It’s too easy to slap the Big Bad Narcissist label on anyone who seems to crave attention. Maybe their attention-getting device is the latest hair color or lipstick, some hot new style, or interrupting your conversation. Maybe the person is narcissistic, but let’s not assume.
The desire for the spotlight may be more benign. And the need for acknowledgment or even a little quality time — an indicator that your relationship could do with a dusting off and some concentrated TLC. Sure, some of us love to be the center of attention. We need the spotlight, the applause of the crowd, or the adoration — at least now and then — of one special person in our lives.
Me? Not so much.
This may be a matter of personality type, or habit.
Do You Need Attention?
I like my work to get the attention; I prefer to fly under the radar when I can and I don’t need much attention lavished on me, though I certainly appreciate the kind ear of a friend when I’ve had a bad day, or company of the person I love when I want to share a good one.
How to get more attention from your partner — if you aren’t getting it now?
Sadly, I’m guessing this is a question plenty of men and women ponder. It happens to all of us, and I can imagine a few instances when the man in my life must have contemplated precisely this… about me.
If you’re married to, living with, or dating someone who works long hours; if your partner is subject to constant parenting pressures and responsibilities to kids; if extended family, aging parents, bosses and clients are all clamoring for a phone call, a text, an email, a meal, a visit, a deliverable — isn’t it understandable that getting their full attention is a challenge? Does that mean that if that time-pressed person is you, that you should avoid anyone who expects your attention?
Dealing With Someone Who Demands the Spotlight
If you share your life, your home or your workplace with someone who needs an “excess” of attention, the challenge may be as basic as getting a word in, or it may involve trickier tendencies toward a partner’s ability to be affectionate, inclusive, or considerate.
We also ought to be able to recognize periods of time when your loved one may need more reassurance than usual — the start of a new job, getting used to a change in appearance (positive or negative), or following a rough patch in which trust needs to be re-established.
Context is important, even for behaviors that may be hard to accept.
Attention Whore, Out the Door?
My mother was a woman in constant need of attention, a classic narcissist and then some. Her presence could siphon the air out of a room as she pushed, insisted, and guilted in order to get her way.
My father’s response? He was out of the house as much as possible.
An old friend was equally in need of attention, though her style and M.O. were entirely different from my manipulative Mommie Dearest. This particular woman was a stunning single mother whose social life was sizzling. She thrived on the attention of men. In fact, she demanded it, and she got it. But those relationships were frequently short term, and then she was on to the next. Or they were.
Was she getting what she wanted from these encounters? Did she lose interest as soon as the newness wore off? Was her narcissism “acceptable” because she was beautiful, sexy and charming? What about those men who wised up quickly, and showed her the door?
Need Attention From Your Spouse?
The first man I dated after divorce was a narcissist extraordinaire. Everything was about him, and no amount of praise was sufficient. He’d been through two marriages when I met him, and I couldn’t help but wonder what life was like for his wives.
Frequently, I couldn’t get a word in. If there was a pause in his monologue and I attempted to interject, he quickly interrupted. At times, he would seem to listen but his actions discounted everything I’d just expressed – the proverbial “in one ear, out the other.” Yet I recognized a kind soul beneath the emotional neediness. Still, eventually, I moved on.
Setting aside the narcissists – or if you prefer, the attention whores – what about the rest of us? Aren’t there times when we feel more vulnerable, need more TLC, and don’t get it? Sometimes, doesn’t everyone feel ignored, dismissed, or taken for granted – especially by a spouse?
Pay Attention or Pay the Price
Naturally, we could say the same for women.
In my marriage, my spouse was none of the above — not observant, not romantic, not attentive. He was also not home, much of the time. He traveled. Obviously, there were many good qualities and good times, or we wouldn’t have walked down the aisle in the first place.
But over the years, more consideration of my concerns when he was home would have been welcome. I don’t mean that to sound selfish, and it was never about the spotlight. It was about needing to feel valued, wanting to spend time with him, and a missing quality of thoughtfulness.
How could I have gotten him to pay more attention?
- Sharing more interests
- Better communication — sooner
- Asking him what he needed from me — sooner
- Letting him know what I needed from him — sooner
Does Your Partner Pay Enough Attention?
I’m comfortable on my own, and I’m not jealous by nature. I’m not emotionally needy by any stretch.
None of that means I don’t miss the signs when someone I care about needs more attention; I screw up, like everyone. That doesn’t mean I don’t have times when I want more attention as well, or feel that more attention is needed from me than I can manage.
Relationships are hard. Our perceptions of situations change. We owe it to ourselves and our partners to communicate as our feelings and needs change, including our need for attention. And then, if we’re smart, we’ll listen.
If I ever did want more attention, or a different sort of exchange, I hope I would speak up in a timely fashion — ask if there was something wrong, explain how I was feeling, give my partner the safe place to explain his needs — and not insist on my own perspective as the “only” one that is valid. That’s a sure path to driving a loved one away.
- Do you need more attention in your relationship?
- Does your spouse need more attention?
- Do you like to be the center of attention?
- What do you when you’re feeling ignored?
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