Why Being Selfish Can Be Good For Your Relationship

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Hearing someone you care about deeply call you selfish will probably hit you pretty hard. It will offend you and will, no doubt, cause an argument or at least a discussion with whomever called you it. The truth is that maybe you aren’t really that selfish — and maybe it’s not that bad when it comes to the health of your relationship. Being selfless, particularly when it relates to your significant other, may get you praise, but the act of constantly doing selfless acts may be making you miserable. In turn, maybe it’s hurting the health of your relationship. If you’re not taking care of your own needs, you’re sure to make everyone around you miserable, especially your partner.

Being selfish has gotten a bad rap. Melissa Dueter, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Heath Science Center in San Antonio explains how selfishness has been misconstrued.

“Selfish is an ugly word but it can mean two different things,” she says. “One connotation is that you’re unkind and inconsiderate of others. The other is that you take responsibility for getting your personal, emotional and physical needs met, and that’s an important part of becoming an adult.”

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Social scientists from the University of Arizona conducted a study, which included responses from 154 married and unmarried couples, with the length of their relationships ranging from six months to 44 years. The survey found that making small sacrifices for your partner when you don’t feel like it could be damaging your relationship. Additionally, the study reports that when these sacrifices are done by a partner who is feeling stressed, it can actually make the stress worse and cause arguments. If the study tells us anything, it’s that maybe we need to give our partner some space to be selfish and take care of his or her own needs, in addition to giving a greater effort to understand what drives us.

Believe it or not, it’s actually human nature and a means of survival that drive us to want to take care of our own needs first. If we’re not healthy and whole human beings, how can we be expected to be the contributing other half to a happy and healthy relationship? You shouldn’t feel guilty about scheduling some “me time” and taking time away from your significant other. Do the things that make you happy, and you’ll feel happier with yourself and want to do more for your relationship.

In fact taking time away from your relationship and having healthy “me time” is essential to keeping your relationship healthy, as is having separate interests. It helps you to not lose yourself in the relationship or your own identity, which is crucial. Healthy “me time” can include relaxing and just being by yourself, giving your brain a chance to reboot, taking part in your favorite hobbies alone, whatever they may be, or spending time with your group of friends. In turn, taking your “me time” can have a positive effect not only on the quality of your relationship with yourself, but also with your significant other. This is what being self-focused is all about.

Be self-focused rather than self-involved. If you’re happier, then that residual happiness will flow over to those you love most, especially your significant other.

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