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Do You Normalize Mistreatment?

You are welcome to share Dr. Gloria Lee’s article:

Woman walking away after mistreatment from partner.

You might and not even know it.

Do you have a loved one (e.g., partner, parent, friend, family member) who does or says things to you that you don’t like, but you don’t do anything about it? 

Do you excuse their poor behaviour by saying things like, 

“Sometimes you have to look beyond the behaviour and love them anyway”. 

Or how about, “they had a hard day/life so I understand why they are like that”. 

Or my favorite, “that’s the way they are, just ignore it”. 

People learn to live with mistreatment by normalizing it. It’s a way of coping when you haven’t learned the skills to deal with it. Or sometimes, you have gotten so used it that you don’t even recognize it anymore. 

Often, this tolerance of poor behaviour is learned in childhood. You had a caregiver who used their power over you and acted aggressively. So, to cope, you learned to “make sense” of it by normalizing mistreatment. 

Unfortunately, this bad “habit” follows us into our adulthood relationships. And often, we end up with people in our lives who mimic this pattern of mistreatment. We subconsciously attract this way of being treated because it feels familiar, thus comfortable; we know how to play our part in this dynamic.  

If this sounds like you and you’re done with being mistreated, here’s what you can do.


  • Teach them how to treat you. 


If you tolerate poor behavior by normalizing, minimizing, justifying, or excusing, you are teaching the other person that it’s okay to treat you this way. 

So, if you want to be treated better (more respectfully and with kindness), you need to tell them that you are not okay with the way you are being treated. 


  • Stay firm when met with opposition. 


When you assert your needs (i.e., #1 above), expect push back. The other person is not used to you being in your power. Thus, see push back as a good thing. It means that the other party is losing power over you because you are no longer letting them have it. 

Stay the course. Be brave, be calm, and don’t budge. When they push back, repeat what you said, that you’re not okay with it and you will not continue this conversation if you are treated this way.


  • Walk away.


If the mistreatment continues, calmly walk away. Let the other person know that you’ll talk to them when they’re ready to be respectful and kind. 

When you act differently, this surprising new behaviour will signal to the other person that you are no longer playing the game. You’ve changed the rules. You’re not putting up with their B.S. anymore. 

Don’t expect immediate change. This has been a longstanding pattern between the two of you. You will need to be consistent, patient, and firm. And over time, this dynamic will shift to a healthier one. Or if it doesn’t, then keep a healthy distance from them. It’ll be their loss.

Note: DO NOT try these tips if you are in an abusive relationship. It is recommended that you seek professional help for this. 

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