Some people are relationship material, and some people aren’t — at least, not at the moment. Relationships require compassion and selflessness, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself dating someone who is too selfish to be in a fully committed partnership.
1. They care more about your career than your character.
If you never feel quite good enough for your partner ― and she’s much more interested in what you do than who you are ― consider it a big, glaring red flag, said Karyl McBride, a therapist and author of Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family.
“The ‘what you do’ may be status-oriented qualities, like looks or career accomplishments, but often it is about what you ‘do’ for her,” she said. “You will find that your partner is not as interested in who you really are as a person because she lacks the capacity to emotionally tune in and provide empathy. In this situation, you don’t feel seen or heard and often feel invisible.”
2. You feel controlled by their many rules.
People with narcissistic personalities put high expectations on others ― and when you fail to meet those expectations, judgement almost always follows, said Jan Hill, a Toronto-based counselor and author of Happy Sex: Putting Passion and Play Back into Your Relationship.
“To help you meet those expectations, people with big egos establish rules,” she said. “For example, one narcissist I know wanted his girlfriend to give him 24-hour notice if she was going out with her friends and he wanted to know where she was going. Meanwhile, he maintained spontaneity in his own social life.”
Relationship rules that aren’t applied equally “create resentment, anger and shut down any possibilities for real, respectful and honest love,” Hill said.
3. Your partner prioritizes “me” over “we.”
Your partner should value your opinion, embrace a team mentality and consider the collective couple when making decisions, said Samantha Burns, a Boston-based relationship counselor and dating coach. When you’re with a quality partner, your happiness matters just as much as hers.
“If she doesn’t stop to think about your preferences, she likely won’t be able to prioritize your happiness at any point,” Burns said. “This can lead to dissatisfaction, disconnection and a potential breakup.”
4. They sabotage your success.
A narcissistic personality will share the spotlight, but only up to a point. The second your success starts to overshadows his there’s bound to be trouble, Hill said.
“If you have your own career aspirations and your success could take the spotlight off him, he will sabotage you,” she said. “One classic sabotage technique is this: just before your big interview, your partner will make a demand of your time or have an emotional fit that will distract you from your goal and you will fail to achieve to the best of your potential because you were too busy helping out.”
5. They never ask, “How was your day?”
Getting home and ranting to your partner about subway outages and your crappy workday is one of the great joys of life. You deserve someone who not only asks, “how was your day, honey?” but actually listens to what you have to say, even if your response is 90 percent complaining, Burns said.
“It’s hard to feel like you really matter to someone who always dominates the conversation ― it’s as if you’re only there to stroke his ego,” she said “To be with someone who never stops to ask about how your day was is a red flag. The one-sided dynamic can leave you in the shadows and unhappy.”
6. They talk over you.
Good luck getting a word in edgewise; a self-centered partner seems to enjoy the sound of her voice a lot more than yours, said Debra Campbell, a psychologist and couple’s therapist in Melbourne, Australia.
“And when you disagree, your partner is more concerned with defending her position than acknowledging your point of view,” she said. “Feeling heard is a vital part of feeling loved, so the result is usually to feel emotionally sidelined when a partner consistently doesn’t listen well.”
7. You have to beg your partner to do things you want to do.
Compromise is essential in any healthy relationship. It should worry you if your partner doesn’t care about your opinion, isn’t willing to take “no” for an answer or guilt trips you into making decisions, Burns said.
“You shouldn’t have to beg, nag or pull teeth to get your partner to participate in your activities, whether it’s the vacation spot you’ve been dying to get to, or the restaurant you want to try for dinner,” she said. “Your needs and wants are just as important as hers and you will likely grow resentful if your mate can’t create a healthy balance of compromise.”