11 Ways To Deal With A Selfish Partner & Have A Healthier Relationship
No matter how much you love someone, sometimes that's not enough for them to pause and consider your feelings in a given situation. Whether they do it intentionally or by accident, sometimes you're going to have to deal with a selfish partner. That doesn't necessarily mean they're selfish all the time — chances are your honey does thoughtful and caring things throughout the week that you really appreciate, but slips up now and then when it comes to looking out for your needs. Whether that's always expecting you to cook dinner when they're working late or zoning out when you're complaining about work, chances are there are a couple of selfish tendencies you'd like to get rid of.
And the great news is that you totally can. This doesn't mean you're setting off on a project to change them completely (because that's impossible and you shouldn't want to change those that you love to better suit your vision), but that you're trying to strengthen your relationship. While the knee-jerk reaction might be to blow up at them and start an argument, there are much more tactful ways to bring up the delicate request. Below are 11 ways to deal with a selfish partner.
1. Give Yourself The Attention You Were Giving Them
It's time to pump the brakes on the lavish love and attention you focused on your partner, and put that amount of devotion towards yourself. Lifestyle writer David William from Lifehack pointed out, "Ignoring your needs to pour attention and energy into a self-absorbed person isn’t virtuous. It only sets you up for being emotionally drained and hurt." So show yourself love — indulge in hobbies, make time for self-care, focus on your own needs and put theirs on the back burner. You deserve it.
2. Speak Up
Sometimes we don't know we're acting selfish until someone spells it out for us, so speak up. But don't do it an aggressive way or else that'll just tailspin into a fight. William suggested saying something along these lines: "Instead of throwing a tantrum and screaming, 'You never listen to me; you always make everything about you,' try saying, 'I really need to talk to someone about something bothering me. Would you be willing to listen to me?'” Chances are, they will be.
3. Lay Out The Benefits Of Changing
If you toss a one liner like "You need to change ASAP" at your partner, they're just going to think you're nagging. Instead, emphasize the benefits of their efforts to change so they can see how much better things can be. Couples counselor Elly Prior of Professional Counselling offered, "Emphasize the benefits — to him or her, you and the relationship of a particular change or action, so that it builds their view of themselves of being 'good.'" If they see how much a simple tweak can make you happy and strengthen your bond, it'd be crazy for them not to put forth the effort.
4. Understand Why It's Happening
Sometimes people act a certain way because of a past experience, so before completely dismissing your partner try to get to the root of their actions. Psychotherapist Diane Barth from Psychology Today advised, "Understanding doesn’t mean letting someone off the hook. But if you can get behind the behavior and discover what motivates it, you'll have a better chance of responding in a way that might make it less powerful." Have they been ignored in the past, neglected, or might be responding to something you're doing? Get to the bottom of it.
5. Establish Turn-Taking
It's a lot more helpful to bring up a problem with a solution at the ready, so when you bring up their selfishness propose a turn-taking idea. Corporate counselor Skornia Alison at self development site Motivation Grid explained, "Try a 'turn-taking' experiment where both of you take turns to speak, listen, and do favors to each other. Let this be a condition to the relationship and see how it goes." It might feel orchestrated, but it can teach them what you need and expect.
6. Reconnect With Your Value
Sometimes we let selfish people steamroll us because we don't understand our worth. In order to realize you don't deserve to be treated this way, you need to reconnect with your value. Lifestyle writer Lindsay Curtis from lifestyle site The Daily Awe recommended, "This might require spending less time with this person for a while. Pursue your interests. Reconnect with people who rub off in positive ways on you. Use positive affirmations like, 'I’m a really awesome person who doesn’t even mind sharing the last scoop of ice cream in the house.' Kidding. Sorta." After doing that, calling out your partner for being bad won't be as hard or intimidating.
7. Bring Up Past Successes
If you've been dating longer than two months, chances are you and your partner had to work on other problems together to come to a happy medium. When bringing up their selfishness, first bring attention to those past successes. Prior offered, "Talk about what the two of you have achieved in terms of change and growth, however little. Avoid pointing the finger." They'll remember how good it felt afterwards and be more inclined to do it.
8. Determine What You Can Deal With
When someone you care about is acting selfish, you need to set boundaries. Determine what you can let slide and what you need the correct amount of attention in. Curtis explained, "Decide what parts of your life you can no longer compromise, and build a fence around them." Having them always eat the last slice of pizza is maddening, but not a deal breaker. But having them ignore you when you have an issue in order to talk about themselves might be.
9. Take Breaks And Explain Why
If your partner is having a particularly selfish week, take a break from them to focus on yourself. After a couple of days not hearing from you they'll ask what's up, and you can explain why distancing yourself like this is necessary for your well-being. That might finally click for them. Lauren Stewart from Elite Daily pointed out, "It can seem harsh to tell someone you need to take a break because he or she is draining your energy. Chances are, the person won't understand, but it can be a necessary lesson." Help them understand what their actions do to you.
10. Point Out, Very Clearly, When You Need Them
There's a big possibility you'll need to constantly remind your partner of their selfish ways before they break the habit, so have patience. But one great way to make sure you get the love you need when you need it is to be super clear what you need at that moment. Stewart explained, "Instead of losing your temper and saying, “Everything is always all about you!” try asking him or her to listen to you. Tell this person you're having a problem or a hard day, and ask if he or she is willing to listen."
11. Decide If You Should Keep Them
Sometimes people won't change, and during times like those you need to decide if you should move on. If you've made your best efforts in explaining to them how their selfishness hurts you and they still resist change, then there's not much more you can do. On top of that, it can actually do them a favor. Curtis explained, "It’s actually a loving act to stop tolerating bad treatment, because it teaches others how to be kinder." Maybe you walking away is what will finally make them work on themselves.
So the next time your partner is acting selfish, try these tips and see if you can improve the situation.
Images: @aclotheshorse/Instagram; Isla Murray/Bustle