“I Deserve Better Than That”

10 Jan 2017

“I deserve better than that.”

Have you ever said, “I deserve better than that.” either to a partner or to yourself? I certainly had. It’s the first step towards truly realizing that the ill treatment you have experienced is not
a reflection of your value.

But that is all it is, a first step.

A while back, a woman spoke up in one of my workshops. She said that she was coming to terms with the break-up of her latest relationship. It hadn’t been as bad as previous relationships, she said. There had been no physical violence. But she had found herself emotionally ‘carrying’ this man. Over time the burden had become heavier and heavier. 

 Suddenly, her face contorting with the difficulty of actually speaking the words, she added tremulously: “It sounds awful to say it, I know, but I deserve better.” She stopped expectantly, almost as if
she was waiting for the sky to fall down on her, or the other women to hiss or throw their disposable coffee cups at her.

She had committed the crime of saying out loud, “I deserve better than that.” Experience had taught her that an emotionally abusive partner simply would not tolerate her laying any claim to self-worth. Besides she had long since become blind to the signs telling her to leave.

Needless to say, there was no hostile response from the other women present.  They were probably thinking about how brave she had been to screw up her courage and come out and say those words, “I deserve better.” You could see the slight nods of agreement.  Of course she deserved better – but did they?  Would they have felt justified in coming out and saying, “I deserve better than that.”

 At that point a connection that had been a long time coming clicked into place in my brain. I asked the woman, Sue, if she would allow me to challenge her on that statement. 

Sue nodded bravely, but nervously. Had she been staking too high a claim to life’s riches? Was it actually wrong of her to say, “I deserve better than that.”

You don’t deserve better.  You deserve the best.

 “Sue,” I said: “I dispute the fact that you deserve better. You don’t deserve better than that, You deserve the best. Better than a bad relationship with a co-dependent man is not nearly good enough.” 

The atmosphere in the room became electric, as my words sunk in.

 Nobody deserves better.  Every abused woman deserves the best. Emotionally abused women are unique, precious human beings who have gamely made do with crumbs, while generously nurturing the other people in their lives.  Something better than crumbs falls way short of what they truly deserve.

Actually, I believe that every human being is deserving of the best that life has to offer; love, care, respect, consideration, far more than mere material goods. It is vital to understand that there is plenty of love, care, respect, and consideration to go round. All of these good things can – and should – be freely available to all. You can – finally – own your full share without reducing the amount that is available for all. Finally enjoying your fair share of the best does not mean depriving other people. The more you can enjoy, the more you have to share.  So, the abundance that you enjoy only increases the store that is available to others, also. 

That may well not have been the way you were brought up. There are households of great emotional deprivation just as there are households of great financial deprivation. You may have been brought up in one such.  Certainly when you met your emotionally abusive partner you stumbled into a relationship of emotional deprivation. At best, especially in the early days, you would have experienced a kind of emotional “boom and bust”.

 Deprivation inevitably occurs when you encounter people who have, or believe they have, nothing to give.  Those people believe their best hope of attaining comfort is to drain whatever resources you have in an attempt to fill their own emptiness. As they see it, the only thing you deserve is this, You deserve to sacrifice yourself 100% to make them feel better. 

Hence my objection to the phrase, “I deserve better than that.”  

“I deserve better than what?”

 Better than what? 

Better than what? Better than the worst relationship you’ve had? Better than nothing at all? Better than the proverbial ‘burnt stick in the eye? Better than some emotional skinflint who repeatedly tells you that you are very lucky to have him?

How much better is “better”? How much better do you deserve things to be? 10%? 20%? 50%?

How soon will you actually claim the better life that you deserve? Now? Or are you prepared to settle for it being a long, slow, wearing process? Will that “better” be yours for life?  Or can it be taken
away from you again? 

Sue sat blinking like an owl in strong light as she processed these ideas.  The thing that really clinched it for her was the realization that her deserving the
best deprived nobody. Rather, since it meant that she would no longer be running on empty, she could sharethe generosity of her spirit even more constructively than she had in the
Not least because, from now on,she will steer clear of those people who would rather drain her resources than uncover the wellspring of their own.

 Eventually Liz spoke again, “I deserve the best.”,

This time, she made no apologies for what she said. It sat well with her.

There is something far more convincing about words spoken out loud than those merely “tried on” in your thoughts. So, them, I asked the other women to join in also. A chorus of “I deserve the best” filled the room. That group of women who generally apologised for their existence soon discovered that they had no problem declaring  they deserved the best.

 Focusing on achieving a modest improvement in their circumstances had kept these women thinking small. It kept them focusing on doing just a little bit better than what they were used to. 

“I deserve so much better than an emotionally abusive relationship.”

 Raising the bar unconditionally transported them into a different place; the place where their dreams, beliefs and values still grow. In that place they knew and felt that they deserve the best. 

What about you? 

You deserve the best, don’t you? So why not just say it out loud to yourself a few times a day? “I deserve the best. I deserve the best.”   There are worse mantras. Even if you are currently settling for a relationship that should come with a Government Health Warning, you can still say to yourself, “I deserve the best. I deserve the best.” You do, and you can achieve it.

But you will have to stop waiting for Mr Nasty to provide you with the best – or mere something “better” than the little you have with him.  That is never going to happen. Make “I deserve the best.” your mission statement and you will start to raise the bar for what you are prepared to tolerate in your life. Next time you catch yourself, on autopilot, saying, “I deserve better.” amend that instantly to, “I deserve so much better than an emotionally abusive relationship.”


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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