Why Putting Your Partner Before Yourself Is Not Selfless (& Could Ruin Your Relationship)

Are You a Selfless or Selfish Lover?
Love, Self

Putting everyone else ahead of yourself isn't always selfless.

While selfless love is disguised as putting others’ needs above your own with seemingly no expectation in return, Dictionary.com defines it as "having little or no concern for oneself."

And here’s the thing about having little or no concern with oneself — you can’t build a deep, meaningful, authentic connection and long-lasting healthy relationships if you’re really not even in it.

Secretly, or not so secretly, deep down all of us actually have needs and opinions about things. Selfless lovers just usually don’t share them because they’re not deemed (by themselves) to be as important as other people’s.

There’s a small, but mighty voice inside that tells them their needs, wants, and emotions are simply not as important as others, that they’re not worthy of feeling or wanting or needing or satisfying any of those.


RELATED: What A Healthy Relationship Needs If You Want It To Last


On the outside, while it looks like they put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own, two completely different things are actually happening on their inside:

  1. With every give, there’s a bitter pill of unrecognized resentment that’s taken but not talked about because it feeds their assumption that again their needs weren't as important.
  2. Constantly meeting others’ needs leads them to believe it’s their security ticket to being in a relationship. If it happens often enough, a dependency builds. But unfortunately, there is no amount of appreciation or gratitude that can serve as satisfactory for the void they feel inside. Unfortunately those selfless acts? Those aren't about you, they’re about them.

The struggle for authenticity is real, especially when it comes to being selfless because it can be so difficult to convince themselves that their authentic self will still be accepted and wanted by others and also that their vulnerability in doing so won’t be rejected.


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The hard part is that there are no guarantees that they won’t be. Learning how to love what you love and stand in your authenticity can be a lifelong lesson and it is for most of us. The key is to start small, just by being a little selfish in relationships.

There’s a movie, The Runaway Bride, that stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Julia’s character is so out of touch with who she is that she says "yes" to every proposal she gets and then runs from the altar on every wedding day. The audience learns that she can’t even decide the kind of eggs she likes because she’s been so accustomed to ordering "whatever he’s having."

Not being needy or expressing herself, she thinks she’s doing everyone a favor, when in fact, the only thing she’s doing is building her reasons to leave. At the end of the movie, she finally figures it out as she’s realizing who she is and the relationship she actually wants: "I love eggs benedict. I hate every other kind."

Any and every decision we make can represent and express our authenticity, who we truly feel we are and how we show up in relationships. If we’re not really there, or we’re misrepresenting ourselves, our selfless acts end up benefiting no one but us and will leave a trail of hurt and betrayal along the way.


RELATED: 3 Surprising Ways 'Being Selfish' Makes Your Relationships Happier


Lisa Pisha is a licensed marriage and family therapist, writer, group leader and parent instructor working with individuals, families, and couples strengthening relationships through some of life's challenges and transitions.

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