Emotional Fitness

Harness the power of emotion to deepen your love with your partner, become more successful at work, and more

Attention Seeking Behaviors

Protect yourself from the bad behaviors of others.

When a child is not able to get attention from his or her primary caretakers, he or she will do what kids do and act out by saying or doing something that creates some drama. Children do this because negative attention is still attention. We expect this because children are trying to figure out how to do life, and part of their job is to push the boundaries and our buttons.

What we don't expect, and what becomes a big problem in relationships, is when adults act out in this manner. Make no mistake. If you ever say, "I should just kill myself," to see how your partner will respond, it is unquestionably an attention-seeking behavior. And it is one of the unhealthiest actions you can indulge in.

Creating this kind of drama in an adult relationship is at best a sad commentary on an obviously broken communication dynamic. In addition, it wastes the most precious thing you have: your time. It also has the added negative effect of diminishing the love you have, because no one can love a person who is acting out on a regular basis. Truth is, attention-seeking behavior is just plain exhausting for your partner, and he or she will eventually find a way to avoid it, and perhaps you as well.

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Look, a little drama here and there is a part of life, but making it a lifestyle will not allow you to find peace in the arms of the one you love. If you are invested in being a drama queen (or king), you need to take a look at why you think this behavior is okay.

Ask yourself why you need all the attention. There may be some insecurity or self-esteem issues going on for you. This does not mean that you are bad, broken, or evil; it means that there may be a little hole in your soul and you need to spend some time patching it.
The good news is that you can help yourself to heal, but first you have to acknowledge the need.

If it's your partner who utilizes attention-seeking behaviors to the point of making you want to chew your arm off in order to escape, you need to start setting some strong boundaries. If you tolerate bad behavior, you will simply encourage it to continue happening. Yes, setting a limit on a person who can go ballistic at any moment is scary, but that's why they do it: to keep control. So now you have to neutralize the situation, not by controlling it but by not participating in it. In short, if your partner chooses to act out, and it's making you feel uncomfortable, then leave the room. I don't believe in walking away from normal relational conflict, but when someone is being emotionally manipulative, you have every right to protect yourself.

Being with someone who continually makes you feel wrong, guilty, or not good enough is not going to make you happy. Find a way to fix it.

 

 

Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, columnist, and radio host. His latest book is The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.

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