Are You Suffering From “Doormat-itis?” Time to Pick Yourself Up!

By Rhoberta Shaler, PhD. Breaking the Bonds of Emotional Abuse.

Do you feel you’re expected to be a doormat for someone? And, like it? If you’re codependent, you may not realize that you have become a doormat. Time to get up!

You’ll suffer from “doormat-itis” if you don’t take a stand in life for your values, vision, purpose, beliefs, desires, or worth. Doormat people are more interested in keeping the peace or living up to the expectations of others. Does that sound like the kind of person you want to be? Probably not, however, you may have slipped into the role over time. It’s not that hard to do.

Start by recognizing that relationships are two-way streets AND no one deserves to be treated like a doormat.

That means neither partner walks all over, uses, or takes advantage of the other. It’s not fair, honest, respectful, or loving.

If you find yourself in a relationship where you usually feel like you don’t count, take a step back and reassess the situation. It may be that your partner is taking advantage of your good nature, or, that they are simply using you to get what they want. Either way, it is important to communicate your needs and set boundaries, ones with non-negotiable consequences.

It can be difficult to express how you feel, especially if you fear that doing so will lead to a verbal altercation. This is a very common reason lots of folks avoid communicating their needs.

However, it is important to remember that verbal abuse is not an acceptable form of communication. If you’re being verbally abused, your best response is to become more assertive and begin to speak up for yourself. Yes, it means disruption, so do it in small, non-blaming ways.

Boundaries are another area where it’s easy to feel uncomfortable. AND we need to do it. We all have a need for connection and intimacy; it is part of what makes us human. However, to have healthy relationships, we need healthy boundaries. Boundaries provide a sense of safety and security, and allow us to feel comfortable sharing our thoughts, feelings, and experiences with others.

A boundary is that line that you hold between what you will and will not accept, how much you will or won’t give or do, and where you begin to feel uncomfortable with things. How people treat you is something you can teach them, by having clear boundaries with equally clear consequences for crossing them. And again, you have a right to express that.

When boundaries are weak or nonexistent, we may feel overwhelmed, taken advantage of, or even trapped. On the other hand, overly rigid boundaries can lead to isolation and feelings of disconnection. By striking a balance between too little and too much, we can create relationships that are characterized by respect, trust, and communication. Ultimately, healthy, maintained boundaries are essential for any relationship to thrive.

If your partner, parent, sibling, or adult child won’t accept or respect your boundaries, you may have to limit your relationship. Maybe even walk away from it altogether.

Healthy relationships are NOT barter systems.

Healthy relationships are ones that demonstrate mutual respect, love, attention, and trust. The partners care enough to learn how to communicate well, how to create true intimacy, and how to manage anger and conflict effectively. Barter relationships happen in marketplaces, not homes.

Barter systems are based on give-and-take: I’ll do this for you if you do that for me. It’s a way of trying to get what we want from our partner by using trade-offs, threats or guilt trips: If you don’t do this for me, then I won’t do that for you. Sure, occasionally we’ll trade off chores at home, or take turns selecting the movie to watch. That’s not a foundational barter system, that’s reciprocity.

Do you feel like you’re always giving, and never getting anything back in return? You may be involved in a lop-sided barter system.

This is not only ineffective but can also be damaging to the relationship over time. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to break the cycle and find a healthier way of relating to your partner.

At a minimum, there MUST be balance in the barter system. In codependent relationships—especially ones with relentlessly difficult people, you end up giving much more than you ever receive. You end up doing things to prove you care. The other just takes and takes. Familiar? NOT GOOD!

Be aware of a tendency towards score keeping!

That’s the tell-tale sign. You know, the sign that comes on in neon lights when you have a disagreement, argument, or fight. You may be disagreeing over the credit card bill. Instead of keeping the conversation on the credit card bill, the conversation escalates to the “You always….” and “You never….” and “The last three times….” You get the drift… someone is keeping track of everything and tallying the “points”.

Perfectionism and low self-esteem play a part in this. If you have given up speaking up about your needs, wants, thoughts, and feelings because you’ve been ignored, dismissed, or diminished, your relationship is in trouble. Afraid you’ll be made wrong, even when you’re right? Another big neon light, signaling that the relationship is unhealthy.

Everyone deserves to be listened to, not just heard.

When two people come together in a relationship, it is important that there is a sense of equality and balance. Both partners should feel like they are valued and respected, and neither should feel like they are being taken advantage of.

Unfortunately, some people stay in relationships where they are constantly being treated like a doormat. They may put up with their partner’s bad behavior out of fear of being alone, or because they somehow believe that they deserve to be treated this way. This is not healthy for either person involved.

Doormats listen, but they’ve learned not to speak up. Some don’t think they are worthy of taking up space and drawing breath. Some are just simply tired of fighting. In any case, you may need some new insights and skills to feel confident in approaching communication differently.

It’s worth getting help so that you are no longer being walked on, and no longer allowing people to walk over you!

If any of this sounds like your situation, reach out for help today.

Host of the Save Your Sanity podcast, Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, helps clients worldwide to recognize, release, and recover from toxic relationships and emotional abuse. She is the author of Escaping the Hijackal Trap and Kaizen for Couples. Learn more about her work and join in her community here:

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