The Amazing Thing That Happens When You Believe That You Matter

Have you ever woken up a year (or two, or ten) into a relationship to find yourself boiling with resentment? You’re sick of feeling unappreciated and taken for granted. You do so many things to accommodate your partner, but there never seems to be much reciprocity. You keep waiting for the day when your partner makes you feel like you matter, but that day never comes.

The Reason Your Partner Doesn’t Give You What You Need

Even if your partner is the Poster Person for narcissism, he or she isn’t the reason you feel like you don’t matter. You are. You started giving yourself away for cheap from the beginning. You said yes when you wanted to say no. You ignored neon red flags and intuition in order to get love/have a baby/get validation/keep the relationship going because you were afraid of being alone.

Now you keep score. You expect your partner to acknowledge the 257 accommodations you’ve made and pony up some reciprocity. Instead, they expect you to be perfectly content with your diet of crumbs, while they feel entitled to gobble the whole pie. The end result is that you feel that you have no value.

Because you’ve taught your partner that you don’t.

The Long-Term Consequences of Accepting Less Than You Deserve

Josie was angry and hurt when her fiance Sam handed her a prenup after the invitations had gone out. She felt manipulated, and put in a bad bargaining position. Bust she felt more afraid that Sam would end the engagement if she refused to sign his one-sided prenup, or if she postponed the wedding until they could work out an equitable deal.

So she swallowed her resentment (and her concern for Sam’s dodgy behavior) and signed the prenup as written, asking nothing for herself. This pattern of Sam expecting a pie in exchange for crumbs dominated the marriage. Sam felt entitled to whatever he wanted, Josie acquiesced, got resentful, and threatened to leave the marriage. Sam would try to make it up to her, but whatever he did was never enough (and in truth, he was only as nice as he had to be) and he began to see Josie as a woman who could never be pleased.

The marriage ended in apocalyptic fashion, morphing into an acrimonious divorce that went on forever, and spilled onto the children. The issue was not the things they fought over (money and child custody). It was that the pattern that began before the marriage continued after the divorce.

If Josie had insisted on negotiating a fair prenup, even if it meant postponing the wedding, Sam might have given her what she asked for. Or he would have refused, the engagement would have been broken, and Josie would have had the opportunity to find someone with whom she could have an equal partnership.

When You Know Your Value, The Only Thing You’ll Lose Is Someone Who Doesn’t Deserve You

If you’re unhappy in your current relationship, things won’t be any better in the next one if you don’t recognize your value, ask for what you want, and end a relationship when it’s clear you won’t get what you deserve. Once you start to believe that you matter, you’ll attract a partner who treats you like you do.

(Photo by Larisa Birta via unsplash)

Virginia Gilbert

Virginia Gilbert

I live in Los Angeles, where I specialize in helping people going through high-conflict divorce. On this blog, you'll find insights to help people who are considering divorce, are going through divorce, or have a high-conflict divorce that never seems to get any better.


  1. Katelyn Kent on February 3, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    Virginia, I have a simple question. Maybe the answer is not that simple. I am a Josie. But unlike Josie, I am not a victim. I take full responsibility for my actions. I am a believer in a simple concept. “Once you become aware, ‘IT’ becomes a choice.” I was not aware when I became involved in my current relationship. 6+ years in, I am now aware. I understand that if I stay in a relationship when in its early stages, I shook hands and sealed it with a kiss that I would accept crumbs and continue to bake delicious pies. There have been fights and tears and ultimatums (on his part) and even him announcing that the relationship will now henceforth and forever be a benevolent dictatorship, by his rule. My response was a soft retort, “and Fidel Castro claimed to be just that. I find it ironic that you can use the words benevolent and dictator in the same sentence with a straight face.” Now I understand that every pie I bake from now on is a choice. To expect rightful cake in return will indeed be met with resentment and struggle. Why wouldn’t it? I agreed to crumbs and now I am wanting cake. I am changing the rules. Here is my question… Is the only choice doormat or highway? Is there perhaps another solution that you have tucked away in your quiver? Thank you.

    • Virginia Gilbert on March 23, 2021 at 3:44 pm

      Hi Katelyn: Congratulations on your growth! I think you are asking if there’s a way to stay in your relationship and feel okay about that choice? I can’t really answer that without knowing more about your situation but I think it would be helpful to reflect on your values and whether or not this relationship is in alignment with the things that are most important to you. I would also focus on choices that support your integrity instead of figuring out what you might do to get your partner to be a different way, since that is ultimately not something you can control.

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