I'm a big believer in forgiveness, and not just because I make a lot of mistakes. But because it's good for you and for your relationship if you're able to work things out and move past them. But there are some things you can't let slide in a relationship. Ever.
When you let certain things slide, it sends silent messages about the behavior you're willing to accept and the ways people are allowed to treat you. Letting bad behaviors slide isn't a way to be nice, or kind, or forgiving. It means you're not setting boundaries. It means you're taking crap from others for the sake of keeping the peace. It can also mean bigger things, like a lack of self-esteem, or poor communication skills, which are important to address as well.
Of course, letting things slide in abuse situations may not be your choice. I saw it all the time as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator. You can't always have a say in how your partner treats you, especially if trying to have a say will cost you your life. But if you are safe to put up boundaries and check these kinds of behaviors, do it. If not, make sure to get in touch with the National Domestic Violence Hotline for info on how to break free.
1. A Little Violence
A little shove or grab might not send up abuse flares in your brain, but it's not something you want to take lightly. Even if you're saying to yourself "they're drunk, they didn't realize how hard they grabbed me, it won't happen again," you still need to have a serious convo with your partner when they sober up. Not only is it not cool for your partner to be so smashed that they physically hurt you (regardless of their intent), but a lot of times, the little shoves give way to the bigger shoves, and that's how abuse begins. Nope. Shut it down.
2. A Little Disrespect
Only you can determine what's disrespectful. Maybe you prefer your partner never tells you to shut up, or never calls you the B word. Maybe disrespect to you is being rude to your friends and family, or picking you up late. Whatever it is that makes you feel disrespected, you have to point it out or your partner might never know that this behavior bothers you. And once people get away with a little respect, it makes bigger disrespect that much easier.
3. A Little Lying
Well, let me clarify. Little lies, like "I love you in that dress" or "that was good meatloaf" can help keep relationships happy. They're not deal breakers. You're not going to break up over a meatloaf. But lies about where your partner has been, who they've been with, what they've done with your shared money, and anything else that affects you both, or your futures, can damage your relationship. If you keep catching people in little lies, you damage the trust, and soon you can't believe anything they say. It doesn't make for a healthy relationship. Let your partner know if you catch them in a lie that you're not OK with, and let them know what you need in order to have trust in your relationship.
4. A Little Self-Hatred
I'm guessing your partner is pretty wonderful. Because you're pretty wonderful. So when they say horrible things about themselves, you have to respond. You don't want to tell them how to feel, or shame them for their negative feelings, but you definitely want to reassure them, and help them find ways to turn negatives into positives. Why? Because negative self-esteem hurts relationships in more ways that I can list here (see many links). Work to be each other's cheerleaders and allies. Healthy self-esteem should be the goal for both of you.
5. Names You Don't Like
I have a friend whose boyfriend calls her Pookie, and has for years, even though she hates it and it makes her mad every time. He thinks it's funny. Not cool, bro. It's just disrespectful. The same goes for names like bitch, ho, slut, idiot, dork, nerd, or crazy. Maybe you don't care. Or maybe dork is cute to you, but cunt totally pushes your buttons. Say something. Set that boundary, and don't stay with someone who doesn't respect your boundaries.
6. Sex You Don't Want
You are not a sex robot. It's not your primary function in any relationship to be a sex robot, not matter which celebrity is telling you that not being a sex robot is why you can't keep a partner or why your partner cheats on you. You don't have to have sex when you don't want it. You don't have to agree to multiple partners, weird positions, public sex, uncomfortable positions, or anything you don't like. You don't have to have unprotected sex. And if you love all of those things, and love that meeting your partner's sexual needs is something you get to do, more power to you. But you have the choice.
7. Decisions You're Not OK With
This one's tricky. What if you really want to do something and your partner really doesn't? Or vice versa? Well, you have to talk it out and compromise. And if you're not willing to compromise, then you have to be clear about the consequences of your decisions. Your partner doesn't get to ask if they can spend all your joint savings on a motorcycle, then do it anyway when you disagree. Maybe the consequence is that you will no longer be in a relationship. And just so we're clean, saying "If you love me, you'd let me get this motorcycle" is a manipulation. Saying, "If you spend all our money when we did not agree on the purchase, then I will not be with you" is a consequence of a betrayal.
We've all been jealous. It's usually just a pain in our gut, and maybe a couple minutes of not being our best selves in front of our partners. But jealousy is actually really toxic, and often a sign that something unhealthy or abusive is present or on the horizon. A little garden-variety twinge of jealousy is fine, but the way you tell if it's a problem is if it involves control. Is it just expressing some uncomfortable feelings they're having, or are they trying to get you to do something, like change your clothes, stop talking to certain friends, or stay home? That's the difference, and the latter is something you definitely don't want to let slide.
9. Telling You How To Feel
Guess who gets to decide how you feel, always, all the time? Yup. Just you. A therapist, friend, or support person might tell you their opinion on how you feel, or if they think your feelings are inappropriate for the given situation, but they're still yours to feel. If your partner hurts your feelings and then tells you not to feel upset or tells you that you should feel lucky that they're not doing worse things, you have to speak up for yourself and let them know that feelings police is not in their job description.
10. Telling You What To Do
You can't let it slide in a relationship when your partner bosses you around. Whether it's as seemingly little as "get me a drink" or as big as "go back to school," it's still the same thing. If you want a drink, ask. If you think it would be better for me to go back to school, tell me why. But whether or not I do those things is not up to you, and your happiness shouldn't depend on your ability to get me to do what you want.
11. Expecting Inequality
We all define equality a little differently. For example, I don't think one person raising kids and doing all the housework and meal prep is equal to another partner sitting at an easy desk job all day, just because that easy desk job pays actual money. But that's just me. My point is, it's up to you and your partner to define what equality means in your relationship. And it's whatever makes you both feel like you're contributing equally and valued equally. Nothing more, nothing less.
It's easy to see how the little things become big things. Speaking up and setting those boundaries will help ensure that you both know you're being treated and treating each other in ways that make you happy.
Images: Pexels (12); Isla Murray/Bustle