Do you have a partner who is always trying to get attention from the rest of the world? Perhaps they are the loudest person in the room and the life of the party. They show off their body, they flirt, and they seem to want attention from everyone—other than you. The old saying goes, “Attention-seekers can make great girlfriends (or boyfriends), but you wouldn’t want to marry one.” However, if you’re already too deep to let go, here are a few tips on handling their bad behavior.
I’ll give you one more chance to reconsider, as an attention-seeking partner can be a handful to live with. In many ways, they are a mix between someone with borderline personality disorder and a narcissist, which means they can act like a spoiled child and require multiple spoon feedings of attention, love and recognition throughout the day. To maintain this regular routine they may provoke you with drama, anger, manipulation, and anything else they can think of. Are you sure you don’t want off this roller coaster?
Some people date attention-seeking partners because they are trying to avoid a boring nice guy/girl relationship. Others are just attracted to a bit of drama. Perhaps you are a caretaker that finds satisfaction in healing others, or soaking up their pain to help them feel better. It reinforces the attention-seeking partner when you soak up their emotions, leaving them with no responsibility for their actions. If you want to provide an incentive for your partner to change, this should include letting them face the consequences, even if it means you taking a break from the relationship until they’re ready to act rationally.
And you are certainly not the only one to be blamed for being with an attention-seeking partner, as they also seek out certain individuals as friends and lovers. They prefer people who give them attention, without needing/expecting much in return. For them, there is truth in Oscar Wilde’s quote: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
Give Them What They Want
If you break down the motivation of an attention-seeking partner, you would see that a good portion of them did not receive the attention they needed from previous lovers, and even their parents. To compensate, they embellish their dress, actions, and emotions to receive attention in other ways. While it is a good idea to leave the room if your partner is trying to manipulate you in a bad way, it will be easier to deal with a portion of their actions by giving them what they need.
According to one Canadian study, the most damaging type of attention a person can give is no attention at all (the silent treatment). Some attention-seeking partners may settle down once they start to get what they crave, and their need to act out will subside. The key to this technique is to have clear expectations and limits to your kindness, and let your partner know what those limits and expectations are. You also want to be consistent and predictable with your promises, as attention-seeking partners tend to slip back into old habits when you disappoint them.
Don’t Squash Their Need for Attention
A big problem in relationships with an attention-seeking partner is when they dress and act provocatively. Rather than squash their flirty behavior, it may be better to provide feedback as to what is inappropriate and disrespectful, but let them have their fun if it makes them happy. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, telling your partner not to flirt works about as good as telling a child not to take a cookie from the cookie jar which is sitting right over in that empty corner.
During this study it was also suggested that not only will a partner remember someone who is attractive with more detail when they are told not to flirt, they will also devalue their commitment to their partner. These partners also tended to focus on other attractive individuals more often, and were therefore possibly more susceptible to temptation. Your best defense should be to act on the previous tip: give your partner what they want, which is attention and acknowledgement, and they’ll be less inclined to get it elsewhere.
Finally, you may not be able to live without them, but you can find ways to make living with them a lot easier. This means giving into their needs when reasonable, being patient when they act out, and realizing that it may be necessary to give tough love.