I’m pretty sure that at some point in most of our lives we have all taken on the role of the proverbial doormat.
And it is so easy to blame someone else for what is actually our own unwillingness (voluntary or otherwise) to stand up in any way or form to someone or something that we find intimidating enough to lose faith in our own abilities. It is not easily done, but it is easy to become a victim.
The problem with most relationships, romantic or otherwise, is that there is always a power equation in play.
The initial months of a relationship are spent in some part negotiating power spaces.
I have found one partner frequently decides on when and where to meet, makes decisions on the direction of the relationship, and so on, more than the other.
If we are not careful, one of us can wind up being the dominating partner and the other becomes the submissive.
And the stronger, dominant one, becomes the greater in the inequality of the power dynamic.
So, keeping this in mind, I figured it was important to be able to identify certain thoughts and/or behaviors that we might unconsciously engage in that bring about this inequity. After all, if someone pushes we don’t always have to budge, right?
And, more to the point, if we fix this at the start, then there’s no need for the game at all.
Easier said than done?
Some principles to keep in mind, especially when charting out the boundaries of a new relationship (remember not everyone out there wants to look out for another, therefore it is important that we look out for our own interests):
This is what I’ve learned from my own experience of being a “doormat.”
1. Have an opinion. When my date asks where I want to have dinner, there have been several times I have replied with an “Oh, I don’t care. You pick.” Once in a blue moon, that kind of response is forgivable. But in general my experience has been that the more I say I don’t care, the more the other person starts making unilateral decisions, and soon I find I am expected to follow suit no matter what.
So, be considerate of yourself. Think about what it is you want, and state your opinion. Whether or not you both follow through on your choice is another story. But for starters, at least I would have established that I have a preference and that it matters—to me, and therefore, to him.
2. Stand your ground. He thinks it’s fine to cancel plans last minute and go out with his pals. Yes, acceptable that his long-lost buddy is in town for only a short while and it is important to meet. But I think it’s important to keep tabs on how many times he does this. After a point, my agenda obviously has stopped being important to him.
It’s time to be firm and say things like, “Yeah, I get so-and-so has this really cool new game/gadget (whatever), but I have set aside this time to spend with you and I would appreciate that being respected.” And this is especially for those of us who really do have a lot of demands on our time, such as moms who have made babysitting arrangements so they can be out with the men in their lives.
3. Don’t be a pushover. If he is a busy body with work, a hectic social life and family commitments oozing out of his ears, so what? If I think I’m important then I need to make it evident. Otherwise I am going to wind up on the sidelines getting what I can, when he chooses. Everything cannot be his way every time. And the sooner the proverbial foot is put down about that, the better.
Of course it is okay to give in, make room, back off, postpone and so on—once in a while. Just not always. I need to be a priority in his life and he needs to want that too.
4. Hold back a little. It’s easy to give everything all at once. But just hold back that little bit and make him work for it a little harder. Don’t always be ready to say, “how high?” every time he says, “jump”. It’s the easiest way to lose his respect and allow boredom to step in. It really is okay to keep him guessing once in a while. Let him wonder, “Will she, won’t she?” Not only does it make him wake up a bit, keeps him on his toes from time to time, but it also will add life to a relationship.
All these things really go back to the good old advice that my best friends have always given me: respect yourself.
Sometimes we forget that basic rule so easily. So much so, that we think we are being good, kind and selfless in our relationships when we give in to everything, listen to everything, follow every order, fulfill every request and forget all about putting ourselves first.
When in fact we are treating ourselves without respect, consideration and concern. And it has been proven time and again that if we don’t care for ourselves, nobody else is going to either.
The moment I respect myself, my values, my time, my space and my life, automatically the man in my life will do the same.
A doormat holds only so much importance in anyone’s life.
When it’s new we tread over it carefully. On further usage we forget it’s even there, and consistently wipe our feet on it without even being aware. I am a person. Not a doormat.
Author: Ashwini Jaisim
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock