A lot of times we experience our partner as selfish. They might seem self-indulgent, inconsiderate, self-absorbed, thoughtless, demanding, and unsupportive. They might be passive-aggressive and underminding. It appears that everything is about them and for them.

It is draining to be in relationship with a selfish partner as all our energies seem to go to trying to get our voice heard, our needs met, and our wishes seen. We appear to be constantly fighting off being “absorbed”, taken for granted, stepped on, used and abused, and dismissed. We feel unappreciated, invisible and not understood. There is always an element of going tit-for-tat, especially during stressful moments. It is exhausting!!

When we get stuck in this situation and look at it only from this perspective, we face the danger of being stuck in a very dissatisfying relationship. Interactions might become volatile, very hurtful and frustrating. Conflicts don’t get resolved and your needs are not met.

But, let’s take a step back and look at this situation from our partner’s position for a second. Partners that appear selfish, that act selfish, do so for a reason, and they are usually not aware of this. They didn’t get up in the morning and said, “I’m going to be selfish and disregard my partner today.”

The reason they are being selfish is usually because they are afraid or scared. They might be afraid of change, of being taken-over and controlled, of not measuring up, of being eventually abandoned so they need to “take care of themselves”, and of being held back. They might feel incompetent, spiteful, rebelious, small, unworthy, unloved, unsupported, misunderstood, unappreciated, and hopeless. Their behavior is a coping mechanism. They are trying to take care of and protect themselves. They are trying to survive YOU!

We tend to forget that “It Takes Two To Tango.” We do not pay attention to how we invite our partner’s behaviors, responses, and coping. They have to live with us just like we have to live with them! So, next time you experience your partner as being selfish, take a step back and see if you can see the hurt, the vulnerability, behind their behavior.

From this compassionate perspective, you’ll realize that your partner is not really being selfish and out to get you, but is just doing their best not to hurt and to take care of their own needs. When you are able to reconcile your view of your partner’s behavior, you’ll move into a nonreactive stance rendering you more powerful and resourceful in your interactions. From this new stance you’ll be able to address your partner differently allowing you to get your needs met!!

Happy Interacting!!

~ Your MetroRelationship™ Assignment

Next time you find yourself reacting at your partner’s selfishness, take a step back and see the vulnerability behind their actions. Validate your partner’s experience by telling them how you understand where they are coming from and ask do to a Behavior Request Swap: Ask them what they would like for you to do differently to address their vulnerability and in turn ask for what you want them to do differently to meet your needs. Make sure the behaviors are concrete and specific.

Author's Bio: 

Emma K. Viglucci, LMFT has been in the mental health field in varying capacities for the past 20+ years. She is the Founder and Director of MetroRelationship.com a psychotherapy and coaching practice specializing in working with busy professional and entrepreneurial couples who are struggling getting on the same page and feeling connected. We help couples create a radiant and authentic relationship and meaningful life by becoming a strong partnership and increasing their connection, intimacy, and fun. Emma is the creator of the MetroRelationship™ philosophy and the Successful Couple Strategy™.