“I have asked him time and time again, not to take a picture of me in my bathing suit. He just won’t listen. I finally said to him, ‘You need to stop. I have established a clear and reasonable boundary regarding this topic many times. I don’t like to be photographed in my bathing suit and I particularly don’t like it when you don’t respect my wishes. Please respect my boundaries.’ He finally responded with a firm, ‘No. As your husband, I get to take whatever pictures I want of you.’ In other words, ‘as your husband, I am entitled to treat you this way and you’re not allowed to question it.’”
This is entitlement in action, a form of covert emotional abuse. It is not okay.
Entitlement is one of the four pillars of Covert Emotional Abuse. A pillar of abuse is a foundational structure protecting abusers from being held accountable for their actions and which sustains covert and overt abuse. At their core, abusers believe they are entitled to special treatment, double standards, regardless of the needs of others. Their attitude is such that they think they deserve to be treated better than everyone else, and others aren’t worthy of receiving the same favor. It’s one reason why abusers expect their partner to treat them better even while they minimize their partner’s place in the relationship. This is especially true of narcissistic covert abusers.
First responders play an important role by way of their own personal actions which might inadvertently be fueling an abuser’s sense of entitlement. When a victim alleges abuse, it’s critical that first responders not be distracted by the alleged abuser’s sense of entitlement. It’s why the abuser may refuse to do things like therapy where they may be confronted. Entitlement plays a strong part in avoiding responsibility, to make amends or reparations. Entitlement wrongly provides a license to do whatever they want whenever they want. Anyone can get caught up in this mentality from time to time, but someone abusive will use entitlement to internally justify their behavior rather than to recognize and repair it.
An emotionally abusive dynamic can be difficult to detect. Entitlement is a quality that is normal in young children who don’t possess the mental and emotional maturity it requires to understand that they are not the center of everyone’s attention all the time. When children don’t receive something they want immediately, you can typically expect some tears and a temper tantrum to follow. Psychologists believe this is a natural and healthy part of a child’s cognitive and emotional development process. However, as we age, that child-like sense of entitlement gives way in exchange for love and respect for others. Many emotional abusers side-step this important developmental process even into adulthood, which causes significant strain on their relationships and even themselves as they carry unrealistic expectations and tend to think in terms of what they are owed rather than what they can give.
For instance, men from patriarchal societies or families may develop with a sense of entitlement where they may have witnessed “machismo” ideas or similar mindsets, such as assuming women are less intelligent or capable and therefore, only sufficient for serving men. On the other hand, some women who come from more matriarchal settings who were always treated as “the princess” may struggle to overcome the idea that the people around them, including their partner, have equally important wants and needs.
Entitlement can manifest in myriad ways in an adult relationship, but these are among the most common:
1. Access to Finances
2. Family and Children
3. Sexual Activity You're Not Comfortable With
4. Private Information
Every relationship will involve compromise, and selfishly, we wish we could have all of our needs met all the time, but feeling entitled to something just because you are in a relationship is not healthy. If you feel entitlement is creeping into your relationship, it is good to retract and have a discussion with your partner. Here are a few ways to go about this.
Come into the Relationship With Clear Expectations
Hold Space for Each Other to Be Assertive
Entitlement is not often recognized as a pillar of abuse but if you look for it you can detect it even if you are a first responder. Entitlement can also creep into a relationship unintentionally as one or both individuals get used to asking more and more from their partner. Before it spirals into something unhealthy, communicating reasonable boundaries and addressing expectations are necessary to keep the relationship on track. If you’d like to read more about entitlement or other forms of abuse, look to the links below.