Diana had been dating Axel for several months, but she still did not really feel very secure about where she stood in the relationship. Axel rarely answered texts, and never picked up the phone when Diana called. He’d text her, though, when he was ready to get together, often at the very last minute. And of course, Diana was inevitably responsive, getting right back to him. Delighted he’d contacted her, she would even change her plans to make seeing Axel work on his schedule. When they were together they had a great time, but after they said goodbye, Diana never even really knew if—let alone when—they’d see each other again. If she asked, Axel would say, “I’ll catch up with you,” ruffle her hair, and flash his irresistible grin.
Clearly Axel did not make Diana a priority in his life, although she prioritized him. He took her for granted and was not particularly interested in how she felt about things, or whether she had a life. Diana was merely an option for him. She eventually broke things off because she knew she deserved much better in a relationship.
This kind of unequal relationship is a red flag that you are an option rather than a priority. Take a step back and see if you rate as a priority in your relationship.
If you are a priority….
- Your partner shows love and affection through actions. The old adage, “Actions speak louder than words,” is never truer than in a love relationship. All kinds of protestations of “I love you” mean nothing if your partner does not spend quality time with you, look you in the eye, ask how you are, listen to you without checking email, respond to you when you reach out, and in all other ways show what your priority rank is through actions.
- Your partner is present for you. When you spend time together, do you have his/her undivided attention? Does your partner cherish the time you can spend together, or is it an afterthought that is somehow fit into a busy schedule full of priorities that are valued more than you?
- You inspire selflessness. There is a certain amount of selflessness that is required in a good relationship. If your partner is so self-absorbed that you don’t make a blip on the radar screen, you are not a priority. You need to be a priority above other people and activities. At least some of the time!
- You are interesting enough to capture the attention and interest of your partner. You and I know you are interesting, but if your partner is viewing you as an option, chances are he or she is not showing the interest in you that you deserve. Your partner is prioritizing you if your interests, your likes, your happy places, your sad places—are not just on his or her radar but of true importance!
- You are treated respectfully. That means your calls are answered, your texts returned, your schedule respected, your privacy and life and job and interests taken into account.
If you are more of an option, you may see these warning signs:
- Your partner is unavailable—both emotionally and physically—for a mutually fulfilling relationship. These kinds of partners are so busy with their interests, their hobbies, their friends, and their work that, if you wind up being one of their “options,” you hear, “Catch ya later,” and you know that your next date depends on when you can be squeezed into their schedule. Result? You put your life on hold, while your partner’s life is ticking along like a Swiss watch.
- All your dates revolve around your partner’s interests, friends, the places he or she wants to go, and the activities he or she enjoys. You like cross country skiing and movies, but you always end up at the club or watching football games. How does that happen? It’s your partner’s show and you are “allowed” to tag along.
- You keep waiting around for the elusive commitment—even an admission that you are important and a few answered phone calls will do. None of the normal courtesies of a relationship are forthcoming. Actual commitment is but a distant dream when you are an option and your partner is waiting for someone “better” to come along. Ouch. You deserve so much more.
Because you invariably feel alone, neglected, and taken for granted, you are probably exhibiting characteristic behaviors of someone with the rank of “Option, second class.”
- You make excuses, to yourself and everyone else, for your partner’s behavior.
- You do all the heavy lifting. You make arrangements (that get derailed), send texts (that are not returned), drive 40 minutes to a rendezvous (and then wait for your date to turn up).
- You make yourself available, to compensate for the oh-so unavailable one. Even at 2:00 a.m.
- You stop even trying to ask for what you want or need. At this point the relationship is so imbalanced that you think any demands from you will result in being dumped, or being accused of neediness. (Like having needs in a relationship is a bad thing! See my blog Asking for What You Need – Why You Should and Why It’s Hard.
How to stop being an option:
- If you are doing all the pursuing, why should your partner lift a finger? You might try pulling back to see if your partner moves in to fill the void.
- Don’t hold your breath, though. The beginning of a relationship sets the stage and it’s unlikely to get better.
- If it does not get better, use your exit strategy as soon as you understand that you are a second class citizen in this dating relationship.
- Then work on making yourself a priority. Just because your self-centered partner didn’t know how to show you the love you deserve does not mean you can’t. You do you.
- Resolve to maintain your values and never again jeopardize them to be in a relationship that is not going to meet your expectations.
- Know what you want and need in a relationship and settle for nothing less.
- Trust yourself. When your intuition—your “gut”—starts waving red flags, notice them! If you feel something is off…it probably is.
- Set and keep emotional and physical boundaries. If you feel yourself accepting the rank of “Option, second class” again, check in with those boundaries. And in a pinch, call a friend if you are having a weak moment!
You deserve to be a priority in a relationship. Don’t settle for less. Stand up to anyone who does not value you as you deserve, and stand up for your awesome self. “Priority, first class”—don’t settle for anything less!