As human beings, we have a tendency to indulge our own needs and desires before looking to fulfill the needs of others. It is rare to find someone fully selfless in our modern world, so much so that we often praise those individuals who do practice true selflessness. How ironic that we give them the very thing that they do not ask for…
The “uglies” in our relationships are those selfish ideals. They are the desires that we see fit to fulfill before seeing to the needs of others. It is hard to break the habit of selfishness once it is established, but it is not impossible. Let’s take a look at some of the most common “uglies” and how to repair the damage they cause.
Dangers: Many of us take what little time we have to offer very seriously. How often have you uttered the phrase “a waste of my time.” You have likely said it several times in your life, perhaps even as recently as this week! When it comes to time, it is easy to be selfish, but repeatedly considering only your time is dangerous. You are not the only person in your relationship!
Solutions:Never forget that like anything else in your relationship, time is shared. And while this habit is hard to break, especially if both of you have been fairly independent for a portion of your lives, it gets easier with practice. Rather than assuming that what you are doing right here and right now is the most important, take time to step back and consider your partner’s time. Does your planning include your significant other? If not, have you talked with him or her to keep communication fluid and positive?
Dangers: We are so selfish as humans! When attempting to have a relationship with another human, we cannot help but think of ourselves! Some are able to cast aside this selfish desire more easily than others. But it is human instinct to meet basic needs before considering the next step. Needs are not always physical; they can also include abstract things such as time or encompass other proximities of need such as spiritual and mental needs.
Solutions: While it may not seem easy (or be easy, for that matter), it is essential to put the needs of your spouse before your own. In turn, you should expect the same kind of behavior from your partner! Being in a relationship does not mean giving up who you are and what you need, but it does mean taking time to be considerate and compassionate. Setting aside your own desires for those of your partner can be critical to maintaining stability in your marriage but can also create a breeding ground for trust and loyalty. How much more will your partner want to give if he or she knows you put them first in all things?
Dangers: The last “ugly” is the worst but likely the one that is easiest to make an unhealthy habit. When communicating about problems, particularly irritations or the things that make you angry, it is not uncommon to think or say the words, “how you make me feel.” Do not fall into the trap! Your feelings are important and should be shared, especially in the effort of being transparent with your partner. But choose your words wisely when doing so. While your feelings are important, they should not trump the feelings of your partner.
Solutions: Instead, take the time to listen to one another and allow each of you time to share your feelings about any situation. Let times of conflict and misunderstanding be times when you are able to effectively share how you feel with one another. It is okay to share your emotions and express hurt or anger, but it is never okay to make the other person feel as if their emotions do not matter. The rules of fair fighting suggest that each person has the same opportunity to share what he or she is feeling. Keep your statement simple and take responsibility for how you feel. Finding the right wording can be hard, though, so try the following formula. “I feel _________ when you ____________ because_________.”
Breaking the ugly habit of selfishness is not easy, but it is doable. Remember to put your partner first at all times is a first step. Always consider how the other person feels; fulfill his or her needs as well as your own; and ask for time rather than assuming the time is always your to spend. Keeping your attention focused on another, rather than on yourself, takes practice but is worth the cohesiveness and connection it can bring to a relationship.