Change in relationships is bound to happen. Partners grow individually and together, and with this change, comes a stronger, healthier, more stable relationship.
However, sometimes change in relationships can be unhealthy, depending on the reasoning.
Men who have low self-esteem tend to perceive themselves with low value. They lack strong core values because they are constantly seeking approval. These are the kind of men who struggle to maintain the status quo. They feel the need to meet everyone else’s metric in order to feel valued. They believe that without acceptance, there is no value.
When one lacks the belief that they are high value, it creates an inferiority gap. This sets the values of others on a pedestal, and deeming them more important. As a result, these guys are liable to get run over by others.
When one feels like they are low value, they’re likely to base their feelings of success and worthiness on how well they meet the needs of others, instead of their own. Even though the entire idea of it is to gain others’ approval, this needy behavior actually repels others. Not to mention that it invites all sorts of problems into one’s life.
My first relationship after graduating college was with Kathy 1 who was uncomfortably close with her ex-boyfriend. It bothered me that they texted so much, but I overlooked it, because she was stunningly beautiful and very sexual. Her beauty lead me to create a halo effect;2 I perceived her as more valuable than myself, despite the behavior that I found unattractive.
As a result, she walked all over me. She took vacations with her ex-boyfriend while explaining that it meant nothing when I expressed how much it frustrated me. Regardless, I stuck with an unfulfilled relationship for a good year and a half. After we broke up, I then stayed as “friends with benefits” for another year after that. She got what she wanted, but I didn’t. It created anxiety, self-doubt, and insecurities.
Toxic relationships do not occur without a reason. They occur because you tolerate the negative and manipulative behavior. They occur because you engage in the manipulative behavior by reacting to it in an unhealthy way. I made the bed of my toxic relationship. I never thought I’d be someone to change in relationships, but surprise! I did.
I was far more emotionally invested in her value instead of my own, and as a result, I tolerated her manipulative behavior for far too long. Remember Joe, the Investment Banker who seeks external validation? One night in a local coffee shop, he introduced himself to a beautiful brunette named Sami. She had just graduated from college and was buying tickets to a rock concert. Joe is attracted to her, although he intrinsically feels repelled by her taste in music. He has never liked rock and doesn’t recognize any of the band names she mentions.
He gets her number anyway and they go out on a couple of dates. It turns out that she is quite the wild child. She has multiple tattoos and body piercings that are inappropriate by Joe’s standards. But Joe can’t help but be seduced by her beauty. He has never been with a woman this attractive before.
During the next year of their relationship, Joe attends numerous rock ‘n roll concerts, gets a Prince Albert piercing, and a large tattoo covering his back that says I’m a Devil Without A Cause.
Eventually, Joe’s new personality and attitude gets him fired from his job. He hates it anyway by now, because it prevents him from rocking out and being a “bad boy.”
Thirteen months into the relationship, Joe finds out that Sami has been sleeping with a few local rock artists, doing drugs he didn’t know she was involved in, and participating in orgies. A month later, Sami stops returning his texts and calls.
He loses his mind. He comes close to killing himself. Joe has been on quite the emotional roller coaster the past few years. From transforming his personality, to getting a tattoo, to being fired. All of these transformations, and many other subtle changes, reinforced Joe’s belief that he was missing something in his life.
A few months later, Joe is looking at himself in the mirror. He has absolutely no idea who he is. He lost the one job he loved, and he lost all of his credibility as one of the top investment bankers in his office. This is the kind of bad change in relationships that I’m talking about.
Joe is what most people call a boyfriend chameleon. He’s changing his lifestyle to match that of his new girlfriend, changing what he finds pleasure in, changing by sacrificing his ideas and beliefs. This is what I call falling into someone else’s values. We do this because we perceive ourselves as low value, and find someone else’s values and lifestyle more compelling than our own.
Guys with low-self esteem seek people who they consider higher value, and then adapt to that person in hopes of gaining their love and approval. Andre in the TV show The League is a prime example. The motivation for this behavior is not an interest in expanding one’s identity, but rather a fear that one has to perform in order to close the inferiority gap. It’s a belief that one has to change their values and interests to deserve love, to change in relationships.
Additionally, values are contextual. Joe was high value in his job, but he considered himself low value in the dating market. The irony is his low value in the dating market and desire to gain approval lead him to losing his high value in the career he loves, just over a woman’s physical appearance. If you revisit my post, you’ll see that Joe values physical attraction more than emotional happiness in a relationship.
Joe made his bed, and now he is the only one to blame for losing his career. Not only is he jobless, but he also is left with a Prince Albert piercing and a stupid tattoo. Every time he looks in the mirror, he can’t believe how much he did for this woman’s approval. What a Prince!
I’ve been guilty of this as well. The way to get over these value issues is to build one’s self-esteem. Not by focusing on a woman, but rather focusing on expanding one’s identity, exploring new passions, and cultivating meaningful relationships that provide one with a sense of value. I’ve spent two years working on my perceived value, and as a result I feel strong in who I am. Now, I will stick up for myself when my boundaries, values, and needs are not met.
The irony of Joe’s whole situation is that Sami was attracted to Joe before he changed himself. She found value in his identity and his passions, but once he started to change himself to be more like her, she found him less valuable and began to treat him like crap. Value systems are largely unconscious, but they are always visible through one’s actions.
The goal of life should be to find someone who you find valuable and vice-versa. This type of relationship will reinforce your own perceived value and make you feel significant and happy.
What are some activities that you do for yourself? Do you love writing? Playing sports? Do you make the time in your life for you to do these things, or do you drop things you love to get love? The latter is toxic and delays the inevitable. Strong self-esteem and boundaries create a greater sense of value, and they enable you to get the love you deserve.
- This is a fake name to protect the identity of the person I dated. ↩
- A halo effect is a cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person influences our feelings and thoughts about that person’s character. If we perceive them as being attractive, the halo effect causes us to believe them as being a good person too, overlooking or creating excuses for their odd behavior. Also known as the “What is beautiful is good” principle. ↩