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How I Handled Four Relationships That Totally Took Me For Granted

This is why you keep feeling taken for granted.

Love & Relationships

Not too long ago, while being interviewed, I was first given a compliment and then asked a question. The compliment was, "You seem to have a lot of wisdom in your words." The question was, "How do you keep from getting arrogant whenever people tell you that?" Anyone who writes in the self-help lane knows that writing can be its ultimate form of therapy. In other words, more times than not, when I'm writing on things like self-esteem, self-awareness and relationships, I am getting my own self free just as much as I am trying to free others. Therefore, there is no time or even reason to get cocky. The messages are typically for the messenger—first. And y'all, no truer words could be spoken than when it comes to this…topic…right…here.

If I could find a way to turn the phrase "taken for granted" into my license plate, believe me, I would. I have spent more time than I'd care to admit feeling just that way. Honestly, it's probably only been the past couple of years or so that I've gotten away from being in that kind of head and heart space. A part of what's changed is I've spent time studying things like codependency and narcissism (when those two kinds of people come together, you can best believe it's gonna be a hot mess!). Another thing that went down is I've been more intentional about taken "relationship inventory" on a regular basis; I've evaluated if my relationships are mutually healthy and mutually beneficial on an annual basis. And, perhaps most importantly, I've made the decision to not put myself in the position where I feel taken for granted any longer. And just how did I pull that off? Well, that's where this article comes in.

If you look up the actual definition of "taken for granted", it says this—"to expect someone or something to be always available to serve in some way without thanks or recognition; to value someone or something too lightly". If you feel like people don't recognize or appreciate you, which ultimately means that they don't value what you bring into their life, there's no time like the present to make a few changes so that you can stop feeling like that. So that you can actually get to the point of believing—and then living your life like—something that actor and singer Mae West once said—"I believe that it's better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked."

In order to do that, you have to see the patterns that are creating this type of outcome. Over the course of the next few minutes, I'll share four of my own relationships, the patterns that I recognized and how they helped me to stop feeling taken for granted all of the time (by them).

Four Relationships That Took Me for Granted and How I Got Free

(*Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Guilty*)

*APRIL: “Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise. Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted.”—Gretchen Rubin

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This. Chick. Right. Here. If there is a relationship that is the poster child example of what it means to be taken for granted, she would be it. Looking back, I think it was because, when we met, things were already off-balance. My self-esteem was pretty low and that always subjected me to what I call "pretty girl syndrome". Meaning, I would be so enamored when a so-called pretty girl even paid me a bit of attention. It was kind of like when the mean girl clique at school lets you sit at their table. You are so busy feeling validated that you don't even notice the web that they are spinning around you; the agenda that they have already conjured up. Then you're so grateful that they pay you any attention at all that you end up being a fan more than a friend; you end up giving way more than you receive.

And here's the thing about these types of dynamics. It's not like there aren't some good times and good memories. Matter of fact, it's those that keep you around far more than you should. But it's just that, when you sit back and think about all that you've done vs. what they've done in return, things don't add up. To tell you the truth, I'm embarrassed by how much money I spent on my "friendship" with April. Over the course of several years, it's been literally thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, I have a five-dollar ring that she bought at some museum and supposedly she bought a pack of lip gloss for me one Christmas that she lost. Not only did she lose it, she was extremely flippant about it when she told me. Countless times she would invite me to her house and fall asleep while I was talking, invite me to lunch and then ask me to foot the bill, and would cry on my shoulder whenever one of her own so-called friends would mistreat her, only to "halfway see me" once they reconciled. In short, it was a friendship of convenience for her and total inconvenience for me. No wonder I felt totally taken for granted.

These kind of people? They aren't the ones who can hear that they are taking you for granted. That's because if you're not constantly telling them about how awesome they are, they are going to play the victim and act like you are attacking them (or are jealous of them). So usually, the best thing to do is just…release them. Not cut them off (that is such a violent way of handling things); just, stop investing so much when you're not getting the same type of time, effort and energy in return.

These days, whenever I see April, as one of my boys say, "It's love" in the sense that she doesn't piss me off. Nor do I even try and avoid her. At the same time, I'm not proactive about the relationship anymore either. One thing about remaining close to those who take you for granted is they can drain you to the point where you're not as available to those who actually do pour into your life; which isn't fair to your true friends. Basically, I give April the same type of energy she gives me, which isn't much, which keeps us both from getting worn out. Problem solved.

*MICHAEL: “Even the strongest feelings expire when they are ignored and taken for granted.”—Unknown

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Remember how I said that a part of what got me out of the destructive pattern of being in relationships with people who took me for granted was that I studied narcissism? Well, a YouTube channel that provided me with quite a few light bulb moments is Assc Direct. He actually has a video entitled "Why You Get Taken for Granted". In his intro, this is what he says:

"If you gave a two-year-old a one-hundred dollar bill, and you left for a length of time, I can almost guarantee you that you will not come back to the same hundred dollar bill…this is because a two-year-old cannot recognize, cannot understand and does not understand the value of that hundred dollar bill. So, to them, it gets treated the same as any other sheet of paper."

Do you see where he's going with this? Narcissism is a beast because, if you don't know all that much about it, you can find yourself in the kind of situation that I was in with Michael. Michael was smart, funny and handsome. Michael was charming as hell. Michael and I had a lot in common. To this day, Michael is also one of the most narcissistic people I've ever met. His sense of self-entitlement, coupled with his arrogance and lack of empathy for other people's pain (including the pain that he tends to cause) created the perfect scenario for me to give and give and give, and for him to take and take and take. What's really sad is, whenever my self-esteem would nudge me and say, "Girl, what the hell are you doing?!" and I would bring my feelings to him, he would do something else that is a signature narcissistic trait; he would deflect and somehow try and make my discontent be totally my fault.

What caused me to finally remove myself from Michael and his grandiose selfishness is I realized just what the video said. It takes a sense of humility and maturity to appreciate the value that someone brings into your life. People who are extremely self-important and/or emotionally stunted don't really care about nurturing or preserving relationships. Why? Basically it's because their pride makes them think that people are disposable and that other folks are lining up to take the place of the ones that they dismiss.

If you are in a relationship, whether it be personal or professional, with a narcissist, sociopath or selfish individual, I can promise you that it is only a matter of time before you will feel taken for granted by them. Set boundaries. Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23). Also, study the traits of those kinds of individuals. Then, accept that the late and great Maya Angelou once warned us about—"When people show you who they are…believe them." Don't try and change them. Don't seek to overcompensate for where they lack. Believe them and then decide if you want to participate in a one-sided relationship. Or not. If you stay, accept what comes along with it—consistently being taken for granted.

*MICHELLE: “Sometimes you need to distance yourself from people. If they care, they’ll notice. If they don’t, you know where you stand.”—D. Crysis

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Last fall, I wrote a piece for the site entitled "I Was 'Ghosted' By My Best Friend". Long story short, it was about a friend of mine who, after over 30 years of friendship, they vanished into thin air. Well, that's not completely true. After they went through a life situation that totally infected their character and totally drained me in the process and I brought that fact to their attention while also letting them know that, moving forward, I was going to require more reciprocity, they vanished.

Some people might say that since that is the way they chose to handle matters that they were never really my friend to begin with. Eh. We've been through enough together where I'll give some push back on that. What I will say is that while Michelle was caught up in her totally dysfunctional situation, something that came out of her mouth, more than once, was she wasn't sure if she knew what true love was or if she actually loved anyone in a healthy manner.

Because there was so much time and experience between us, although I heard what Michelle said, I still tried to hang in there. But now that I've healed from the ending of that friendship, what I have come to accept is, you can never really have a healthy relationship with someone who isn't healthy. And since she said that she didn't know what love is or even if she was capable of loving someone, her confusion had automatically put me into the crossfire. Therefore, it's no wonder that it was so easy for Michelle to "get ghost" on me.

Love is loyal. Ambiguity is unreliable.

The lesson here is this—It's unrealistic to look for perfection in a person or a relationship. But when it comes to your close intimate circle, make sure that you connect yourself with individuals who have a healthy sense of self. Otherwise, they aren't really all that equipped to love you well and, since they are so emotionally all over the place, it can be expected for them to be there one day and gone the next. They won't really notice that they don't value you because, honestly, they don't value their own selves very much either. Therein lies a huge part of the problem.

DAVID*: “When you're always there for people they stop appreciating you because your favors are now an expectation.”—Unknown

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Sometimes, feeling taken for granted isn't rooted in anything super dramatic. It simply comes from a lack of clear communication between friends. So is the case with me and David. David is my man, one-hundred grand. But when he first came into my life, he was so giving and I was so not used to it, that when I started to give in return, even I can see that I was overdoing it. I started making it my mission to try and meet his needs, even before he had them, which eventually put me in the position of "doing" all of the time and him not giving as much.

After about a year or so, I brought up to him that it didn't seem like he was as much of a participant in the friendship as he used to be. It was interesting what he told me in response. He said that in most of his other friendships, he was used to being the one who had to do all of the work. So, with me, it started out being the same way. Then, when I came along and "trumped" his giving, he was so taken aback that he admits that he slacked off because he liked actually being on the receiving end. Ever since that conversation, he and I have been working on being more "even" in our giving to one another. It's not about "keeping tabs" so much as "taking each other's temperature", just to make sure that we're both getting our needs met.

And y'all, I think this is a great place to bring this particular piece to a close.

A lack of communication is one of the main things that can make someone feel as if they are being taken for granted. If you sit on those feelings for too long, you can become so resentful or even angry that you assume your friend, family member or loved one doesn't appreciate you when, the reality is, they had absolutely no idea that you felt the way that you did.

Bottom line—none of us like to feel as if we are being taken for granted. When you feel that way, it's a clear red flag to share those emotions with the people you are in relationship with. If they do indeed value you, if they can clearly pinpoint the worth that you hold in their life, they will put forth the effort to make some changes. If they don't, well, now you know where you stand, right? Now, if you choose to stay, you are the one who is taking yourself for granted. And isn't that a big ole' buffet plate food for thought?

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Self-Truths That Will Stop You From Settling For Less

Your Self Worth Determines Your Net Worth

How To Stop Being A People-Pleaser & Start Doing You

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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