**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.
In dating, you never know what kind of person you’ll meet. But for the most part, we are all searching for the same thing — someone who will accept us for who we are and make us feel loved (even if we don’t love them back).
When I met him, we were both seeing other people, but neither of us was exclusive. I had been on a few dates with a guy I met online, but he lived more than an hour away, so it wasn’t working out. And he was seeing someone as well, but she lived in the next state, so they only saw one another a couple of times a month. We were both okay with that.
But then, we met.
At first, it was just physical. We were attracted to one another, and we flirted shamelessly. But then, we started talking, and we found out that we had a lot in common. We both loved books, movies, and music. We were both single-child parents. And we both wanted the same thing: to get to know someone genuinely interested in knowing us.
For the first three months, things went very well. We kept in touch daily and spent time together nearly every weekend. He introduced me to his son, and we hit it off instantly. And we were even making plans to vacation together. But then the cracks began to show.
The first incident happened while dining in a noisy restaurant on a Friday night. I had a migraine and was struggling to deal with the noise level. He, on the other hand, was having a great time.
“Why are you being so quiet?” he finally asked after watching me for several minutes.
“My head is killing me, and I’m having a hard time with the volume and lighting here,” I explained.
“It feels like you’re ignoring me,” he said before ordering another beer.
I was surprised by his reaction and hurt that he would think I was ignoring him.
“I’m not ignoring you,” I said. “I’m just trying to deal with this headache.”
“Well, you’re doing a terrible job of it,” he said. “You’re not even trying to have fun.”
At that point, I was irritated, but I chalked it up to him having a bad day.
However, it only got worse from there. We didn’t talk much for the remainder of the meal, and by the time we got to the car, it was clear that he was trying to pick a fight.
“Maybe we should stop talking now before one of us says something that we’ll regret,” I advised.
“No, I don’t think that’s necessary,” he said. “I just want to know why you’re being so difficult.”
I didn’t have the patience or the energy to argue with him, so I decided to wait until we got home to discuss the matter.
When we arrived back at his place, he was seething. “I can’t believe you would just sit there and say nothing,” he said. “It was so rude.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to be rude, but I didn’t feel like getting into an argument with you.”
That’s when things escalated. He went on a long rant about how I thought I was “better than him” and how I was “always looking for a way to start a fight.”
It was at that moment that I realized he was petty.
I had seen the signs. The way he complained about his co-workers. The way he talked about his ex. The way he treated waiters and bartenders. But I had chosen to ignore them because I thought he was just a little rough about the edges.
I was wrong.
It became clear that he was a petty person, and I was in love.
What is a petty person?
A petty person is someone who is small-minded and constantly looks for ways to start arguments or create drama. They are also usually very jealous and insecure.
Unfortunately, I had fallen for a man who was all those things.
Petty people often lash out, and their responses are often disproportionate to whatever they are riled up about.
In other words, they tend to overreact to minor things.
For example, if you are 5 minutes late to meet them for coffee, they might give you the silent treatment for the rest of the day. Or, if you forget to return a phone call, they might accuse you of ignoring them.
In their mind, everything is always about them.
“Pettiness is not the same as setting boundaries or ensuring you don’t let things escalate. It’s the act of responding in an over the top, vindictive, deliberately hurtful way over something that is meaningless.
It can involve revenge-seeking behaviour, whether that revenge is something tangible (a physical consequence) or intangible (negative emotions, like guilt.) The petty person wants you to pay and they want you to suffer. They’re not out to educate or to help.” — Rosie Leizrowice, Pat Olsen and Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP
How do you handle loving a petty person?
Petty people can change, but it’s not likely. They need to want to change and be willing to put in the work.
In my case, he said he wanted to change, but he wasn’t willing to do the work in the long run. But some people are committed to change and will work hard to improve their relationships.
According to a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, when someone tends to focus on trivial details (pettiness), it can have a negative impact on relationships and change the way people see you.
But if you already love the person, how do you handle their pettiness? In my experience, there are three ways to deal with being in love with a petty person.
Address your concerns.
One of the first things you need to do is sit down with your partner and discuss your concerns. This is a challenging conversation, but it’s crucial to have.
You need to be honest during the conversation and explain how their pettiness impacts your relationship.
It’s also important to give them a chance to explain their side and listen to what they have to say.
Boundaries are essential in any relationship, but it’s imperative when you’re dealing with a petty person.
Boundaries will help you protect yourself from their pettiness and avoid further arguments.
Some examples of boundaries you might want to set are:
-I will not tolerate being disrespected.
-I will not tolerate being made to feel guilty.
-I will not tolerate being ignored.
Seek professional help.
In some cases, it might be necessary to get professional support for both of you. Over time, pettiness begins to impact your mental health, and it can be challenging to deal with on your own.
You might want to consider couples therapy or counseling. This is a big decision, but it may help you improve your relationship.
The bottom line is pettiness is not always irreparable, but you need to be realistic about the situation. It doesn’t take much for petty behavior to become toxic and damaging.
If you’re in a relationship with a petty person, take care of yourself first and foremost. And if leaving is the best thing for your life, then do it.
Have you ever been in love with a petty person? How did you handle it? Share your story in the comments below.