Feeling a little invisible in your relationship? Wondering why your date’s version of give and take has a lot more take than give (which leaves you making up the difference)? Maybe you need to assess how you show up in your relationship, and whether you are looking out for yourself enough. On the other hand, maybe you are just dating a selfish person.
Consider the following warning signs….
If your date…
- always manages to get his or her needs met first
- has little or no consideration for other people
- rarely if ever offers to do a favor for you or anyone else
- talks about him/herself constantly
- tells you that YOU are selfish
…chances are you are dating a selfish person.
Let’s look closer.
If your date’s needs are always met first that might look like this:
- Last weekend David ended up going to the restaurant Sarah wanted to go to, even though she had picked where they would eat the last several times they went out. In fact, David can’t remember ever going to that Thai place he’s been dying to try, even though he’s mentioned it a few times.
- On Sunday, Maeve had one thing she had to get done, no matter what. She needed to get her suit from the dry cleaners for a Monday morning interview. Somehow, even though she made it clear that the dry cleaners closed at noon, they had to drive 20 minutes out of their way to get Bart an egg sandwich at his favorite diner, and while they were in the neighborhood could they just stop at the health food store so he could pick up his favorite sprouted wheat bread? Sure enough, by the time they got to the dry cleaners, it was closed. Bart said, “Wow, that’s too bad. I guess we just took too long getting here.”
Selfish people do not really think about the needs of others. They have been programmed to think of themselves first, last, and always. As long as David is willing to go along with what Sarah wants, Sarah will call the shots, because she is used to getting her way. And as for Bart — his need for a particular breakfast and desire for his favorite bread trumped Maeve’s interview, and that dynamic might not ever change.
If your date has little or no consideration for others, it might look like this:
- Kevin and Danielle often went to Kevin’s house for family gatherings on Sundays. Danielle noticed that Kevin and his sister never jumped up to clear the table, helped with the dishes, or alleviated the load their mom carried on these evenings. Danielle and one of Kevin’s cousins usually ended up clearing up and letting Kevin’s mom go visit in the living room. Kevin enjoyed his family immensely but it did not dawn on him to notice what was going on around him or that his mother, his date, and his cousin were doing everything.
- Steve accompanied his girlfriend Barbara to an open house at her son’s school. During the evening, he noticed that other moms or dads were pitching in to help the teacher serve snacks. Others stuck with their kids to walk around looking at their classroom and school work displayed on the walls. But Barbara stood in the corner all evening networking with a dad whose company Barbara wanted to work for. She took advantage of her son’s special evening to promote her career.
Kevin and Barbara would be horrified if anyone questioned their behavior. They see themselves as loving, wonderful people – and in some ways they probably are. But they can’t really see beyond their own needs, wants, and desires, even when it comes to what is best for those they love. They are essentially selfish in their approach to life.
If your date rarely if ever offers to do a favor for you or anyone else it might look like this:
- Jim is one of those guys who would do anything for his friends. When he found out that his cousin and best friend, Matt, had been left by his wife and had to move suddenly, Jim told his girlfriend Lisa that he was going to spend the weekend helping his cousin. Lisa said, “Why do you have to do it? Isn’t there someone else? I thought we were going to the planetarium?” Jim realized that he had never seen Lisa go out of her way to help someone, especially if it interfered with her plans.
- When his best friend’s mom died, Barnaby got the call from one of his college buddies saying everyone was gathering to help out with the arrangements, clearing out her house, and supporting their friend during his loss. Barnaby said, “Okay yeah, I think I can be there. What time?” When he was due to arrive, Barnaby texted his friends to tell them something had come up and he wouldn’t make it. To his girlfriend he said, “It’s going to be super depressing and they probably don’t need my help anyway. Two other guys are showing up.”
Lisa and Barnaby can’t really go out of their way to help others. Partly they don’t really see the need. However, they may be extremely demanding of others and unforgiving when they feel let down by their friends and family, but the door doesn’t swing both ways. Some basically selfish people will help when asked, but will not spontaneously offer, simply because it does not occur to them.
If your date talks about him/herself constantly, you will know it:
- Donna does not bother to talk about her day when she meets Lou for dinner, because whatever she says will only redirect him to more war stories from his clearly more interesting career/life/experiences. She has become a superb listener, but does not feel particularly noticed.
A selfish person lacks basic curiosity about others. Your date may enjoy a funny anecdote and may even care if you are sad, happy, stressed… but don’t spend too much time talking about it, or boredom will set in… only to be alleviated when the conversation turns back to … you guessed it, your date.
Finally, if your date has been known to accuse you of selfishness, take stock. It could mean that you are selfish (do any of the above scenarios sound like you?) but it may in fact be the classic projection that a lot of selfish people do, especially if confronted, directly or indirectly, about their selfishness. If Maeve, in the above story, called Bart on his nonsense and said, “No, we are not stopping at the health food store or we’ll be late and I won’t get my suit out of the dry cleaners,” Bart likely would have been appalled at her “selfishness.” Or had Jim told Lisa point blank that her weekend plans were not as important as his friend’s crisis, Lisa may have accused Jim, or his grieving cousin, of selfish behavior! This kind of defensive deflection of any responsibility for selfish actions is common.
Selfish people think they’re okay. No need to change or improve. They have been raised to believe that they are entitled to getting what they want, full stop. To some degree, modern American culture cultivates a certain amount of self-involvement. Some of the things that make us a great nation can backfire on the personal level. Our focus on achievement, individuality, and personal success leaves the idea of “other” out of the equation a little. (To tell the difference between a selfish person and a narcissist, check out my blog Too Good to be True: Some Facts about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.)
If you fear you are involved with someone who is essentially selfish, it’s not too late. If you recognize the signs, chances are he or she won’t change….