To Thine Own Self Be True: Changing the Way We View Selfishness in Relationships

Changing the Way We View Selfishness in Relationships

Most people understand and agree that dating is about gathering information. Would this person I’m physically attracted to be a good parent? Would she be someone I can trust to stay faithful? Would he be of support to me if I wanted to change careers? Would they accept all parts of me, good, bad, and the oh so seemingly ugly?

These questions seem obvious when considering those all important first few dates with someone new. Moreover, this can be the established line of questioning to our partners after being together for years. “What about you?” What do you want?” Where do you want to go for dinner? Me? It’s up to you. I’ll have what you’re having.”

But what if the questions to ask weren’t about the person sitting across from you on those dates or when the kids are with a sitter, or have gone on to college? What if those questions needed to be asked of the person in the mirror …BEFORE the times when it’s just you and your partner?

In my therapeutic work with couples of all shapes, sizes, cultures, races, genders, sexual orientations, and religious affiliations I have found that across the board people don’t seem to take enough time to answer those questions (and oh so many others) of THEMSELVES before going on a date, or after years together….let alone before committing or re establishing that commitment to a lifetime of partnering.

Prioritizing yourself

If we could make our vulnerable selves a priority, if we would consider what is more deeply important to us beyond parenting skills, imperfect but consistent emotional support or even the holy grail of fidelity. Yes, if we looked at AND beyond looks, bank accounts or potential social status… studies and my personal and professional experience have shown that there is a significantly higher percentage of couples having success not only staying married, but also in remaining happily married.

This, of course, can not only be a challenge but even controversial. How do I focus on me without making it ALL about me or being labeled a selfish narcissistic….person?! How do I consider my partner’s needs and mine without feeling like I’m getting the short end of the relationship stick?! Well… here’s how: it’s in the order of the consideration, and the redefining of what it means to be “selfish.”

Difference between self-care and selfishness

Oh I know… you’re like, what? Repeat, please. Huh? Come again! Okay, consider this: Being selfish is: ONLY considering yourself and not ever really considering others. Whereas considering others after you’ve taken the time to know how you feel first, is like … you know how on a flight anywhere, they tell you in case of an emergency to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before placing it on that baby in your arms.”

Without taking the time, the effort, the attention to know who you are, and especially how you feel (which is how we find who we are.. but that’s another session)… how do we know to whom we are giving ourselves? How can we really be sure that the person we’ve chosen is the person for us … forever? Let’s get even deeper… how do you know WHY you’re even attracted to this person? ….It’s in your self-care.

Self-care is a buzz word that has become popularized (thank goodness) in the lexicon of general society, but has not (in my humble opinion) been b-r-o-k-e-n d-o-w-n. Broken down in a way that helps us understand how AND really why it’s oh ..VERY important… to everything in our life of relationships.

Difference between self care and selfishness

Connecting whom you choose to marry or stay with and the idea of self care may seem like a long shot, but hear me out.

Caring about and for yourself starts with your thoughts to yourself

The things we say to ourselves that no one else hears… buuuut everyone sees and feels! Yeah, everybody knows.

When we talk down to ourselves we are establishing the standard by which anyone we’re in a relationship with will abide by. So then, why wouldn’t the person we find ourselves attracted to, the person we plan to offer to or accept a proposal from; the one person to whom we promise to stay together forever by marrying or recommitting to, treat us in any other way except by our own status quo?

Look, not only does what we tell children to become their inner voice, but we date at the level of our self esteem. So if we take the time to learn about, appreciate and establish a way of treating ourselves, not only will we find and keep our ideal matched partner, we’ll be better able to pass on this level of expectation to our own children, the children of others and really to any children we come across. Especially the one inside of ourselves.

Change the way you’ve understood selfishness, and you change the way success in relationship becomes your true self ….in all relationships. #RelationshipGoals

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Timothy Rogers
Marriage & Family Therapist, M.A, LMFT
Tim is a California State Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (Lic#MFC101500) He holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology, and am in pursuit of my Doctorate (PsyD) with an interest in the emphasis on treating high anxiety and personality disorders.

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