We’ve all muttered “what a jerk” or worse about someone we’ve known or dated, but what truly defines a jerk? It’s easy to toss this label on someone who cuts you off in traffic or doesn’t say thank you when you hold the door open for them. You know who I’m talking about! But actually drawing this conclusion about someone you are dating has much higher stakes. It demands that you must do something about it…which is serious business. So let’s get specific.
What is a jerk?
First, a disclaimer: jerks come in all genders!! So whether one is male or female, there are three core qualities of being a “jerk”: (1) limited insight, (2) poor emotional controls, and (3) inadequate relationship skills. When a partner repeatedly “doesn’t get it” when they hurt you (or they do get it but just don’t care), then this limited insight will eventually earn them the label of jerk. When a partner is characterized by a pattern of emotional swings, or rages, or extreme drama, or the opposite emotional pole of emotional detachment, then you need to seriously worry about your future with this person. And do not think that jerks act jerky 24/7… it is more likely that the pattern of jerkiness is peppered in other acceptable and nice qualities. So try to suspend your natural inclination to assume jerks are so obvious to spot and pay attention to the subtle variations in the three core qualities of a jerk.
Wait, so am I a jerk?
Ok, so wait a minute—haven’t we all acted like jerks now and then?!! So what is the bottom line… the one, distinguishing feature that renders a person a “jerk”? It boils down to the question of change. When you present your partner with your hurts or frustrations, do they make a concerted effort to both understand you and change? Or, do they reveal (over time) a persistent resistance to change. For instance, do they promise to improve but never follow through; or do they just get really defensive; or, the worst, do they actually seem proud of their “pathology?” Determine your partner’s receptivity and determination to change significant attitudes and actions that upset you and you will have a fairly good litmus test of whether or not you are in a relationship with a “jerk.”
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