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Lack of Self-Awareness in Relationships
I remember one of the most frustrating relationships I had was with someone who kept making the same life mistakes over and over again.
Of course, at the time, it hurt me to see this person hurt so I bailed them out continuously, made good decisions for them, and tried frantically to make sure they avoided future mistakes. I look back and I had practically made this person my full-time job. In other words, I was doing their self-work!
The point here is that not only did this person lack the self-awareness to see how their repetitive actions were hurting themselves, but also how they were hurting me. They were unable to relate how their actions affected me and the relationship.
A lack of self-awareness in just one of the partners will affect the entire relationship.
Self-awareness is really difficult to point out to someone. You can't do it for them because it depends on their self-work and discovery. In addition, it took me gaining self-awareness about my own pattern of helping this person over and over again when they didn't want to help themselves.
If you feel the need to "fix" someone, chances are they're lacking self-awareness.
What Is Relational Self-Awareness?
Relational self-awareness is the ability to take a double stance in the relationship; perspective of self in relation to the other person.
It's the ability to both know your own past experiences and how they shaped you; how you learned from them (self-awareness) AND how you relate to other people (relational self-awareness).
From relational self-awareness comes compassion, empathy, communication, boundaries, and openness. These are all great things to have in a healthy relationship.
Along with what you do want in a relationship, you also need to know what to watch out for in a partner who lacks self-awareness, because you will find yourself feeling like you are up against a wall in this relationship.
If you want a love that lasts, self-awareness is the most important box to check!
7 Signs Your Partner Lacks Self-Awareness
There's a few key traits that are relationship red flags when it comes to lack of self-awareness.
1. They're Materialistic
Someone who is materialistic values possessions and material objects because they feel as though they add merit to their own worth. They have not done internal work to determine their values in relation to their priorities.
People who lack self-awareness often use material possessions to cover up their booboos (life's tough events). Materialistic people focus on their outer world as a means to make them feel better inside, rather than focusing on their inner world, which is actually a true reflection of our outer world.
That's why you can buy and buy, but it never scratches that itch. Get the upgrades within! Materialistic people are never happy for very long.
2. They're Never Alone for Too Long
People who lack self-awareness will rarely be alone for too long. They need others to reflect back to them who they are. They may hop from one relationship to the next, "searching for themselves." It's easier if others give them feedback than if they search themselves for insight.
3. They Don't Have a Range of Emotions
Anger is the ultimate cover-up emotion for many other real emotions like sadness, hurt, disappointment, etc. It also covers up the fact that they may not know what is going on within themselves so they simply react.
A lack of emotional range (mostly anger and irritability) is reflective of not having done the work to discover how they're truly feeling or why they're easily triggered.
With self-awareness though, they could express themselves better in a relationship.
4. They're Easily Defensive
If you tell your partner how you're feeling and somehow they take it personally and get defensive, they are incapable of holding space for you in a relationship with them.
They may be argumentative, problem-focused, and self-focused rather than solution-focused and relationship-focused. People who are highly defensive rarely listen and tend to lack patience because they're not willing to understand. They are only concerned with how they interpret everything.
"Enter a conflict with an open heart and open ears."
5. Communication Is Challenging
If your partner isn't aware of what's going on with themselves on the inside, it's pretty hard to communicate that to a loved one. This restricts the ability to work through problems.
Poor self-reflection = poor communication.
Probably why communication is a foundational trait in relationships. Signs of poor communication are when they expect others to anticipate their needs, they get easily frustrated (like a 2-year-old who doesn't know their words).
Also, you could ask them a million questions and the answer will be, "I don't know" 90% of the time.
6. They Lack Personal Responsibility
"I don't do that!" You could see your partner do something and they automatically deny it. The truth is, they probably don't know they do it or they are on autopilot and totally unaware.
They're extremely inconsiderate or unaware of their actions in relation to others. They have difficulty recognizing patterns in their behavior. Things seem to happen to them rather than being intentional or proactive.
It's like they're in a daze with little awareness of others around them, how their actions affect others, and rarely reflect back on their behavior.
This can also be portrayed as a lack of effort in the relationship.
7. They Struggle With Change or Growing Past Their Past
"We just grew apart." This is all too common when one partner takes the route of self-reflection, self-awareness, and personal growth while the other partner stayed the same. If only people knew how important self-awareness was before they married!
There are dots to be connected from our past to our present, in order to learn and grow. A lack of self-awareness means a person is destined to repeat the same old pattern of behavior. It may seem different or even better to them because they chose a different or better partner.
However, ultimately, things begin to look the same, and patterns from the past emerge later down the road. For them, all they know is that things were good at first then got worse. They don't know what happened and they don't take any responsibility for the health of the relationship.
They don't know how to purposefully change. They may not want to change, but you find yourself trying to get them to do so. They repeat patterns even when they've promised you they'll be different. They'll keep repeating patterns even if it ruins the relationship.
They also tend to hold grudges. Self-awareness sometimes means working through forgiveness, but these people hold a hard grudge instead of working through it.
Reactive Versus Reflective
An overly reactive person lacks self-awareness. It means they have not identified their personal patterns of relating to people and situations. They may be destined to relive their past pain over and over again and they can become highly reactive.
If you can't connect the dots of the past, you can't create a better future.
Many people live their pasts through their current relationships because they didn't do the reflective inner work to identify and resolve old patterns. They become easily triggered in relationships because past pain is always the deepest. It's like touching a raw wound.
Someone who takes the time to reflect understands that there's no quick fix. Reflection and growth are ongoing processes, but it beats reliving the past.
If you are in a relationship with someone who overreacts frequently, it is NOT you, it is unprocessed past relationships and/or painful childhood relationships they are currently reliving.
You have to decide if you want to bear the burden of their past. It's likely you will trigger a feeling or reaction in their past because anything current will immediately provoke past pain.
Their reactions will always be bigger than the blow. You may bring up something minor that will send them into a tailspin or completely shut down. You may notice their reactions don't match your actions.
If people don't regularly reflect and resolve, the past piles up. You may feel as if it's all directed at you, but it's an accumulation of all that past junk.
A reflective and considerate person looks for opportunities for growth. They won't be as defensive and they'll desire communication.
What to Look For in a Self-Aware Partner
As you can imagine, many positive traits of a self-aware partner are opposites of the list above.
- Solution-focused: Someone who is solution-focused will be open to communication and how to learn and move forward. They listen and talk to understand better. They want to make a plan rather than react from moment to moment.
- Self-expression: A self-aware partner is able to express themselves and name their feelings or emotions. They won't shut down or stone-wall you (silent treatment). They can communicate even in tough times.
- A common interest in the relationship: Someone who does not share your interest in the health of the relationship, will not be self-aware and will put their feelings first. They'll take everything personally. If they're hurt, they will not hesitate to tear down you and the relationship too. They do not share a common interest in the relationship. You may notice you try harder to salvage the relationship than they do.
A self-aware partner can talk about the past as lessons learned. Their lessons reflect their current behaviors.
They don't bash all their exes. They don't blame others for their problems. When one person has nothing but bad things to say about their exes, realize the common person involved is them!
You will save yourself the grief by choosing a self-aware partner who knows themselves, seeks growth, and seeks to understand you.
Someone who doesn't understand themselves will never understand you.
Your Own Self-Awareness
Your own self-awareness is equally as important as your partner's.
- Recognize and be aware of your relationship patterns. Are you attracting certain individuals that are not self-aware?
- What did you learn from past relationships?
- What are my values and do they align with my partner?
- Do your relationships/partners resemble a negative relationship from your childhood/your parent?
- How is your self-worth? Are you a people-pleaser or have patterns of codependency? Sometimes we take the blame as if we did more or less of this or that, our partner would love us more.
- Have you decided what you will tolerate and not tolerate in a relationship?
- Do you spend purposeful time reflecting? Journaling? Meditating? Reading and learning?
- Do you have goals for your relationships, and what steps are you taking to reach those goals?
Being self-aware is not the absence of mistakes, but the ability to learn and correct them.
Ask the Tough Questions
If your partner encompasses some of the signs of lacking self-awareness, ask yourself if you consider your partner to be selfish.
Bluntly put, partners who lack self-awareness are selfish in relationships. They expect more from you than they do of themselves.
Here's the one way to see if your relationship is possibly at a dead end:
Ask them what they require of you, what they want from you in the relationship... and then ask them what they require of themselves in the relationship.
You may see them pause when they think of what they should contribute to the relationship. They've obviously given more thought to what they can get from a relationship than what they can give.
There are many questions you should be asking your partner if you think they lack self-awareness. When you're married, you'll want to know the trajectory of the relationship. When you're dating, you'll want to ask the tough questions.
The Bottom Line
If you find yourself lucky in love with a self-aware partner, begin to combine the power of two self-aware people and map out a plan of growth and goals together.
If your partner lacks self-awareness, remember that you are not responsible for changing them. If you want to talk to them about their behavior, do so in a caring and honest way. Ask important questions, discuss the path your relationship is following, and decide what is best for you. The only person you can truly control is yourself!