Are You a Selfish Lover? – The Root of Selfishness
Are you a selfish lover?
What does the word selfish mean to you? Merriam-Webster defines it like this: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. By this definition, are you a selfish lover? Probably all of us have at least had moments of being a selfish lover, right?
Most of us try to teach our children not to be selfish. And most of us believe, at a heart level, that it’s better to give than to receive. You probably know the Christmas story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an angry, withholding miserable person until he learned to overcome his fear-based self-centeredness. Have you been called a Scrooge? Or felt like a Scrooge? Are you married to a Scrooge?
The Root of Selfishness
From a psychological perspective, I believe that selfishness is rooted in a deep insecurity that can often be traced back to our first years of life. Essentially, we learn to give by being given to. The neuropsychologist Dr. Allan Schore talks a lot about how we develop the ability to give and receive love in our first years of life. There is no substitute for unconditional parental loving emotional connection. Click here to get a taste of Dr. Schore’s genius.
Most of us would agree that it’s difficult to give what we haven’t been given. Growing up alone creates an emotional emptiness that stifles generosity and the desire to connect with others. When this happens we learn to be self-centered and selfish because we have no emotional memory of being taken care of. We call this an insecure avoidant attachment style.
When we are deprived of loving care we have to manage our physical and emotional needs on our own. It’s natural then to think and even expect that others should do the same. If you grew up this way you may actually get angry with your partner for needing your help. You may feel that withholding and taking care of yourself is the mature thing to do. And of course you do this without understanding how damaging that is to your relationship.
Sometimes couples get into selfish behavior as a payback. They withhold as a way of teaching their partner a lesson. This creates a relentless cycle of arguing about how the other guy is not doing enough. There is nothing worse than being in a relationship where your partner is telling you that you’re not living up to expectations. This creates massive insecurity in the relationship and angry arguments.
The root of this kind of selfish behavior is a loss of emotional connection. When we don’t validate each other’s emotions we feel distant and lose trust that the other person will actually be there for us when we need them the most. We need our partner to be sad with us when we’re sad. We need them to celebrate with us when we’re happy.
When an emotional connection is broken many couples just don’t know how to repair it. As the distance and hurt grows between them, they begin to compare and complain about how hard the other is working.
So what’s the flip side of the coin? And what kind of lover will you choose to be?
The Selfless Lover
Agreeing to love someone for life is about letting go of the ‘me’ and sharing the ‘we’. A selfless lover is big-hearted and generous. In a mature love relationship it’s in giving and receiving that we find our best selves. Individual confidence and identity grows as we allow ourselves to need and to be needed. Being selfish actually keeps us childish and insecure.
Healthy emotional connection is vital to happy, healthy, lifetime relationships. Whether you want to get your foundations built on solid footing, or you need helping repairing broken emotional connection, there’s help.
Emotionally Focused Couples therapy helps couples repair emotional bonds and learn to be selfless, big-hearted, generous lovers. You can find an EFT therapist in your area at Click here to find an EFT therapist.
Michael W. Regier, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and EFT Supervisor in Visalia, California. He helps couples repair attachment injuries and build healthy emotional connections. Dr. Regier and his wife Paula are authors of the book Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love. They have developed the Emotional Connection Relationship Foundations online learning course based on the science of attachment and healthy relationship.