“I Should’ve Known!”: Warning Signs That Your Partner Is Insensitive, Difficult, or Self-Centered

Posted on March 30, 2012 by

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Do you remember that commercial where the man is drinking a soda (if I remember correctly), filling his body and coating his teeth with refined sugars and providing nothing in the way of nutrition, and then, in a burst of heaven-sent inspiration, realizes (a bit too late, it seems), “I could’ve had a V8!”? Really, as far as I can tell, it’s a fact he knew at some level all along.

Well, sometimes relationships are like that, too–people wind up picking the unhealthy, damaging choice, only to say afterwards that they knew, deep down, they just weren’t getting tomato juice.

Throughout my years in practice, I have had more than a handful of patients involved with partners who are, to be extremely tactful–unpleasant. Controlling, ungiving–sometimes downright nasty.

What are the warning signs when you first meet and engage with a person, that they might be “unpleasant” people with whom to spend a lifetime?

Let me start you off with my younger daughter who was, during an unpleasant stretch for all involved, Queen of the Blind Date.

No need to go into all the gory details, but, as the experience evolved, she noticed certain situations where the date was, for lack of a better term, somewhat on the jerky side. I believe she has a good eye, and that she identified a few of the following warning signs:

Early Warning Signs That Your Partner Might Not End Up Being Prince/Princess Charming

  •  On a date, your partner–fine and able-bodied–parks in a handicapped parking spot. Or enjoys his seat on the train despite the standing very pregnant lady directly in front of him.
  • You’ve once again left your umbrella in the car, hopefully at least keeping your seats dry, as you’ve left your windows open, too. You and your partner walk through the rain. He opens his umbrella and holds it over himself alone, leaving you to the same wet fate as your car.
  • Your partner walks first through into a building, failing to hold the door, or even delay its shutting as you find yourself scrambling in.
  • You pick up your girlfriend for the evening, and she–kindly referred to as “the chatterbox”–launches into a complex story involving her mother, her great-aunt Esther, her second cousin Herbie’s tie–and a grapefruit. Who the players are in your life, your hopes and dreams, your hurts and losses?  Your date isn’t going to find out, since first she’d have to inquire.
  • A date who stiffs the waiter at the restaurant, without extenuating circumstances, might not be someone to whom you want to tie your fate.
  • The hard to please type.  The man or woman who was never pleased with the first table–and often not the second, or third–at a restaurant. And regularly sends food back with harsh critiques of the chef or the wait staff.  Hypothesis: This might be a hard person to please who will make demands at others’ inconvenience.
  • And what of the date at a restaurant whose food comes first, and, without the slightest encouragement from you, digs in, while you watch?
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  • “The Shoulder-Rider.” Anyone caught in traffic has experienced this one. Two lanes merge into one, with traffic backed up for miles. The weary commuters have worked out a system combining the forking lines of cars. Our date? He pulls out of the line of traffic, scoots over to the shoulder, and speeds past those poor fools waiting patiently. Then, at the final merging point, he signals (how chivalrous), and muscles his car in. Is this a character trait or merely traffic-induced selfishness.
  • The cheapskate.  Although Lisa,* as a second grade teacher in a poor district, had far less money than Lou,* her lawyer date, she always insisted on splitting things equally. But every time they went out to eat Lou ordered not just a bottle of wine, but multiple entrees, saying he liked ‘a bit of this and a bit of that,’ and, besides, he could always pack up the leftovers and take them home. Time for Lisa to reconsider.
  • Beware: The Insincere Returner. Lisa has a taste for designer clothes, but not the budget. So she buys a fancy dress at a store, wears it to the desired affair, and then returns it, showing how this or that thread is pulled, and she’d like her money back. Leonard buys clothes at Nordstrom Rack, and insists that Nordstrom should take them back. His profit margin in this endeavor is excellent, and he brags about it to all who will listen. Time to question the dishonesty and deceit. Is this, like the selfish traffic driver,      only a specific peccadillo, or is it a warning signal for the relationship?

Sometimes inconsideration is localized, and a person who doesn’t believe he has to wait in traffic or should tip a waiter for his efforts or should actually walk to the restaurant instead of pulling out his mother-in-law’s handicapped placard– can turn out to be the King of Selflessness in other areas.  This blog is a word to the wise.  Don’t ignore issues that make you uncomfortable. Don’t let yourself be talked out of your concerns by well-meaning advisors (“Oh, all men/women are like that.”  “No one’s perfect.”).

Here’s hoping you had a lovely dating experience, and have a flawless marriage. But, just in case you find your sometimes find your spouse ungiving, difficult, or just plain awful–what were warning signs you had that your partner wasn’t going to be a V8?

And if and when you want out, don’t go it alone. Make sure a neutral wintess and guide is with you. Another good case for mediation.

Not To Miss

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**As with all characters in this blog, there is no actual Lisa or Lou, whose names have been changed to protect their privacy.  Rather, these are teaching stores, compiled of bits and pieces from real lives, books or movies, and altered to make my points more interesting and educational.