Selfish vs. Selfless In Your Relationship

As I’m writing this today, I’m sitting on an airplane…

Thinking in my head…

 Will this guy PLEASE keep him arm on his side of the seat and let me use just a tiny bit of the arm rest?

The more I thought about it, the more I got aggravated and the more I made myself smaller, swishing up against the window of the airplane…

Seriously, doesn’t he respect my personal space?  This is so annoying – and my arm and neck are starting to ache from making myself so small…

And then it happened…YEP…

He sneezed!  Moving his arms and hands to cover his mouth…

And I seized upon the opportunity.

That’s right; I put my forearm firmly on the armrest in between us! AHA!  It’s mine!

It felt good for a couple of minutes.  Really good.  I could relax and not be so tense.

But then I noticed…his tension…

“So, why should I care?  He took my comfort away from me for the last 45 minutes.  He can live with a little discomfort for the next hour.”

Unfortunately, I started to feel bad and uncomfortable myself – so I again attached myself to the window far away from the armrest.

Okay – what does this have to do with relationships or marriage? 

A lot! 

This short story represents a number of things in relationships:

  1. When I was selfless and scooted away from the armrest – I became very uncomfortable in order to make this guy comfortable.  Have you ever done that in your marriage?  Do you often give in to the other person to the point where you are losing out?

  2. When I was selfish and took full control of the armrest – I felt guilt, and my neighbor was very uncomfortable.  Have you ever done things without considering your partner’s comfort or needs, or what is best for them?

  3. I let my frustrations get the best of me and made a kind of sneaky (although funny) move to get my way, instead of letting my neighbor know that I was uncomfortable.  Have you ever done something your way without talking to your spouse about it – because you didn’t want to feel uncomfortable, or get into an argument?

I started thinking.  What could I have done differently?  How could we both have been comfortable?

The first thing I could’ve done is talked to him about it. 

I could have simply said, “Hey buddy, I’m a little uncomfortable over here, do you think there is a way that we can both sit, so we’ll both be more comfortable?”  If he was reasonable, we probably could’ve solved the problem together.  If he was not reasonable, at least I let my voice be heard without re-shrinking to the window.

I could’ve let go of my feelings and frustrations about being uncomfortable, and problem solved myself another way to be comfortable.

The key here is…

You have to find the balance in your relationship between selfless and selfish.

If you are constantly selfless and letting everyone else have the armrest – you will find yourself resentful and frustrated with lots of aches!

If you are consistently selfish you will push your partner away, make them feel uncomfortable, and probably live with some hidden guilt and anxiety. 

If you can find the balance between getting your needs met and meeting the needs of your spouse – then you can create the perfect airplane seating situation…

You can create a “We” that allows you to be close, without losing your own individuality.

Isn’t that what we all want? 

A partner who we can share life with, who can help us to grow in ourselves and who can share in our challenges and wins?

Here are some questions to ask yourself to understand how well you are balancing selfish and selfless. 

  1. Do you sometimes feel that you cannot separate yourself as an individual from your relationship?  If so, you may need to be a little more selfish and take better care of yourself and your own needs, while still nurturing the needs of your partner.  This requires you to truly understand yourself and what makes you happy.  Remember, you cannot truly be happy in any relationship unless you are happy in yourself.

  2. Do you sometimes feel distant from your spouse?  If so, you may need to be a little more selfless.  It’s possible that the “we” in your relationship has gotten away.  How can you start doing more things for or with your spouse?

Be honest with yourself, because only then you can make the adjustment.  Start making small adjustments until you find the perfect balance between “we” and “me”. 

Oh geez, I almost forgot.  Check-out my latest article in MindBodyGreen.  It’s all about how making a simple mindset shift can change your marriage. 

Next week, I’ll dive deeper into this subject, and even give you a free worksheet and video to help you start changing your mindset!