One of the issues that emerge in human interactions is what is called a sense of entitlement. How do we define and detect this?

If you have ever felt like someone is bearing down on you with their needs, wants, and demands, you know what it feels like. The question that pops into one’s mind is: Why does this person feel they are entitled to this privilege or satisfaction of what they want? Why is it my duty to keep them satisfied regardless of what I want? This becomes a destructive factor in a relationship if the demands are going only in one direction. The extreme example of this kind of behavior is when physical or mental abuse takes place. Without getting into a discussion on such extremes, how is it that some people develop this sense of entitlement at the expense of others, even those they may love?

Let’s first define what this concept is. It is a feeling that the world owes you, and that you deserve privileges you haven’t earned. It is a feeling that is the result of upbringing and life experiences and is learned. At the heart of it, it is narcissism, a term originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. That definition visually conveys what the sense of entitlement involves. It is expecting that I come before everyone else; that if a partner wants equality, it means a lessening of power or oppression; that my anger is justified if I feel crossed and that I can throw a fit, either directly, or indirectly as passive aggression. Alternatively, if the confrontation does not work, it may mean assuming the victim posture. Reciprocity of feeling or behavior is not a part of narcissism, but double standards are. I can do this, and it is okay but not when you do the same.

Now let’s be fair: We all have some degree of feeling that we deserve this or that when we may not have done anything towards it. The issue is the degree to which we adopt this attitude. It is the balance of how we treat others, whether with sensitivity and gratitude, or with an I-don’t-care-how-my-behavior-affects-you mentality. If you’re in a relationship with someone who exhibits these traits and behavior, what to do? Be clear in what you will or won’t do. You don’t have to accept what goes against your values and expectations; see if there is room to negotiate. Loving someone does not mean catering to their every need just so they care about you. Any healthy connection is a two-way street that enriches the lives of both parties, not only one, while taking away from the other.

Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577