was a major problem for my husband and I. He would get very angry during major arguments, and start yelling and berate me, basically becoming someone I didn’t know.

I’m normally a loud person who will argue back in a minute, but somewhere along the line, I lost my voice. Plus, he outweighs me by about 80 lbs and is about 8 inches taller than me. See the issues? During therapy, I learned new skills to de-escalate the situation when we did begin to argue, and one of them was to tell him that we needed to take a break and come back to the topic when both of us weren’t so mad, because I wasn’t about to listen to him yell at me. We also discussed ways for him to learn to calm easier, me to vocalize what I need from him and other things.

It may be helpful to examine the situation as it is happening and be assertive- “I will not tolerate you doing this (yelling, screaming, etc.) and this cannot continue. It scares me and we need to figure out something else to communicate without it getting to this point. It’s not healthy.” You can talk about it afterward if this is helpful- it truly depends on the situation. Of course, if things get dangerous, get help immediately.

If things go well with setting and enforcing standards within your relationships, you will start to feel better about yourself in general.  Sometimes there are small setbacks, but this is okay. It happens, but keep going forward. You will see that you are worth more than what you were getting before and will not want to ever settle for less again. This is wonderful because you are worth it. Those standards will hopefully keep you from going back to old patterns.

Changing your thoughts on love and standards is not easy, but it is well worth it. Embrace the changes and enjoy the benefits.