Vail Relationships column: People who are entitled are often narcissists
Dear Neil: I have a partner who feels entitled. Even though we have a young child, he takes from me without asking. When I asked why he feels so entitled to my money, he replied: “I have to get something back from all this work.” Interesting, because he doesn’t pay anything toward the care of our daughter, including child care and food, and he doesn’t take care of her when I’m at work. Instead, I pay a babysitter — and he pays off his own debts.
I’ve decided that I can no longer put up with this attitude. So now he is alone, in his own place, having to pay for his own food and expenses. I have come to realize that I’ve been reinforcing this entitlement by paying for everything. For three years, I’ve tried to get him to see what’s fair, but some people have to learn the hard way. Now I’m not walking on eggshells wondering if the man-child is happy with what I provide — which never seemed enough for him. It’s time to move on.
Fed Up in Devon, Great Britain
Dear Fed Up: Yes, you are talking about someone who acts entitled, but I also think you might be describing a narcissist. Narcissists can use, exploit or take advantage of others. They are takers way more than they are givers. Their needs and desires matter much more to them than your feelings and needs do, and this dynamic is unlikely to change over time. They tend to be manipulative, selfish and self-centered — lacking empathy for your feelings or your pain.
Here’s what you need to do in order to avoid getting drawn back into such a relationship again. First, quit being such a people pleaser. Pleasers are genuinely generous people, but that generosity can be used against you. You want someone who can both give and receive, who values your happiness and contentment as much as he values his own.
In the future, question why you are so quick to take care of someone else and why you are adopting such a selfless attitude. A selfless attitude is at the heart of being in a loving relationship, but it only works well when there is reciprocity and concern for you.
Instead of being focused so much on your partner’s happiness and comfort, pay closer attention to what you are wanting, how you are feeling and what makes you happy — and make sure those are given equal weight. If you notice a strong imbalance between your contribution to the relationship and his, then consider doing a smaller amount and asking your partner to do more.
You are not going to change a narcissist who acts entitled. But you can be alert to the warning signs, so you don’t fall into this trap again.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the best-selling book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship.” Contact him at 303-758-8777 or visit neilrosenthal.com.
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