How To Talk To Your Partner If They're Being Selfish, According To Experts
In a relationship, you expect there to be give and take. But when one partner is giving more than the other, things can get complicated — and it can be a breeding ground for hurt feelings. Having a selfish partner means that a relationship can constantly feel one-sided.
"Talking to your partner about being selfish can be tricky," Relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. Part of the problem is that you can't approach the issue in too blunt of a way. Even though you need to be honest, you can't just start throwing accusations around. And, often, when we're dealing with someone who's selfish it's easy to keep burying it deeper and deeper until one day it just explodes out — and it typically explodes in a not very helpful or constructive way.
So, if you feel like your partner is being selfish, it's important to approach them gently and focusing the conversation around figuring out a solution. A relationship where only one of you is giving — and one of you is being used — is not a healthy one. Here's how you can open up an effective dialogue with them, according to experts, because it's important to let them see your point of view.
1. Talk About How It Makes You Feel
People who are selfish can live in a bubble, so you may have to really spell out exactly how you're feeling. "Coming at them with the direct accusation of selfishness is likely to cause them to be defensive and closed off," Hartstein says. "But if you position it as something that you need from them that is possible for them to accomplish than you have a better shot. Explain that sometimes you’d just like them to listen to you more or pay a bit more attention to you."
It may feel like really basic stuff, but a selfish person might not see how you're feeling. Whether you're feeling isolated, angry, abandoned, confused, it's important to explain how you feel and why. Accusations aren't going to get you there.
2. Explain That You Understand Their Need For Self-Care
Everyone should be a little selfish now and then, so you may want to make it clear that you're not trying to infringe on their necessary alone time or self-care.
“Taking time for ourselves may seem selfish, as though we're avoiding our partner,” clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle. “In reality, brief periods of solitude recharge our soul batteries and allow us to give even more to our partners and to the relationship itself.”
Explain that you know they need to take care of themselves, but make it clear that those behaviors can cross the line into selfishness.
3. Be Specific About How You Need More From Them
You may need to be very specific about what you need from them. "The best way to approach this is gently and with some concrete suggestions," Hartstein says. "Explain that sometimes you’d just like them to listen to you more or pay a bit more attention to you."
So think about how you can make it clear. Saying, "You're being selfish and it upsets me" won't be enough. Try, "I feel like I need more support when I'm stressed with work." or "I need you to show up for my family events, you know how much it means to me." Specificity is effective.
4. Ask What They Need From You
When someone's being selfish or emotionally immature, they can be demanding without actually being articulate, so try to open up a conversation about how they're feeling and what they need from you — and then talk about how you can work together.
5. Talk About Compromises
Once you've both opened up about what you need, you can try to work out practical compromises. X will help more with dinner during the week, but will still make sure they have an hour for exercise every day. Y will start coming to family gatherings more, but doesn't need to stay until midnight every time. It may require some planning.
"Make a plan that you can talk about their day and their feelings for a while and then talk about your day and your feelings," Hartstein says. Having a game plan helps.
6. Talk About The Relationship Going Forward
Finally, you may want to talk about the future of the relationship — and that's not easy. Because the truth is, if your partner isn't willing to work on the problem then you may be at a crossroads.
"It ends up being an easier proposition if they have a sense about themselves that they are selfish," Hartstein says. If they don't see that they're selfish or if they refuse to admit it, then you may want to think about whether this relationship can continue. You don't need to give them an ultimatum, but it's important to let them know that the stakes are high.
Getting a selfish partner to talk about their behavior probably won't be easy, but if they're not willing to talk or compromise, they may not be the sort of person you want to be with. Come into the conversation with compassion, understanding, and specifics — and then see if they're willing to meet you in the middle.