When you're dating someone, that's kind of a big deal. It's not too much to ask for you and your relationship to be close to the top of your partner's priority list. I mean, sure, there are times when school, work, health, or family stuff needs to be at the forefront of your partner's radar, but you still deserve to feel like you're important. You still deserve a piece of whatever time they have left to give, no matter what's going on. If they're shutting you out, for any you deserve better.
Unfortunately, timing is a harsh mistress. You might not be a priority in your partner's life because of unavoidable life circumstances. On the other hand, you might not be a priority because your partner just isn't putting enough effort into your relationship. That's the one that stings. If you're not a priority, then you'll never come first, you'll rarely feel special, and you can be sure that your future probably looks more like the inside of a trash can than the inside of a happy home — you'll never be truly satisfied or feel equal in your relationship, to put it bluntly.
So how do you known when your partner just needs space to deal with something important, or when their absence is because they don't really care? It's hard to tell. The best thing to do is to have a frank and open discussion, but if that doesn't ease your mind (and you're sure you're not dating a master manipulator) then the following tips from relationship experts should help you decide if you're a priority in your relationship or a last resort.
1. They're Always Late
I'm always late. It's because I have ADHD. There are legitimate excuses for sucking at punctuality, but when a person is late every time, well, let's just say even I'm not that bad. According to relationship expert April Masini of Ask April, "When someone is always late to meet you — or worse, stands you up — you’re not a priority. Being timely is a sign of respect and being late means you’re not important enough for your partner to prioritize your agreed on meeting time." Take stock of when your parter arrives and then look at the bigger picture. Does a pattern emerge?
2. Special Occasions Aren't Special
Special occasions matter. It's not about the gift, it's about the effort, and if there's not much effort on the part of your partner, it could show that you're not a priority. According to Masini, "When your partner forgets your anniversary, stops at the drugstore for flowers for your birthday, on the way home, and asks you what you want to do for Valentine’s Day the morning of… you’re not a priority."
3. You Feel Single, Even Though You're Not
If you're alone more than not, and your spidey senses tell you that your relationship is over, you might just be right. You'll never feel like your relationship is already over when you're a priority. "In fact," says relationship expert and psychologist Antonia Hall,"deep in your gut you often have a lonely feeling, as though you've already been dumped, even though you're still in a relationship." It's the worst, but it's very telling about where you are on your partner's list of what matters.
4. They Don't Mind Disappointing You
Relationships author and creator of Fantasy Dating Suzanne Casamento lays out a pretty clear example of your partner not being afraid to disappoint you. "Say your boyfriend or girlfriend waits two days to call you back. You then tell them that it hurts your feelings when they don't send a simple text saying something like, 'Hey, work is crazy right now. I'll call you tomorrow.' If you let that person know that your feelings are hurt and they don't apologize and then call you back right away next time, they're showing you they don't care if they disappoint you. And if they're willing to disappoint you, you are not a priority." Does that hit close to home?
5. They Don't Put Much Effort Into Meeting Your Needs
When you're a priority, your partner cares about your needs, and honestly wants to work to see that they're met. "A partner can’t meet your needs all the time, but there’s a difference between someone working on their behavior because it’s important to their partner and just temporarily placating them until they can go back to status quo. If a person isn’t willing to put in consistent effort after you’ve spoken up, they’re not prioritizing your needs or the relationship," says Anita Chilpala, dating and relationship expert, and owner of Relationship Reality 312.
6. They Don't Make Time For You
There's a big difference between not having time and not making time. Even the busiest person can make a little bit of time for their partner when their partner matters to them. As relationship educator Lucinda Loveland puts it, "Life is busy, but not too busy that we can't put things on hold when our partner is sharing something important about their new job promotion, or how their worried about Uncle Jim being in the hospital. If relatives, friends, or work can't be put off, then you're obviously not a priority."
7. You're Not Their Partner
Labels aren't for everyone. I get that. But, according to Marital and Family Relationships therapist Dr. Ashley Arn, if you've been together for a while and things have never been official, then you might not be a priority. When you're dating someone in a meaningful way, you want to be clear about what you're doing and where you're headed. If your partner isn't willing to do that with you, it might be because they don't care enough. Better to find out before your feelings for the get too big.
8. They Never Make Plans With You
Relationships expert, matchmaker, and owner Steph and the City, Stefanie Safran points out that if your partner gets a day off or a vacation, and makes plans with everyone else but you, then those other relationships are the higher priority. If their friends and family get all their time, and you get the scraps, you're probably not close to the top on their list of important people.
9. They Don't Fight With You
Believe it or not: If you're not important to someone, they're probably not going to spend their time fighting with you or for you. According to Safran, if your partner doesn't seem to want to resolve disagreements, it's because you're not really a priority. It takes time and energy to fight and more time and energy to process the fight and to make up. You don't waste that kind of energy on a low-priority person.
10. They Use You For The Physical PART OF THE Relationship
A real, committed partner is more than a bed warmer, a weekend fling, or the occasional school night booty call. If you're a priority to someone, they will also want to spend lots of time with you in public, and with all your clothes on. They'll want to hear how you feel, and to learn what makes you tick. They'll be excited to spend time with you. Another clean sign you're not a priority is if there's never a sleepover after you hook up, according to Arn.
11. You Haven't Met Anyone In Their Life
You know you're serious about someone when you take them home to meet the family. Then they go from a person of interest, to someone who is enmeshed in your life. It's kind of a big deal for a lot of people. If you never make those connections with people in your partner's life, it could be because you're not a priority to them, according to Arn. If you've been together for a while, you should at least know a few people in their lives, and their friends and family should have at least hear about you.
You're so awesome that you deserve to be with someone who can't help but make you a priority, not because they have to, but because they want to. Don't settle for anything less.