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How To Treat YOURSELF with Compassion in a Difficult or Failing Romantic Relationship
by Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW for

In a previous article, I discussed the most compassionate ways to treat one's partner during the break-up of a failing romantic relationship.

In this column, I will address the related issue of how to treat yourself with the utmost kindness, compassion and respect if a love relationship is not working out.

Each of us yearns to love and to be loved by one special, beloved partner, because the giving and receiving of love (in this case, the giving and receiving of romantic love), is one of the most important, enriching and rewarding experiences that we can have in life.

Maybe you are just starting to date again after a divorce, or following the ending of a serious love relationship. If this is the case, you are just beginning to venture back out into the dating world, which means that you will find yourself in the position of relearning all the old dating rules (as well as a few new, 21st century ones).

One thing you will need to do is re-attune yourself to a wide variety of non-verbal social cues, including the mysteries of flirtatious body language. According to this informative article on the subject, many dating/relationship experts agree that if your date is mirroring your body language, aligning his feet with yours, smiling a lot, engaging in prolonged eye contact with you, using his best, most upright posture (in the same way that a peacock would stand very erect while displaying his feathers), then he is trying to convey that he is deeply interested in you.

Some Red Flags to Watch Out When Re-entering The Dating World

On the other hand, according to this same article, there are also some body language "red flags" to be on the lookout for, if you seek to protect your emotional health. These include (but are not limited to), "closed off" body language, such as your date's arms being defensively crossed over his chest, a pronounced lack of eye contact, and/or your date's tendency to look over your shoulder (perhaps at someone else across the room).

Some relationships start out wonderfully, but then seem to peter out, often without fair warning.

For example, if you are dating someone who initially shows ups at the appointed times for dates, and calls when he says he will call, but then gradually starts to become less and less reliable, and seems to be less and less interested in your thoughts and opinions, all of these behaviors are big red flags.

A few years ago, former Sex and The City script writers Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, co-wrote the dating guide, He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth To Understanding Guys.

Their book, which I should note is for mature readers only, due to its frank discussion of adult dating situations, made such a big impact on the current dating zeitgeist-or perhaps it was just such an accurate reflection of the current dating zeitgeist-that Oprah actually ended up featuring the authors as guests on her show not once, but twice.

The authors make a number of interesting points about what men's actions and signals really mean in the context of dating relationships. And one of their key "take-away messages" for women is this: Don't allow a man you are dating to make excuse after excuse for his bad behavior, especially if he seems to be slipping into a primarily negative behavioral pattern, because certain bad behaviors are downright inexcusable.

A big part of respecting yourself and maintaining your dignity in your dating relationships involves knowing when to say: "This just isn't working out. I deserve to be treated better, and I won't accept anything less than kind, loving, gentle treatment from any dating partner."

dating relationship

Don't ever tolerate cruel, negative behavior in your dating relationships.

The Inestimable Value of Clear Communication

Of course, non-verbal communication, including body language, counts for a lot in dating relationships, but it certainly isn't everything. Indeed, clear, candid verbal communication can make nearly all of your dating experiences feel much more emotionally gratifying.

For instance, if you are hoping to get into a serious, committed relationship, and you have been dating someone for a couple of months, the best approach is to be honest and direct with your dating partner about the fact that an exclusive, long-term relationship-perhaps even one that leads to marriage-is your ultimate dating goal.

If the person you are dating shares this goal, great! You are both on the same page, and the two of you can look forward to building a loving, healthy relationship together.

If not, then this is the time to get out with both your dignity and your peace of mind intact. Don't make the mistake of assuming that you can somehow change your partner's mind.

After all, one of the fundamental truths of dating is that we cannot change other people.

Remember always to listen to your heart. You know deep inside when you are being treated fairly and kindly and when you are not. Don't tolerate lies, mind games, excuses, evasiveness, or even mixed signals.

Maybe you want a particular relationship to work out with every ounce of your being. However, if your dating partner is not treating you right, please know that it is not going to work out, no matter how much time and effort you pour into it. As painful as it may be, you need to end it, cut your losses, and move on.

If you make the decision to stay in a bad relationship, and to continue tolerating a partner's chronic mistreatment of you-perhaps because you find him extremely handsome or exceptionally charismatic-it will actually be much more painful for you to break up with him later on (as you will inevitably be compelled to do), because by then you will have invested even more time and emotional energy in keeping a doomed relationship alive way past it's actual "expiration date."

Here is the bottom line: When a dating partner cares about you and wants to pursue a serious, long-term relationship, he will let you know just how much he cares in a variety of verbal and non-verbal ways.

He will tell you in words, and he will also show you with his actions exactly how much he loves you and wants to be with you. In addition, he will listen to you, not just once in a while, but all of the time, and he will make mental notes about exactly what you hold most dear ... mental notes that he will continually apply in positive ways to his behavior in the relationship.

For instance, if you mention that you love going to the theater, he may give you a gift of season tickets to your local community theater, not only to show you how much he loves you, but also as a way to demonstrate that he listens to you and values what you have to say.

Five Tips For Navigating the Sometimes Rough Waters of the Dating World

dating relationship restaurant

When you treat yourself with love and respect, you tend to draw more loving, respectful people into your life.

  1. Remember to communicate honestly and often about exactly what you need and want from your relationship. Similarly, listen with an open heart and an equally open mind to his desires, needs and goals, and make sure that you both want the same things from the relationship.

  2. Respect and value yourself enough to insist upon consistent, positive, kind, gentle treatment from your dating partner. You deserve nothing less than a consistent pattern of kindness and compassion in your relationship; and any dating partner without those qualities is not worth your time or effort.

  3. Beware of dating partners who are afraid or reluctant to show you and tell you exactly how they feel. It's no fun dating a cold, uncommunicative partner who doesn't seem to share your enthusiasm, either for the relationship, or for life in general.

  4. Look for consistency between what he says and what he does. Maybe he talks a good game, but doesn't follow through on promises. Or maybe he buys you a lot of fancy gifts, but doesn't express himself openly, lovingly and honestly. Either of these scenarios is filled with red flags that cannot be ignored.

  5. Not only should you be honest and direct with your partner, but you should also be honest and direct with yourself. Are you getting what you want and need from this relationship? If not, why not? If there are problems, are they the fixable kind, or-if you are being totally honest with yourself-are they beyond fixing? If the problems really are beyond fixing, remember that there truly are, as the old saying goes, "other fish in the sea," and you owe yourself the opportunity to meet someone kinder and more loving.

Recommended Reading

The Top Five Things Couples Argue About

Why The Little Things Mean Everything in Relationships



Sex and The City

He's Just Not That Into You

Flirting and Body Language

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