There's nothing worse than feeling like you're with someone who just "tolerates" you, rather than fully loves you for who you are. Everyone deserves more than that. And according to relationship experts, there are ways to tell whether your partner actually accepts you or just puts up with you.
"Tolerating probably looks effortful," Laura VanderDrift, assistant professor of psychology at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences and the director of the Close Relationships Lab tells Bustle. That means your partner may have to make an effort to celebrate your victories with you, or try really hard to understand your struggles. If you're in a happy, well-balanced relationship where your partner truly loves and accepts you, they should be doing that effortlessly.
According to VanderDrift, love is a "habitual, gut-level tendency" to include another person in your sense of self. For instance, their happiness is your happiness, and your sadness is their sadness. From this perspective, we can learn whether someone truly loves and accepts us by noticing what they do when they’re tired. "People usually have a hard time regulating their behavior when they’re tired, and tend to be more self-centered as a result," she says. "If they love you, their self-centered response will be to treat you with kindness and empathy, (after all, you’re a part of them!). But if they seem to view you as another obligation when they're tired, then perhaps they haven’t yet developed that habitual response that includes you."
But paying attention to how your partner treats you when they're tired isn't the only way to tell if they're tolerating you or actually accepting you. Here are other signs you should look out for, according to experts.
1. They Don't Have An Active Interest In Your Life
"I think that if your partner is not taking an active interest in your life and things that you are passionate about and interested in, then [they] are not really accepting you," Brooke Wise of Wise Matchmaking tells Bustle.
For instance, when you're concerned about something or have worries, do you feel that [they are] there for you? Do they know what's going on at work or with your family? Better yet, do they even bother to ask? "If [they are] too busy or doesn’t have the time or desire to be there for you when you need them the most, then [they are] not fully loving and accepting you," Wise says.
2. You Don't Feel Like You're Part Of A Team
Are you a team? Are they your biggest fan? "If the answer to both questions is resoundingly no, then this doesn’t sound like they actually love and accept you," Wise says. If they're not making the effort to make you feel like you're part of a loving relationship, they they may just be tolerating you.
According to Wise, if you feel like your partner really is just tolerating you, bring it up. If nothing changes, then Wise suggests moving on to someone who embraces you.
3. They'll Make Comments About Your Behavior
"Partners don’t tolerate you per se but rather your behavior," Dr. Jess Carbino, the sociologist for dating app Bumble, tells Bustle. "A sign that a partner is tolerating rather than accepting of your behavior would be how they approach it directly through conversation or indirectly via body language."
A partner who's intolerant would make comments regarding your behavior, even if it's not negative. For instance, if you like calling your partner during your lunch break every single day, they might say something like, "Wow, you really like these lunch time phone calls."
According to Carbino, that may be your partner's way of negotiating their anxieties around the topic. "A partner who is accepting of a behavior will not make a comment or negatively express themselves indirectly," she says.
5. You Only Feel Connected When You're Getting Physically Intimate
"Whether your partner accepts you or tolerates you is a question of how into you and the relationship they truly are," Sameera Sullivan, professional relationship coach and CEO of Lasting Connections tells Bustle. Sullivan suggests asking yourself whether they've made it clear that this relationship matters to them or if they're there because they're too lazy to move on?
One way Sullivan says you can tell this is if you don’t have an idea of why your partner is uniquely attracted to you versus anyone else. "If that intimate spark between you isn’t obvious all the time and the only time you feel they’re into you is before hooking up, it's a sign they may just be tolerating you," she says.
6. They Have A "Go With The Flow" Attitude About Your Relationship
If you find your partner treating your relationship with an indifferent, "go with the flow" attitude, it could be a red flag that they're only tolerating you. It's a sign that they're not actively finding ways to move the relationship forward. If they can't commit to plans with you for next weekend, that may also be sign you're not a priority for them.
7. You Feel Like Your Efforts Are Unappreciated
If doing small favors are making you feel used or unappreciated, that may be a sign that you're doing more for the relationship than your partner. "Chances are, your efforts aren't being reciprocated and it's a sign of imbalance within the partnership," Sullivan says.
When you feel like you're giving too much and your partner isn't giving anything back, it could indicate that your partner isn't interested in putting a ton of effort towards you or the relationship.
8. They Don't Respect Your Opinions
Arguing can be healthy for a relationship, but having your opinions dismissed or ignored is not. "Even if you disagree, you should feel like the other person hears your point of view and respects it for the simple fact that they respect you," Sullivan says. "If they display some obvious gesture like eye rolling or simply shutting down the conversation, chances are they don’t care enough to engage."
Showing contempt is another sign that they're just tolerating you. "Contempt is a combination of when somebody feels they are superior over you, mixed with criticism," clinical psychologist, Dr. Danielle Forshee, tells Bustle "When you notice that there is much difficultly in your partner accepting influence from you, this means that your opinion usually is not considered or appreciated."
While it's totally OK for someone to disagree with you, it's still important to have a partner who listens, considers your opinion, and repects it.
So what should you do if you feel like your partner really is just tolerating you? "If you feel like your partner just tolerates you, maybe consider what you can to do be more self-sufficient," VanderDrift says. Basically, instead of trying to bring yourself closer to your partner, or convince them to do more than just tolerate you, boost your own sense of self. A great strategy, she says, is to call to mind everything you bring to the table in a relationship and in life.
"If you’re feeling good about yourself and handling your own issues, my prediction is that you’ll feel less anxious about the relationship, which will lead to either your partner being able to appreciate you to a greater degree, or you realizing that this relationship isn’t going to give you what you need." After all, no matter how much you care about your partner, you deserve a relationship where you're loved accepted for who you are.