And what to do about it.
It isn’t difficult to look around our modern day culture and find a plethora of entitled people. They expect so much, and yet give so little in return. They whine, complain, nag, argue, belittle, and bully. They wait around and expect people to cater to them. They put in so little work and effort; yet expect to make six figure salaries overnight. They brag. They boast. They come with an air of superiority.
Yet, they are masters of disguise. Frequently, it’s hard to tell if you’re in a relationship with an entitled individual. You could be in one through work, or you might be dating one. There might be one in your family. Like a Halloween ghost, they jump out from nowhere and scare you. It's no treat.
Here are five ways to know if you’re in a relationship with an entitled individual and how to remedy it.
1. Your gas tank is on empty.
You always feel tired, but not just from work or because you're getting over a cold. You're tired and need to sleep. When you do, you might feel okay for a while, but it doesn't seem to be enough.
You. Literally. Don't. Have. Energy. And, you can't figure out why (assuming, you are cleared of any medical issue by your physician).
If you're in a relationship with an entitled person, your energy drains from you constantly. As one person put it to me, "I feel like I'm always walking around on eggshells around this person. I really don't want to make them mad."
Solution: Get adequate rest. Turn off your computer and cell phone, and put a request in for vacation days if you have them. If you're self-employed, limit the hours you commit to being "open" to manage other people's urgent "crises" (in psychology, there's a term for what we call non-emergency "emergencies." We call them COWs, or Crisis of the Week).
2. You're easily irritated by the small stuff.
The trash isn't taken out, or your child won't listen to you. You catch yourself screaming at someone for any tiny infraction. You become a person you don't like — eye-rolling, impatient, and demanding of others. You don’t feel true to yourself or act like you normally do with other people. It could be that the entitled person, as explained above, has spent their time draining your last reserves of energy and patience.
Solution: Be patient with yourself. Give yourself five minutes at the end of the day (I love my driving time since it gives me time and space to do this) to decompress. Check in with yourself. Ask yourself what your needs are. And, really listen.
3. You find yourself doing all the work.
You initiate social outings, appointments, meetings, everything. The entitled individual doesn’t. If you have to cancel a meeting or reschedule, this upsets them terribly. They may even spread rumors about you (yes, we're back in high school) and turn the situation around. You feel like it is your fault your partner was sick. Now, you have to reschedule your lunch plans with them.
Think of Meryl Streep's character in the movie The Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway spends her time catching up with unrealistic demands. Nothing pleases Meryl Streep. Meryl looks down her nose and reprimands Anne. In group therapy, Existential Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom refers to this type of person as the "Help-Rejecting Complainer" — a person who asks for help but will dismiss all advice, making the helper feel downright useless!
Solution: Stop helping. Stop initiating. Create a space that allows you to objectively assess what contributions if any, this entitled individual adds to your life. Once you give the situation some space (we call it boundaries), it’s easier to be more equitable.
4. You overcompensate.
This typically has to do with the same fear of walking on eggshells mentioned above. There is anxiety about the other person’s rage. There’s fear of disappointing the other (which, to the entitled individual, is almost a certainty). They sweetly and gently ask you to do one favor. You end up do doing three.
You are put in an uncomfortable position, asked to cover for them. For example, the entitled person skips out of work early, after lunch, so he or she asks you to butter up the boss with compliments on his or her character. You’re told that they need to get out of work early every Friday because it is necessary for their peace of mind.
This type of behavior strikes me as being increasingly dangerous. It reminds me of how abusers 'groom' their victims. They don't go immediately for the 'jugular' per say, they work up to it. By the time you are caught in their web — it's too late. They have you exactly where they want you, and it can be extremely difficult to get out of the pattern.
Solution: Be vigilant. Again, maintain firm boundaries, even if that means they will "rage on your ass" (as Teresa's buddy so eloquently referred to Jacqueline, a Real New Jersey Housewife on a recent episode). Think parenting. Would you give in every time your toddler asked you for ice cream because they had a sweet look in their eyes, and you wanted some?
5. Your needs go last.
They cancel on you last minute because they found a better party to attend. You only happen to figure this out after you check your Instagram feed. They take a huge helping of “me first,” and never give a second consideration to ask you how you are doing. In fact, you usually don’t hear from them unless the situation they are involved in will benefit them in some way. They will get a promotion, money, or another great reward for participating. Your needs are an afterthought. If they do not see a benefit, they likely will bail or not even show up at all.
Solution: Put yourself first. Clearly, they have clearly no intention to do so. Again, do not feel you have to bend to their expectations simply to avoid a fight. Make an appointment with yourself. Have a day at the spa. Take your dog to the dog park. Go for a drive into nature; whatever it is, do it. Give yourself the best quality time.
The most important lesson to learn about being involved with an entitled person is to remember that they were this way long before you knew them.
If you choose to not involve yourself in their messy, entangled web any longer, then it is their loss, not yours. Take time to get to know someone new.
And take your time, because it takes awhile for any person’s true colors to emerge. An entitled person is no exception.
Dr. Maxine Langdon Starr is passionate about assisting others to maximize their growth potential and appreciate their true selves. For more information about her and the services she provides visit her website and follow her on Twitter.