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I have been all three at different points in my relationships. I went from being passive, to getting angry and I finally settled on being assertive.

In a problematic relationship, it’s easy to blame your partner for being controlling or manipulative, because clearly, their behaviour is wrong. In my case, I was in one of those relationships. Blaming him didn’t change anything. Even after discussions about how hurtful the behaviour was and how it impacted our relationship, he would stop for a few weeks and then started up again.

I could not see it back then. It all felt so unfair. I felt sorry for myself. I felt angry. I cried. I couldn’t believe that someone who is supposed to love me could treat me that way.

The good times were fun. However, the negative patterns continued. I’d have to navigate through them when they were present. Then, they would stop again. I was still there. I didn’t leave. I hoped that he would change. I asked for change. To this day, I feel that is the right approach to start with. I don’t think you should just walk away when there is conflict.

As his behaviour continued, I got angry, and I would lash out. I became frustrated and aggressive – but that wasn’t me. It wasn’t the type of person I wanted to become.

His apologies become meaningless, and I started to disconnect from the relationship.

Over time, I came to realize that I was enabling my partner. I was too passive. By staying in the relationship, I was essentially telling him that it was OK to continue. There were no consequences for him. What I needed to do was look in the mirror and see how I was contributing.

I didn’t know what characteristics to look for in a partner in the first place.  I chose to be with him in a long-term relationship without really knowing enough about who he was. I was naive. Today, I can spot that type of behaviour right away, but not then.

It wasn’t until years later, after we broke up, that I realized I lacked self-worth in those days. I was accepting the same behaviours that I grew up with. I didn’t know any different.

I hit a wall. I landed on my ass. I cried my heart out. Then I got up and started to fight back. I began a journey to take back what was mine – my dignity. I had to undo a lot of my beliefs that I adopted from years of emotional abuse as a child.  I carried those beliefs into my adult life. They no longer applied.

I learned that I am lovable simply because I exist.  I do not have to do anything special to be loved.  My partner didn’t have to do anything special to show his love for me – just treat me with respect. It was at that point that I started to assert myself.

I didn’t have to hide my feelings or put up with abusive behaviour. Once I learned to trust myself and my inner feelings, I’d be on the right path.

I learned to believe in myself, to build my personal foundation of who I am and what the ideal circumstances and types of relationships are for me. Now I was in a position to assert myself.

Being passive kept my true spirit buried and I was not living to my potential. Being aggressive only served as a reminder of what I didn’t want. Being assertive showed confidence. It didn’t matter how others responded. No one had my perspective.

I knew the type of man that would make my heart sing. I had a picture on my vision board of a couple in love. In the image, the man holds his partner’s head in his hands. The look of love emanating from his eyes into her gaze is so evident.  That was what I wanted.

Being confident and assertive enabled me to attract the right partner. I am clear about who I am, what I want and what my boundaries are. I have absolutely no problem expressing that. Now, I am in a healthy, loving relationship with lots of mutual respect and laughter. It’s been quite a journey and so well worth it!

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash