Entitlement Crushes Marriages and Relationships

Where there’s entitlement without accountability, tyranny follows, whether it’s a quiet and seething undercurrent or it’s overt.

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The factor of entitlement in marriage and in other relationships is compelling as to its force for destructiveness, whether it causes relationships to implode or continue in dysfunction.

In the belly of entitlement are the other two Es of operant narcissism, a scarcity of empathy and the affinity for exploitation. Entitled people demand what they want, often through exploiting others, based in their complete lack of desire to empathize with others.

Where there’s entitlement without accountability, tyranny follows, whether it’s a quiet and seething undercurrent or it’s overt. Safe people are willing to be held to account and hold themselves to account because they realize we all have the capacity to be entitled.

The irony of the entitled is they don’t see their entitled approach to exploiting others or their lack of empathy as either a problem or as even entitlement, but those who are not entitled quite easily see their incursions into entitlement as a problem to be accounted for — through apology and repentance — because they see their situational lack of empathy and exploitative behavior as abhorrent.


How entitlement operates in marriages:


  • The consistent preferencing of time and resources by the entitled partner for themselves and for those they favor, often (but not always) with justification — however well (or not) their justification is reasoned.
  • In the lack of consideration for the marriage partner and those the marriage partner love and care about, entitlement shows up in the punishing of the marriage partner and those they love and care about, especially when “dissent” is shown to the entitled partner for their preferencing of time and resources to themselves and those they favor.
  • Even in more passive moments, there is a consistent disposition in the entitled one that leaves everyone other than those they favor feeling uncomfortable and unsafe. And those who are favored can sometimes feel confused and conflicted about the position they’ve been placed in.
  • Justifications for the abusive structures, patterns, and behaviors of the entitled partner leave those who suffer in an untenable place. They survive outside the marriage and family, or they endure the tyranny of dysfunction. Both of these scenarios put the entitled one in a position of control because those leaving the marriage or family are in the unenviable position of having to make their way — that’s enormously stressful and overwhelmingly hard!
  • The entitled mete out the worst of their abuse in silence. The worst abuse doesn’t bruise the flesh. The worst abuse bruises the soul and the spirit. Internal hematomas are invisible to all other than the bearer of such bruises. More “silent” abuses leave the abused feeling constantly isolated and alone.
  • Entitlement in marriage suffocates the life that might otherwise be enjoyed in safe intimacy. It also crushes the hope of the partner who seeks to give and receive such safe intimacy.


How entitlement operates in relationships:


  • Problems turn up in situations where the entitled person reacts in overt unaccounted-for emotions, or they withdraw themselves to punish others.
  • There is a consistent flow of neediness in the entitled person. They burden the relationship, and there’s no such thing as balance in any part of the relationship.
  • The entitled person will do other people “favors” (that inevitably work for the interests of the entitled person) as a way of manipulating outcomes.
  • Relationships with entitled people are always couched in feeling that “something’s up” without ever truly knowing. It’s such a constantly disconcerting feeling.
  • An entitled person serves their own ends and those they keep in their inner circle who help protect them. Those who are not in the inner circle always end up exploited, sidelined, and isolated, and those who are in the inner circle don’t realize they’re there at the convenience of the entitled person — and are perhaps more exploited than anyone.


Entitlement often takes longer to identify in relationships where there is less intimacy than in marriage. Indeed, it can often be that once it’s noticed, past indiscretions also suddenly come into view, and these are seen as red flags that were there all along. Naturally, nobody sees these until they’re suddenly visible.

Ultimately, what separates those who are genuinely entitled from those who aren’t is accountability.

The entitled person either never sees their behavior as entitled or they feel they’re genuinely entitled to behave the way they do — but others are not. The non-entitled person picks up in their behavior situations where they’re acting entitled, yet they amend their behavior and make amends to those impacted.


This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework

Featured Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

The views and opinions expressed by Kingdom Winds Collective Members, authors, and contributors are their own and do not represent the views of Kingdom Winds LLC.

About the Author

Steve Wickham is a Kingdom Winds Contributor. He holds several roles, including husband, father, peacemaker championing peacemaking for children and adults, conflict coach and mediator, church pastor, counselor, funeral celebrant, chaplain, mentor, and Board Secretary. He holds degrees in Science, Divinity (2), and Counselling. Steve is also a Christian minister serving CyberSpace i.e. here.

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