Although there are many people that are in a romantic relationship of some form or another nowadays, there are not enough couples that have a healthy relationship. It is indeed true that many men and women are stuck in a selfish relationship. And nothing makes life more difficult than being with a person who is selfish. Not only does this make the entire relationship imbalanced, the selfish person can also seriously damage the mental health of their partner.
However, the question remains – how to know if you are stuck in a selfish relationship? What if you are the selfish partner? And what should you do in such cases? Read on to find all of this, and more about selfish relationships.
What is a Selfish Relationship?
Being selfish essentially means that the person only cares about themselves. It is all about, “I” and not “we”. The dynamic is – one person always gives in, and the other person always imposes their will. Ask yourself this – are all your discussions one sided? Does only one person from the two of you make all the decisions? Is there no room for disagreement in your relationship?
If you answered yes to the questions above, chances are that you or your partner is selfish. This is an unhealthy relationship or marriage. In such cases, empathy towards the other person is absent when deciding. You will also find yourself getting into more arguments in a selfish relationship.
To understand in more depth what a selfish relationship looks like, we need to know…
8 Signs of a Being Selfish in Relationships
Here are some very obvious signs and red flags you should look out for if you think your partner is selfish:
1. They make you feel worthless
If your partner is always nagging you or making you feel terrible, chances are that your partner doesn’t care about your needs. This is the hallmark of a selfish relationship. They will also not take it well when you are the center of attention. As soon as you start having things that make you feel good about yourself, they will start pulling you down.
A selfish person will always make everything about them. If you find yourself in a position where your partner can not celebrate your accomplishments and what you do, you can be sure that you are in a selfish relationship.
2. Your partner makes all the decisions in your relationship
If you two are having a discussion, and you always end up doing something that your partner wants or agreeing with what they are saying, with no room for discussion regarding your preferences or desires, then you are in a selfish relationship. If your happiness in your relationship is not given any importance, your partner will make all the decisions based on their own needs.
Letting your partner make all the decisions does not have to mean that you will be unhappy with the decisions. It is possible that you two have similar preferences, so you may feel like it doesn’t matter, after all.
But the truth is that when one person makes all the decisions, it does mean that you will not be given any choice, if you ever do disagree in the future. This can lead to resentment on your part, and you may start feeling suffocated in the relationship.
3. Your partner doesn’t listen to or value your opinion
This is a pretty big red flag. Communication is very important in a relationship. And if you have a relationship where your wishes and thoughts are being ignored, you can rest assured that your partner is selfish. Selfish people do not believe that anyone’s onions opening besides their own is valuable, that is why they will not take you seriously.
4. Your partner does not have any accountability
This means that when your partner is in the wrong, they do not take responsibility for their actions. If your partner always tries to shift the blame on you or circumstances or any other external factor besides their own behavior, it is a good indicator that they are selfish. They always believe that they are right, they never apologize, and they often tend to blame circumstances or other external factors for their mistakes.
5. Your partner expects you to change yourself
Know that your partner is acting selfish in your relationship if they expect you to change your personality and habits to match their own wants and needs. To them, you’re not a person with your own desires and feelings. All they want from you is to change and mold into someone that they want you to be.
Although a selfish partner can be of either genders, women are more likely to fall in love with a selfish man. If you are a woman and keep wondering why all the relationships you get into are less than perfect and end painfully, it may be worth asking yourself if you are not attracting such circumstances.
Being attracted to a selfish man can be traced down to childhood traumas and many other issues, so it is worth considering therapy before you embark on a new relationship.
6. Your partner puts their own needs before yours
The truth is that all of us tend to be selfish just a little. We all put our own needs before anyone else’s. But the beauty of being in a relationship and loving your partner is you’re your I becomes we. When we are in a relationship, we tend to be more mindful of the person we are with. We try to consider their wants and needs because we want them to be happy and healthy. We may not always succeed, but the fact that we try is sometimes good enough.
However, a selfish person will always place your needs second to their own. In fact, they may even put their own wants and desires over your needs. Their gratification, to them, is much more important than your comfort. Even if something is making you unhappy, they would want you to keep doing it, just because it makes them feel good.
This is a very dangerous precedent, and if you think you are in such a situation, you may want to consider either talking to your partner, or getting out of that relationship.
7. Your partner needs to be in control all the time
Besides wanting you to do things that make them feel good, selfish people will also want to control your life decisions. Being selfish also entails that your partner wants to control what happens in your life and relationships. This means that they will try to make you do things that they think are best for you.
To them, your happiness, your goals and your thoughts are secondary, less intelligent, and not as valuable as their own. This is a huge red flag. If your partner doesn’t trust you to make the best decisions for yourself, know that you are in a selfish relationship.
8. Your partner is never really happy for you
If your partner does not think of your happiness as their priority, your relationship is doomed. But there is another aspect to this – is your partner happy for your successes and your accomplishments? If not, then consider this the biggest red flag when it comes to relationships, because it encompasses almost every other aspect discussed above.
Everything mentioned above falls under the umbrella of happiness. If your partner cannot let you be happy in your accomplishments, your decisions and your thoughts, then they are selfish. They might even feel jealous of your accomplishments.
Here is a simple and straightforward method to find out if you are in a selfish relationship – ask yourself how many times does your partner makes you feel good about yourself? Do they care about your wants and desires? Do you feel like you are loved and cherished in this relationship? If not, then you are in a selfish relationship.
The Psychology Behind Selfish Relationships
Selfishness in relationships is not unheard of. You will hear many people talk about their partners being selfish, or their parents, siblings, bosses, or friends being selfish. Having said that, it may sometimes confuse you and you may ask yourself – what makes my mother/father/partner selfish?
In many such cases, the selfishness of such a person is actively damaging their relationship with their family members or their partner. Even when it is in people’s best interest to not be selfish, why do they act selfishly? Before we can ponder on the answers of these questions, we need to understand the duality of human nature.
As humans, we only tend to think of things in terms of good or bad. Something is either a virtue or a vice. However, clinical psychologists have revealed that things are rarely so simple. And selfishness is the same. Like many other concepts and ideas, it is way too broad an idea to fit into one of the two extremes.
The Duality of Selfishness in Relationship
Consider this – we call someone selfish when they put their own needs over someone else’s. They only seem to be concerned with themselves, and they only seek activities and events that make them happy. Depending on your perspective, that may be perfectly normal behavior, or something to be despised.
If we go by this definition of selfishness, most of us are selfish in one way or another. All of us ultimately want out own good. We do place our own interests over someone’s else. We care for our own well-being first. That is natural This type of selfishness is good. And if your partner is following this type of selfishness, then it is not fair to demand them to give up on these things. In such cases, you may be the selfish one, whether you realize it or not.
The problem with selfishness arises when someone does things for themselves without considering the needs of others. If your partner is making decisions that are making them happy at the cost of your comfort, needs, and desires, then they are selfish. When someone makes other people’s lives difficult for their comfort, it is the kind of bad selfishness that we have talked about in the section above.
Thus, it is very important to identify what falls under the umbrella of bad selfishness and what doesn’t.
Only after you learn to differentiate the two types of selfishness can you deem whether your relationship is indeed selfish, or not, and which of the two of you is actually selfish. It is possible that a lack of self-awareness can lead some selfish partners to believe that their partners are the selfish ones, instead of the other way around.
What Causes a Person to Become Selfish?
After discussing all of this, the question still remains – why do people act selfishly anyway. Clinical psychologists have revealed that there can be several reasons why someone may behave in a selfish manner. Let’s explore some of them.
What is the most basic definition of selfishness? Someone who doesn’t share their resources. It may be anything – time, money, things. Why wouldn’t a person share their resources, even if the giving may actually benefit them?
The answer to this is that such people believe that they do not have enough of a certain resource, even when they do. As a result, they may get insecure and threatened that if they give away what they have, they will be left with nothing. Such people will also be stingy. The insecurity and threat of losing what little they have, can make people very selfish.
2. Loss of control
Many people suffer from a fear of losing control. If your partner believes that a particular resource is what is keeping them ahead of their peers, they will be likely to hoard that resource. Because if they lose sight of it, it can mean that they will be left behind.
For instance, if you want to spend time with your partner, and they think their time is better spent on work or school, they are likely to ignore your desires. Their thinking is – “If I don’t spend all my waking hours working or studying, I will fall behind. Someone else will take over. My life will be ruined and I will have nothing to show for it.”
Of course, this is an extreme example. But it is a standard prototype of how things work in the heads of such people. They are so afraid of losing control of their lives and/or goals, they will prioritize them over you.
3. Childhood problems
The way a person is raised has a large effect on how they behave as adults. Clinical psychologists have known this for a long time. That is why, it is no surprise that the childhood of a person also has an effect on how selfish they act as adults.
For instance, if someone is an only child, they are very likely to be more selfish than an average person. This is because children that do not have any siblings are used to all their demands being met by their parents. They also don’t learn how to share their toys or things, because they have no siblings. Such children grow up to be adults who only take, and never give.
Childhood traumas can also result in someone growing up to be more selfish than normal. If a person grew up with very little resources, they are likely to hoard that resource as an adult. For instance, a child whose parents could not provide enough food for them in their childhood can turn out to be possessive about food.
This can manifest in the form of your partner not liking it when you take food from their fridge or kitchen. The same is true for money – children who come from poor families grow up to be adults that do not like to lend money. This may very well be the reason why your selfish partner does not like to lend you money too.
Two Ways to Deal With a Selfish Partner
Some people would advise you to walk away from a selfish partner. But that is the last option. Just because your partner’s first impulse is to be selfish, it does not mean that they cannot unlearn it. Like all human behaviors, one can learn to be more considerate, giving, and compassionate.
If being selfish is at the core of your partner’s behavior and personality, then it is their duty to work towards resolving that. The need to decide they will be better people, and then actively start working towards that goal. As a partner, all you can do is make them self-aware of their selfishness, and tell them how it is hurting you. If they love you, they will want to change. If not, there is not much you can do, except walk away – for your own sanity.
Here is how you can help your partner become more aware of their selfishness:
1. Express your concerns
The very first step is always communication. According to Chris Armstrong, a relationship coach, you need to tell your partner when they have done something that hurt you, or when they have acted selfishly. Make it clear how that made you feel.
Now the next step is – observe their reaction. Do they apologize for their mistakes? Do they promise to act better in the future? In that case, you can help them be better. Make sure they follow through on their words. Don’t let them off the hook for just apologizing, make sure that that behavior is never repeated again.
However, if on your hearing your concerns, all your partner does is express indifference, it is time to walk away. If they try to blame external factors, are unapologetic, or blame you back – it is time to walk away. You cannot fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed. Know your worth and step away from that situation.
2. Choose your words wisely
Clinical psychologist, Jennifer Rhodes, says that when talking about such topics, it is important to choose your words carefully. Make the conversation focused on an issue that personally affected you, instead of something generalized.
Additionally, Rhodes says that instead of blaming your partner, let them know constructively what went wrong. Explain to them how their particular behavior made you feel. And then, ask them what they think of that particular situation. This will help you understand where they are coming from, and it will also make it easy for your partner to find out what the root of their selfishness is.
As discussed above, certain types of selfish behaviors are common, and even good for a healthy balance in a relationship. And expecting the other person to not behave in those ways is indeed the definition of selfishness. But some people tend to think of it the other way. That is why, it is necessary to ask yourself if you are not the selfish one and falsely blaming your partner of being selfish.
Whether you can move past such behavior and help your partner become a better version of themselves is up to you. It should also be noted that not everyone may want to cure their selfishness, and in such cases, it is best to walk away. You should also not feel obligated to stay and help you partner grow into a better person. If their selfish behavior is too much for you to handle, again, just walk away.
Ultimately, it is up to the selfish partner to work on themselves and become better. All you can do is make them self-aware. If you both can do that, it will be beneficial for your relationship. If even one party is not committed to this, it is better to prioritize your mental health and leave such a person behind.
Namrata Singh is a dentist turned writer and clinical researcher. Eager to learn about anything and everything, she is what you would call a jack of all trades and master of none. With a zeal for reading novels, books and anything she could get her hands on ever since she was little, she embarked into a writing career purely out of luck. After indulging in a freelancing career for nearly two years, she can now write on anything - from dentistry to decor, travel to technology, medicine to management - but psychology remains her first love. Having dealt with mental health issues in the past, she hopes to raise awareness for the same and help people with her work in association with The MindFool team