Home  >  My Life  >  A Better Life

We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve: 28 Whys & Fixes to Change It

To get love, you must open yourself to it. We accept the love we think we deserve. It’s up to you to accept it.

we accept the love we think we deserve

Remember “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” that gem from 1999 by Stephen Chbosky? It’s a book steeped in authenticity, with Chbosky weaving in his own experiences and those of people he met. It’s a narrative rich in the struggles and passions of its characters. Fast forward to 2011, and it hits the big screen, bringing those poignant moments to life. Now, there’s this one line that probably stuck with you. “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

In the book, it’s Bill, the teacher of Charlie, the protagonist, who delivers this line when discussing Charlie’s sister and her abusive relationship. In the film, it’s Sam, portrayed by Emma Watson, who utters these words that resonate so deeply.

So, what’s the deal with “We accept the love we think we deserve”? It’s a bit of a head-scratcher, right? The idea is that you might find yourself in a place where you either let someone treat you poorly or, on the flip side, you never let anyone be good enough for you.

It’s like walking a tightrope. On one side, there’s the risk of continuous hurt, on the other, the possibility of causing pain by setting the bar impossibly high.

Now, when you think about accepting the worst kind of treatment, that’s obviously troubling. But it’s equally problematic to only allow for a single type of treatment. Sure, many people connect this line primarily with romantic relationships, but it’s so much more than that.

[Read: I just want to be loved: The psychology and 22 secrets to find your missing piece]

Behind Accepting the Love We Think We Deserve

“Settle” might just be the perfect word to describe how some of us approach our love lives. But ever wondered why? It’s intriguing, really.

At the heart of this is the belief – sometimes subconscious – that we accept the love we think we deserve. It’s like there’s this internal barometer setting the standard for the love we seek and accept.

Let’s start with self-esteem. It’s a big player here. Our self-esteem shapes how we see ourselves and, in turn, what we believe we’re worthy of in love. It’s like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs came to life in our dating lives. [Read: High self-esteem: 33 low signs, what hurts self-worth & secrets to pump it]

When our self-esteem is high, we’re more likely to aim for fulfilling, respectful relationships because, well, we believe we deserve them.

But when it’s low? That’s when we might find ourselves in the ‘we accept the love we deserve’ loop, settling for less because we might not see our true worth.

Then there’s this fascinating thing called attachment styles – shout out to John Bowlby for this theory. These styles, formed early in our lives, play out in how we connect with others.

Secure attachment leads to healthier, more stable relationships. But if we’re talking about anxious or avoidant styles, we might find ourselves in a tango with partners who mirror these insecurities and fears. It’s like our childhood selves are picking our dates.

And oh, cognitive dissonance – this one’s a real brain teaser. It’s when our actions clash with our beliefs. In love, this might mean staying in a relationship that doesn’t quite fit our ideal self-image.

Why? Maybe because it’s more comfortable than facing the discord and making a change. It’s like staying in a pair of old, comfy shoes even though they’re worn out and don’t really suit us anymore. [Read: 34 true secrets to find love and why you haven’t found that right person yet]

Why We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve

Aside from self-esteem, attachment styles, and cognitive dissonance, there are other compelling factors that explain why we accept the love we think we deserve. Let’s unwrap these layers:

1. Media Influence

The world around us is like a giant mold shaping our love expectations. Societal norms and cultural backgrounds often dictate what’s ‘ideal’ in relationships.

Think about the countless movies and stories where martyrdom in love is glorified. These narratives often paint a picture of sacrificial love as the ultimate romantic ideal. It’s like we’re bombarded with messages that to love deeply means to sacrifice our own needs and happiness.

2. Past Traumas and Childhood Experiences

Our past often paves the road for our future, especially in love. Erik Erikson showed us that our early life stages play a huge role in our development.

The experiences we have as children, both positive and negative, tend to set the groundwork for how we perceive and engage in relationships later on.

Consider this: when you’re used to getting a certain amount of attention, affection, or even neglect in your formative years, this becomes your benchmark for ‘normal’ in relationships. [Read: Trauma bonding in relationships: 35 signs & secrets to unmask & escape]

If your childhood was marked by instability or trauma, you might unknowingly seek out similar patterns as an adult. It’s not so much a conscious choice as it is a gravitation towards what feels familiar. This familiarity, even if it’s unhealthy, can be strangely comforting because it echoes your past experiences.

3. Fear of Loneliness and the Unknown

Sometimes, it’s fear driving our love choices. The dread of being alone or facing the uncertain world of dating can make ‘good enough’ seem like the best option. It’s easier to stick with the familiar, even if it’s not what we truly deserve.

This fear can be so overpowering that we accept the love we think we deserve simply because we’re scared to be lonely. Even if deep down we know we’re meant for something more fulfilling, the comfort of what’s known, no matter how unsatisfying, can be a powerful anchor.

We convince ourselves that it’s better to have someone, anyone, rather than face the possibility of being alone. [Read: 52 signs you’re meant to be forever alone and single & you like it that way!]

Take for instance, Daizy. She’s a girl who stayed in a mediocre relationship for years because the thought of being alone terrified her. Even though she knew deep down she deserved better, the fear of being alone seemed overwhelming. Daizy represents many of us who stay in unfulfilling relationships just to avoid loneliness.

But here’s the thing: by playing it safe, we might totally miss out on the kind of relationship that turns us into the happiest person out there. Sure, stepping into the unknown can be scary, but it’s also where the magic happens – where we find those relationships that really light up our world.

4. Low Relationship Self-Efficacy

Think of self-efficacy but specifically in the context of relationships. When you doubt your ability to have a successful relationship, it’s like you’re carrying around this mental script that whispers, “This is the best I can do.” It’s not just about the fear of being alone, it’s more about how you view yourself in the relationship equation.

With low relationship self-efficacy, you might believe there’s no one else out there who would genuinely love and appreciate you. It’s like looking through a lens that only shows you a world where you’re somehow not enough.

You might think, “Who else would put up with me?” or “I’m lucky they’re even interested.” [Read: How your self-respect in a relationship effects you and your love life]

5. Social Pressure and Expectations

Ever felt the weight of “When are you getting married?” or “Why are you still single?” questions? Social pressure, especially as we hit certain ages, can make us rush into relationships that aren’t right, just to fit the expected life timeline.

6. Misunderstanding Love and Passion

Sometimes, the lines between passion and love get blurred, especially when it involves the tumultuous kind. We find ourselves drawn to volatile relationships, mistaking intensity for depth, thinking it’s just passionate love. In this whirlwind, the signs of a healthy, stable partnership can easily get overlooked.

It could be hard to see that what you thought was love was not love at all. That’s why it’s important to differentiate between a love that’s deeply passionate yet healthy, and a ‘passion’ that’s actually just a cycle of highs and lows.

True love involves respect, understanding, and stability, not just an emotional rollercoaster. [Read: The Dilemma of love: Should dating be passionate or practical?]

7. The Savior Complex

Ever felt like you could change someone? This ‘savior complex’ can lead us into relationships where we accept less, thinking we can ‘fix’ the other person. It’s a tricky path that often leads to disappointment. [Read: Hero complex: What it is, 39 signs & the psychology of “save the day” syndrome]

The savior complex is a pretty tough one to navigate. It often means the only reason you settle for the love you think you deserve is because you want to be the hero in someone else’s story.

You find yourself drawn to partners who seem to need ‘saving’, believing that your love and effort can transform their lives.

This mindset, though it may come from a place of compassion, can skew your perception of what a healthy relationship looks like. You might overlook your own needs and boundaries because you’re so focused on ‘helping’ your partner.

But in reality, everyone is responsible for their own healing and growth. When the desire to ‘save’ someone overshadows your own needs for respect and fulfillment, it’s a sign that the relationship might be more about fulfilling your savior role than about a balanced, loving partnership.

8. Fear of Conflict and Confrontation

Lastly, fear of conflict may make you accept the love you think you deserve, even when deep down you know it’s not enough.

When the worry of rocking the boat overshadows your need for honest communication and mutual respect, you might find yourself sticking with the familiar, yet unsatisfying status quo.

It can create a cycle where you continually downplay your needs and desires, leading to a relationship that’s unbalanced and unfulfilling.

When Does it Happen in Real Life?

There are many examples of people who are challenged by their willingness to accept love and their reluctance to give love. That is why the line resonated with so many people.

Many of the book’s fans experience different types of difficulties in their relationships. Some may not even be aware of it, even if the line struck a reverberating chord.

1. Abusive Relationships

By now, everyone is aware that abuse is not limited to physical attacks. Emotional abuse plays an important role as well. Even if it does not lead to a physical altercation, emotional abuse takes its toll on a person’s long-term outlook in life.

When it comes to acceptance of love, abuse paves the way for long-term, low self-esteem. A person could also be at the stage where they have accepted their fate, thinking that this is all they deserve. [Read: Am I in an abusive relationship? Sure signs]

2. Codependency

Codependency occurs when two people can’t function without the other. One person lives on the other’s attention, while the other lives on the other’s neediness.

For example, when a person addicted to drugs continues to abuse drugs, while their partner continues to take care of them, so they continue to use drugs.

The addicted person is dependent on their partner’s love, while the other one lives on their partner’s neediness. Rather than a healthy relationship, both physically and emotionally, these people stay together because it is the type of love they think keeps them happy, or at least, sane.

Other examples include family members who allow their own relatives to take their money and resources, people who constantly do favors for friends who take advantage of them, and so on and so forth. Basically, being codependent means asking for something detrimental to personal development, while giving something that will not benefit the receiver, and may even harm them. [Read: 38 signs of codependency, traits that make you clingy and ways to break out]

3. Indifference

Some people continue to look for love from people who don’t reciprocate those feelings. It could be that way for someone who has an unrequited crush or someone whose parent abandoned them.

When someone is not receiving love, even though they continue to express love, it is possible they feel that they are not worthy of love at all.

This is common in people who have experienced abandonment issues. When someone leaves traumatically, it leads to the development of coping mechanisms, such as a subconscious need for unavailable partners, friends, or family members. [Read: How to recognize selfish people and stop them from hurting you]

4. Controlling Relationships

The difference between being dependent and vying for control is that the former is done willingly. People choose to be dependent. People, however, do not want to be controlled.

If they allow it, they essentially allow their partner or loved one to control their happiness. By letting someone control you, you essentially say this person loves me the best way they can.

Unfortunately, that means you are not loving yourself in the best way. Sometimes being controlled works out well, if it’s beneficial and willingly accepted.

If a person never wanted to be controlled but allowed it anyway? That’s just them asking to be accepted by their partner; ergo, the love they think they deserve. [Read: Questions to reveal a controlling person instantly]

5. Cheating

Now this is complicated. Obviously, cheating is the worst thing you can do in a relationship, barring abuse and crime. It’s surprising to note many people stay in relationships long after they caught their partner cheating. What is worse is that these cheating partners still do it. Why do people stay? It’s about what they think they deserve.

Someone who accepts someone who cheats may be relating the situation to their own shortcomings. The first thing people usually ask when they catch their partner cheating is, “Why did you cheat?” And the answer is usually because of a lack of something from the other partner. But that is often wrong.

People cheat for different reasons, but the people who stay with cheaters are still there because they think they deserved to be cheated on. Some expect to redeem themselves with a second chance, while other times they are afraid they will go out into the world and get cheated on again.

At worst, they may think no one will accept them, especially if the person they loved couldn’t do it at that very moment. [Read: How to get over being cheated on: Ways to help move on]

6. Never Settling for Someone Less Than What You Think You Deserve

It’s not just the partner to blame. Sometimes, the fault lies on the person who is supposed to accept love. Of course, you are supposed to increase your standards when it comes to friends and partners. You can even increase your standards when it comes to your family’s goals and work.

The only downside, you cannot change these people. They have to change themselves. You set all the standards you want and ask for the love you think you deserve, but there is also a limit to what you can ask for.

Take the movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, again. Charlie was wondering why Sam liked bad boys instead of him, a good guy. On the other end of the spectrum, Sam probably thought her boyfriend was a good guy—inside. That’s how it usually works. [Read: Reasons why nice guys finish last all the time]

Sam may have set an unreasonable set of standards in her mind. Standards that Charlie cannot reach, but at the same time, those are the standards she cannot impose on her bad-boy boyfriend. Basically, Sam accepts love not befitting of her. While at the same time, she rejects the love someone like Charlie gives—love that will not end up hurting her.

How Can You Start to Accept Love That is Better?

The first step begins by acknowledging you are accepting the wrong kind of love. The next step, learn more about yourself so that you can find out what it is you really deserve. How?

1. By Looking at Your Past

A therapist helps you find out why you’re experiencing difficulties in your relationships. The first thing they do is look at your family background.

After that, they look at your social and cultural background. Once they see where all of this is coming from, it will be that much easier to give you the help you need. [Read: Signs of emotional damage and ways to get past them]

2. Making a List of What Makes You Happy in a Relationship

Rather than write down what you think you deserve, how about writing down the things that actually made you happy in your past relationships.

You also look at your relationship with your family and friends. Whatever made you happy with them is the same thing that makes you happy with your partner. [Read: Happy things you need for a perfectly happy life]

3. Work on Your Physical Self

Healthy people are known to be happier in their relationships. Take note, however, health is not just about fitness and dieting. It’s also about living in a healthy and clean environment, even if it’s just inside your house. And getting enough sleep.

Once you cover that, you become more open and ready to tackle your emotional health, as well as your relationships. [Read: How to find love – The secret law of attraction in love]

4. Forgive Yourself

Whatever it is you think you’ve done making you undeserving of love, you must forgive yourself. If someone loves you, they see something in you. Even if you can’t see it yourself.

Only by letting go of whatever unresolved feelings you have allows you to open yourself to accept the love from those around you.

Whatever you did in your past, is in your past. Forgive yourself and move on. You are only human, and obviously, someone finds you lovable enough to invest in you. [Read: Truths to respect yourself in a relationship & stop being a pushover]

5. Recognize Your Goodness

You supply the person in your life with something they find worthwhile. We all have gifts to give. If someone is willing to love you, then you have to stop seeing the negative in yourself and allow them to.

There are things about yourself you may not like, but stop focusing on them and see the positive things. The more you foster the good things about yourself, the less those undesirable characteristics cloud your ability to be loved.

6. Ask Yourself Why You Aren’t Worthy

If you limit the love you receive from others around you, it is important to stop and ask yourself why.

Why is it you don’t feel yourself worthy of being loved? What is it that you have done that is so unlovable? Why don’t you feel you have the right to be loved by another person? [Read: 25 honest self-reflective questions to recognize the real you inside]

7. Conquer the Fear

Fear is one of the biggest reasons we stop people from loving us. If they love us, we come to rely on them and their love. In doing that, we set ourselves up for loss.

Often, we don’t let someone love us because we are fearful of how we will survive if they should leave or withdraw that love. The problem is, spending so much time trying to protect yourself from something, you miss out on the best parts of life, love. You can’t protect yourself from love.

You only negate the magnificent nature of loving and being loved, which is a miraculous thing.

8. Give What You Expect to Get Back

If you want someone to love you with all that they are, you have to be willing not to ask anything of them that you wouldn’t give yourself.

If you hold some of yourself back, they will not feel safe enough to give all that they have. Who wants to be in a half-fulfilling relationship?

You have more to lose not ever giving it your all and never knowing how amazing it could have been. The worst you find, in the end, is you are more lovable than you thought. [Read: Feeling unloved: 51 ways we feel less loved & how to feel love again]

9. Stop Putting on the Brakes

The biggest hurdle in allowing someone to love you is becoming scared and putting the brakes on the relationship. It is the push and pull feeling you get when you open yourself up. Then get frightened and shut the door tight.

When you start to get worried you’ll end up hurt and lock yourself up tight, resist the urge. You can’t protect yourself from hurt if all you ever do is feel alone anyway.

10. Stop Listening to the Voices of Doubt

A voice lives inside all of us telling us what we are and we are not. Sometimes we choose to allow outside influences and past experiences to shape what we think we are capable and worthy of.

Once you stop listening to the negative voices of doubt and give in with abandonment, you find that holding back was the thing limiting you all along.

11. Let Go of the Past

Everyone has been hurt or experienced loss in the past. How we interpret those experiences and feelings of loss shape how we accept love in the future.

If you continue to allow your past to control your future, your options continue to dwindle with each new insult. [Read: 8 daily reminders to help keep you going forward]

Seeing the future through the lens of the past only breeds self-fulfilling prophecies altering your realized potential. Let go of what has gone on before by acknowledging it, examining it, forgiving it, and realizing how you can go about things different next time.

12. Build New Positive Experiences

Treat love with baby steps. And allow those in your life entry in incremental steps.

Every new time they prove themselves worthy and you accept them for who and what they are, the more you build on positivity. Oftentimes positivity shapes positive expectations and outcomes.

13. Be Lovable

If you want someone to love you, be lovable. That means putting yourself out there, loving back, and being the best you in the relationship. [Read: Love yourself first: Where people go wrong, 36 whys & how to do this right]

14. Redefine Your “Cup”

Finally, instead of seeing yourself with a small cup to fill, consider yourself a bottomless pit. The more you allow someone to love you, the more you’ll be surprised at how much your cup spills over.

Love is not a limited thing. It doesn’t have a start and end point, and it doesn’t ever fill up. Most of all, it is something you give and receive daily.

To Get Love, Believe Yourself Worthy of It

Sometimes, it can be hard to recognize how truly deserving we are of all the good things that life and love have to offer. Often, our greatest enemy and critic is ourselves.

It’s like we’re programmed to doubt our worthiness, to question whether we’re really entitled to the love we dream of. But remember, we accept the love we think we deserve, and it’s time to start believing that we deserve the best.

Let go of those heavy burdens you carry, the ones that whisper you’re not lovable. Loving yourself is the first step, but it’s also about opening your heart to the love others are offering.

You need to accept that you are worthy of being loved just as much as anyone else. We accept the love we deserve, and yes, we indeed deserve it.

So, challenge those inner critics. Understand that you’re worthy of love, respect, and happiness. Embrace the love you’re offered and know that you’re deserving of it. After all, we accept the love we think we deserve, and it’s high time you start believing you deserve the kind of love that fills your life with joy and fulfillment.

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life. And while you’re at it, check out MIRL, a cool new social networking app that connects experts and seekers!

Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...