Since I’ve found myself in unhealthy relationships and struggling with an insecure attachment style, I don’t always know what my “rights” are. I often ask myself, Do I have a right to feel this way? Is my opinion fair? Am I triggered because of past trauma or the current situation? Am I allowed to need more than what I’m getting? Am I enough?
If you also struggle or just want a reminder, here are 10 rights I want you to keep in mind in familial, platonic, and romantic relationships. If you haven’t done so yet, work to build your self-respect and know letting go of a relationship can be the right answer sometimes.
1. You have the right to feel safe — and not only physically.
I don’t know about you, but in presentations I’ve seen on healthy relationships, people often place a large focus on physical safety. Further, when people discuss abuse, they often think of hitting, kicking, or other physically abusive behavior first and foremost.
While that’s definitely a problem needing discussion, safety isn’t only physical: It’s also emotional and sexual, and I don’t believe that’s talked about enough. When you feel emotionally safe with someone, you don’t worry about them hurting you. They make you feel good about yourself, respect your boundaries, support your mental health, don’t shame you, and more. Essentially, they don’t mentally or emotionally abuse you.
When you feel sexually safe with someone, you trust that they’ll treat your body and boundaries with respect. They’ll stop when you ask them to stop, ask for your consent consistently, and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. If they don’t respect you in this way, they could be sexually abusing you.
If you’re worried you may be experiencing abuse, here is a resource.
2. You have the right to feel respected for who you are and what you like.
On the note of emotional safety, the person you’re in a relationship with should respect you, even when they disagree. They shouldn’t make fun of your hobbies; they should respect your identity and culture. If they’re worried about you in one of those areas, they should come to you respectfully and from a place of compassion and concern, not shame or blame. Respect is such a basic right, but it’s so important, and America lacks it.
3. You have the right to feel appreciated, special, liked, and loved.
You deserve to feel appreciated for who you are, what you bring to the table, and how you help others. You deserve to feel special and know you play a unique role in others’ lives.
You also deserve to feel both liked and loved. While being loved is great and we may say “I love you” more often, having someone remind you they also like you is important too. Personally, I associate “love” with irrevocability and unconditionality. In other words, we can love another person no matter what they do. I associate “like,” however, with consistent moments of attraction. If someone likes me, they love my personality and how I make them feel. If someone says they like me, I feel appreciated and affirmed more specifically and personally.
4. You have the right to feel cared for wholeheartedly.
You have the right to be cared for and cared about by others. You have the right to want your loved ones to take care of you when you don’t feel great, and you have the right to want compassion and empathy. This care should come from a wholehearted place, meaning it’s full and genuine.
5. You have the right to want and receive attention freely.
Many people associate “wanting attention” with negativity. They believe people do something or struggle with something “for attention,” meaning their reason wasn’t valid.
While people may not always carry out their want for attention in the right ways — which isn’t our decision to make — wanting attention is a normal, human thing. It’s okay to want a loved one to pay you attention and to do so without you having to beg them for it.
6. You have the right to feel affirmed and validated.
Affirmation and validation are crucial in so many areas. You have the right to be validated and affirmed in your feelings, in your identity, and in your wants. It comes down to respect, really, and knowing how to communicate with people to make them feel heard. You’re allowed to be who you are, feel how you feel, and want others to empathize with you. People may not always understand why you feel or think a certain way, and they may want to help, but they should also respect what you’re saying and feeling.
7. You have the right to have your boundaries respected.
You deserve to have your boundaries respected in all areas, from your emotional boundaries, sexual boundaries, activity-based boundaries, work-life boundaries, and more. Emotionally, you may need people to speak to you more calmly, and that’s understandable. Sexually, you may not be comfortable engaging in a certain act, and your partner needs to respect that. Activity-wise, if you’re like me, you may rather watch a game than play it — and that’s totally fine. With work-life boundaries, people shouldn’t ask you to do too much or to work on weekends unless your job requires that. Setting boundaries clearly and checking in on yourself to ensure people are respecting them is a worthwhile thing to do.
8. You have the right to feel whole and independent.
I’ve heard people talk about how they want to find someone who “completes them” or “makes them feel whole.” And I’m not a fan of those phrases, personally. While I understand the want to have a partner, I also believe we have to learn to be happy on our own. We have to know we’re already whole and we don’t need anyone else in that way.
Further, within a relationship, we should be able to pursue independence. While having a loved one support us can feel great, and while we have the right to want that support, we should also feel free to pursue our other interests and relationships too. Our loved ones should respect us and our interests in that way as well.
9. You have the right to stand up for yourself.
When you’re a peacemaking, conflict-hating person like me, standing up for yourself can seem scary. You may not always know when you’re “allowed” to or how others will take it. I want you to know, however, that you have the right to stand up for yourself. You don’t deserve anyone’s mistreatment; you’re allowed to have boundaries and have others respect you.
10. You have the right to love yourself, no matter what.
Even when people tear you down, I want you to remember that you have the right to love yourself. You’re allowed to like qualities in yourself that others may not be a fan of, because it’s impossible to like and be liked by everyone. Maybe you’re loud because you have a lot of passion. Maybe you’re smart, and others are jealous. Try to not let people get you down about that, even when it’s hard. Treat others with respect, but know when others aren’t treating you with respect (and don’t take it).
If you’re struggling with any of these rights, I encourage you to have a conversation with your loved one and to speak with a professional. My therapist has helped me handle the tough parts of my relationships, and I’m so thankful I’ve had her to go to about those situations. You can filter through mental health professionals here or look at more inexpensive options here.
Respect others, but also respect yourself. Love others, but also love yourself. Stay true to who you are and don’t take anyone’s shame. You are appreciated, special, liked, and loved!
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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