How Can Being More Selfish be the Key to a Successful Relationship?
“‘Making small sacrifices for your partner when you don’t feel like it could be damaging your relationship,’ according to social scientists from the University of Arizona.”
I have generally been a selfish person. Giving of myself has not been a trait I’ve taken to well in my life, at least not in intimate relationships. Sharing of myself, my true self, was not something I did because it exposed me in ways I didn’t want people to see.
So before Solomon became my husband, he met and courted that selfish woman. That selfish woman was okay with him if her needs and wants were being met. But here was the problem: I did not reciprocate meeting my husband’s needs, particularly his emotional needs.
Now you might say, “You surely didn’t love that man.”
To which I’d say, “Not true.” However, throughout my lifetime, I didn’t learn how to love in intimate relationships. Because I had been hurt so many times.
Let me rephrase that. I allowed myself to be hurt, many times because of my own foolishness.
No matter the source, whether through my own choices or someone’s choice to hurt me, I built a wall that became almost impenetrable. I felt I had to defend myself. Do things for myself. Protect myself. Be selfish. Who’s going to take care of me but me?
Needless to say, my marriage was full of clash. For many years. Because my husband would sacrifice for me, yet I would feel put out if I had to do the same for him. (This does not imply that my husband is a pushover by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, my husband is the strongest, wisest, most profound man I’ve ever known in my entire life.)
So it would appear that my selfishness should’ve helped my relationship, because after all, if I didn’t feel like helping and I did anyway, I wouldn’t be true to myself.
But it didn’t.
One of my husband’s greatest strengths is his ability to put the needs of others above his own, especially mine. Whenever I’ve needed something, he’s always been there for me, even when he has to sacrifice something important to him to make sure I have what I need. I’ve felt safe in those moments. And there have been many moments. However, I would often fall back in defense mode without thinking, allowing my autopilot responses to take over when I became angry or irritated.
I recently read something though, that I’ve started to adopt, and have reaped the benefits of doing so. Instead of thinking, “making small sacrifices for your partner when you don’t feel like it could be damaging your relationship,” I began thinking that if I do what my husband needs me to do, we’ll be better off. We’ll have more harmony. We’ll have more joy. We’ll enjoy each other much more. The love between us will grow. So I began to pay attention to little things he needed. Even when I didn’t want to do them.
And then I read a chapter in Og Mandino’s University of Success entitled, “How to Get People to Help You Succeed,” by Robert Conklin. Just so you know, it’s not about manipulating people into doing what you want. Robert’s premise behind the chapter is:
“To the degree you give others what they need, they will give you what you need.”
Needs are, as Robert Conklin says, different than wants, because wants can be fleeting. They are sometimes never satisfied. However,
“…needs are the deeper currents of one’s existence. They are meaningful, worthy, and not as capricious as wants.”
So what are some of the things people need in relationships? They need (this is not an all-inclusive list at all):
So meeting someone’s needs in a relationship goes beyond doing chores. If you look at it as merely doing a chore, and you don’t feel like doing it, sure, you’re going to feel like you’re imposed upon (at least I would, and have). But if you look at it as your spouse needs your support and cooperation in order to accomplish a goal, or to meet a deadline, or just to make life a little easier for him, then you go beyond the superficial, “This is my husband’s job. I shouldn’t have to do this.” You get to, “I’m helping him get to where he wants to go. I’m helping meet a need so he can do what God has called him to do.” And that, I believe, can help us get out of our selfish individualism. And that, in essence, can help us to get our own needs met as well. I know that when I am conscious of this principle, my relationship works better. I enjoy my husband much more. And he enjoys me more as well. I’m not saying I’ve got it all together, though. In fact, I still make missteps, and I feel guilty every time. But I pick myself back up, ready to discover how I can help meet my husband’s needs so he can grow and become more than he could become if I withhold my support, my cooperation, my recognition of him, my respect for him.
The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-4,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
I think this is great advice for our relationships.
So can being more selfish be the key to a successful relationship? I’d love to hear your thoughts.