To save your relationship from your partner’s incessant need for attention, you must first understand where that need comes from.
Only then can you take the correct course of action to address their need, help them feel seen and heard, and make them less reliant on the attention of others.
By the time you have finished reading this article, you should have the knowledge and tools you need to strike a balance in your relationship between being the source of attention they require and reducing their dependence on external sources of validation.
11 Reasons Why Your Partner Seeks Attention From Others
Should you be worried when your partner is seeking attention from others while in a relationship with you?
Is it okay if they’re only seeking attention on social media?
Are they micro-cheating by flirting with other people to get their attention, and would they really cheat on you to get that attention?
Here’s a list of possible reasons why your partner is addicted to attention. (We’ll also discuss how to cope with this problem later on in the article.)
1. Bad past experiences or unresolved trauma.
The need for attention might be a simple coping mechanism. Your partner probably didn’t get enough attention from someone very important to them, such as a parent or a previous lover.
Whether this goes back to their childhood, or only their past relationship, it will take time to heal from this rejection in order to stop seeking attention and validation.
You should help your partner open up to you about this, as well as suggest that they speak to a therapist.
You shouldn’t be the one to suffer the consequences of a past that you weren’t a part of. With effort, your partner can heal from trauma.
2. Insecurity and low self-esteem.
An attention seeker is likely in desperate need of an ego boost due to their low self-esteem. They lack confidence and they gain it by receiving attention and compliments from others.
They spend a lot of time taking care of their appearance, and they fish for compliments because they’re insecure and need external validation.
Sounds simple enough, but solving this problem, again, requires the help of a therapist.
However, if you are in an otherwise loving relationship and can trust your partner, you might want to accept them the way they are.
With effort, they can increase their confidence and learn to love themselves.
But are they willing to do that, and are you willing to wait for it to happen? Could you love them if they don’t ever change?
There’s no wrong answer to this; you should always trust your gut.
3. Feeling threatened and jealous.
People who are addicted to attention associate attention with affection, or at least see it as an equally valuable resource.
This is why they get jealous when there’s a possibility of someone else drawing your attention away from them. When this happens, they might resort to creating drama to draw the focus back on them.
If you don’t understand their jealous outbursts, try to see attention as affection and a valuable resource. It might be the way your partner sees things, which could explain why they feel threatened by other people in your life.
They might even be jealous of people that you are definitely not attracted to, just because you give them your attention.
On the flip side, they may flirt and expect you to be okay with it, which sounds a lot like a double standard in your relationship.
4. Loneliness and fear of being alone.
An unhealthy need for attention can be shown through seeking attention on social media as well as seeking attention from others while in a relationship.
These attempts to get attention usually happen when a person is feeling lonely and/or fears being alone.
They will do anything to draw focus onto themselves and gain other people’s attention. It’s like they believe that they don’t exist unless they are being noticed.
The fear of being alone is often what keeps them committed and loyal in a relationship, even though they often get close to crossing the line with flirtatious behavior.
A person with anxiety might struggle to be alone and may suffer an anxiety attack when they are.
They will be anxious about not getting enough attention, so they’ll throw a tantrum or seek it in a more adult way—by flirting with other people.
They might create problems out of peaceful situations or get into arguments just for the sake of getting their needs met.
This could all be due to the anxiety that they feel when they don’t get enough attention, and they need more of it than one person could give.
6. Fixation on drama.
An attention-seeking person will often cause drama to attract attention. In fact, they will search for drama in every situation instead of focusing on the bright side. And if there is no drama, they’ll create it or cause it themselves.
This fixation on drama is unhealthy, but it’s often displayed in relationships with partners who are addicted to attention.
Drama attracts attention, and your partner might have learned this at a very young age. Unlearning it will be difficult and take time.
7. Narcissistic personality disorder.
Your partner might have a very manipulative personality if they have a narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissists often fish for compliments and seek constant attention and external validation. They consider themselves entitled, and more important than others. They lack empathy, but can’t handle being criticized.
If your partner is a narcissist, you might have a bigger problem on your hands than their need for attention— they will never love you as much as they love themselves.
You will always be the sidekick while they’re the hero, and there won’t be balance in your relationship.
8. Borderline personality disorder.
People with borderline personality disorders tend to dread ending up alone. They feel empty and often believe that their needs aren’t being met.
Usually, they also care a lot about what other people think and read into other people’s behaviors even though there are no hidden messages.
When they do this, they often conclude that they are being judged. Due to their low self-esteem and all the problems that come with having borderline personality disorder, they seek constant attention.
Professional treatment can help with this mental health problem.
9. Histrionic personality disorder.
If your partner seeks attention by flirting—or even through sex—they may have Histrionic personality disorder.
Someone who has this personality disorder experiences and exhibits emotional behavior which can be very intense. They lack impulse control and always seek instant gratification to get a temporary feeling of satisfaction.
If your partner seeks attention from others because they have a histrionic personality disorder, the odds that they’ll cheat on you are increased.
10. Mental health conditions such as ADHD and bipolar disorder.
Other mental health issues could cause a constant need for attention, including ADHD and bipolar disorder.
Before concluding that your partner is doing this because they are bored or unhappy with you, consider the possibility that this is a part of their personality that they’ll need to work on with a therapist.
You know your partner best, so is it likely that they have a personality disorder or some mental health issues?
11. They are unsure about the relationship.
The reason your partner needs constant attention from men or women outside of your relationship might be that they are simply unsure about your relationship.
They could be bored, which is especially likely if you have been together for a long time and this behavior is new, rather than being a recurring part of their personality.
It could also be possible that you’re not giving them enough attention or that they don’t feel a connection with you anymore.
10 Things You Can Do To Cope
So, should you be alarmed by your partner’s attention-seeking behavior?
Well, how do you feel about it? Could you love them the way they are and trust that they’ll never cross the line between fishing for attention and compliments and actually cheating on you?
You know your partner best, as well as how much you can tolerate.
While there are ways to cope with this and help your partner improve, you can’t expect them to change overnight. Changing might require years of therapy if this is due to a mental health issue or unresolved trauma.
So before doing anything else, consider whether you can tolerate your partner’s need for attention for that long.
If you can, great. Here’s what you can do about it in the meantime:
1. Give them attention.
What if all this is happening because your partner feels neglected in your relationship?
Have you been giving them enough attention? Were they always exhibiting attention-seeking behavior, or has it started recently?
If this is a new behavior, try to decipher the cause. Have you been neglecting their needs, or has something else changed in your relationship?
World-renowned relationship researcher John Gottman looked at the importance of attention in a relationship. His research suggests that conflict, anger, and drama are often tools used by a partner who doesn’t feel like they are getting enough attention.
Gottman also noted that couples who more regularly recognized and responded to these “bids” for attention, as he calls them, had better long-term outcomes.
So, the first thing you might do is try to give them your full attention as much and as often as you can. See if your attention ends up being enough for them.
2. Work on your connection.
Maybe they’re just not feeling it anymore, and they’re considering their options before giving you the bad news.
Sounds terrible, but it could be the motive behind their behavior. So try to work on your connection.
Rekindle the passion, bring back the fireworks, go on romantic dates, and try new things. Make your partner a priority, and give them all of the resources you can.
3. Don’t reinforce negative behavior.
When your partner is trying to start an argument, creating drama, drawing negative attention, or having jealous outbursts for no reason, don’t give in.
Don’t reinforce negative behavior, and decide that it’s not something you’re going to partake in.
Of course, you should talk to your partner about this beforehand and give them the heads up that you’re not going to be a part of their negative behavior anymore.
Once you’ve had that conversation, stick to what you’ve said whenever they try to repeat the negative behavior.
How can you avoid the fighting and drama? Well, you can always say a reassuring sentence and calmly walk away.
4. Walk away.
Ignoring your partner will make them feel bad. If you love them, you don’t want to withhold from them the very thing that they’re seeking—attention. However, you don’t have to ignore them in a way that hurts them either.
Once they are aware of their behavior and your opinion of it, you can calmly reassure them that you’ll talk about it another time when they’re seeing things more clearly.
Then literally walk away from the argument—and your partner. Let them know that you’ll be back once they’ve cooled down.
5. Set clear boundaries.
You must speak up about what you can and can’t tolerate, especially when you’re in a close relationship with someone who does something that bothers you.
Your partner may not flirt with other people, but they’re seeking attention on social media where they’re most likely to get it and get it quickly.
Can you tolerate this? Maybe, but can you tolerate them flirting with their hot new coworker through that social media? Set the boundary that they’re not allowed to cross.
6. Explain your point of view.
How do you see their behavior? Maybe you think that it’s distasteful, or disrespectful to you. Voice these concerns.
Even if attention-seeking is a part of your partner’s personality, you’re allowed to dislike it and say it.
However, make sure to point out that it’s only part of them. You still love them, it’s just that certain behaviors bother you.
Don’t judge them or shame them, but shine some light on how others might see their behavior too.
Encourage them to open up to you about the root of the problem and see if they would be willing to open up about it to a therapist as well.
7. Talk about the root of the problem.
Maybe they are aware of the root of the problem. If they didn’t get attention as a kid, it’s very likely that they’ll do anything to overcompensate for that as an adult.
Talk to your partner about their past relationships, but be sure to look closer to home and consider whether the issue has arisen due to the state of your relationship.
Ask them if they miss the excitement of a new relationship and if things have gotten a bit stale lately. Reassure them that this is something that you can work on and that you are ready and willing to give them all the attention that they need—if you truly are.
Even if you’re not, encourage them to talk to someone about the problem, regardless of what’s it about.
8. Encourage them to seek therapy.
A therapist can help a lot when you’re trying to identify a problem, and they can assist in resolving it by giving tailored advice specific to your situation.
You can give them more information about your partner so that they can help you identify why your partner needs constant attention. They can also give you ideas on what to do about it.
However, don’t forget to encourage your partner to seek therapy too. You can both work on personal development and grow together as a couple as well as individuals, while at the same time improving and nurturing your relationship.
9. Give examples of inappropriate, and/or disrespectful behavior.
Do you hate it when your partner flirts with other men or women?
Does it bother you when they dress provocatively for the sole purpose of getting attention?
You are allowed to voice your concerns—just make sure to think about what you are going to say.
For instance, you don’t mind that your partner looks sexy and wears short skirts. But it bothers you that they put a tremendous amount of effort into showing off their attributes for the purpose of attracting other people’s attention.
It’s a touchy subject, but the way they dress may in fact be inappropriate. For instance, when it’s summer, sure, wear a short skirt. But when you’re going to court, church, or a business meeting, there is a dress code that should be considered before putting on that skirt.
It’s also disrespectful when your partner flirts with other people in front of you. Maybe you understand that they need the occasional ego boost, but you don’t need to witness it, and neither do your friends and family.
10. Don’t tell them not to flirt.
Telling an attention-seeker not to flirt is like telling a child not to eat a chocolate bar after unwrapping it and putting it in front of them.
Plus, everyone occasionally gets attracted to other people while in a relationship. It’s what they do about it that makes all the difference.
There is something called “innocent flirting,” where you’re not really crossing any lines. Both parties know it won’t go any further than a few flirty remarks. You can’t forbid your partner from doing that.
What you can do is draw the line where allowed behavior ends.
Decide what cheating means to you, and agree on one definition. Make sure they understand the definition and that there will be consequences if they cross the line.
11. Consider ending the relationship.
In the end, if your partner’s behavior bothers you to the point that you can’t handle it, you should consider ending the relationship.
If you can’t accept their attention addiction, and/or they aren’t willing to work on it, you are allowed to call it quits.
This is not just a tiny quirk they have; you need to decide how much you can tolerate.
However, if you want to fight for this relationship, try the steps listed above and give counseling a chance as well.
Remind yourself that everyone has flaws, and if you’re going to love a person, you must accept those flaws.
You can work on your relationship with a therapist, but you also need to be willing to love someone’s baggage and negative attributes too.
When you are accepting of your partner, you can freely point out the negative behavior and help them to become a better person by overcoming trauma from their past or getting treatment for their issues.