A large part of the problems that arise in couple relationships arise from asymmetric relationships: that is, those in which there is a part which gives more than it receives.
These asymmetries can take many forms: sometimes complaints arise from the jealousy a person feels when they see that they cannot control the other, sometimes they are the result of emotional dependence and the need to have constant approval. the other, etc. In any case, one of the most common formulas used by those who go into psychotherapy to treat this discomfort is: “I feel like my partner is too selfish”.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what issues are behind these types of complaints and what can be done to resolve and overcome them.
The selfish couple: a more complex phenomenon than it seems
One of the most studied phenomena in the field of psychology is what we call “the fundamental attribution error”. This psychological phenomenon can be understood as a bias, that is, a distorted way of interpreting reality which, although irrational, is common in our way of thinking.
The fundamental attribution error is as follows: we attribute the behavior of others to “their way of being”Something like its essence as individuals, whereas to interpret what one does oneself, one takes into account the circumstances which led to this action and, in general, the context which influenced us; that is, outside of us.
People who regularly come to the conclusion that their partner is selfish often do so because of this bias; they assume that these attitudes and behaviors that they see in the other reveal their true personality, with all that that implies. Pessimistic thoughts arise about the future of the relationship and its viability.
As in almost all cognitive distortions that we often fall into, there is no indication that the fundamental attribution error is leading us to be wrong every time it appears. Although this serves to simplify reality, sometimes fair, and if no behavior can be explained as if people are completely disconnected from their surroundings, it is possible to arrive at the reasoned decision which does not compensate for taking all the sacrifices. involved in helping that person change.
In short, the fundamental attribution error is a ‘shortcut’ that allows us to draw conclusions in a relatively straightforward way, and sometimes it turns out that this is what best helps us understand what is going on. … sometimes not. This is why many times, if the relationship is not totally toxic and clearly harms one or both parties, it’s worth considering what’s really beyond this superficial thought of “my partner is selfish”.
What to do if your partner is behaving selfishly
Here are a few things I recommend you keep in mind when dealing with issues like this in your dating life.
1. Switch from noun to verb
Remember that if you want to approach the problem from a constructive perspective, you must reject the idea that selfishness is part of your partner’s essence; otherwise, all the explanations that we believe describe what is happening will be circular and only generate more hostility and frustration: he acts like someone selfish because he is selfish, and vice versa.
Instead, we need to focus on behavior, those specific actions that take place in time and space. The person is not selfish, he behaves in a selfish way.
That way, we’ll be clear on what needs to change: the lack of involvement in household chores, the tendency to complain if you don’t choose the weekend plan the other person wants, etc. With a specific goal in view, it is possible to seek solutions; without it nothing can be done.
2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
It may be obvious, but in situations like this, where there is open or latent conflict, a lot of people forget what it means to put themselves in the other’s shoes. That doesn’t mean letting him talk about what it feels like to immediately get on the defensive for the accusations we see in his words; involved understand their version of events and relate that knowledge to what we know about that person’s values, priorities, and fears.
It does not mean to agree with it, nor to regard it as morally excusable; is understand the logic behind their actions and feelings. It is only if we do that that we will have a basis to make an informed decision on whether there is any chance of readjusting this relationship or whether it is better to end it.
Of course, it must be emphasized that in extreme cases where there is abuse, the priority is not to understand what is going on, but to get out of harm’s way.
3. Agree on the changes in habits that affect both of you.
Even if you come to the conclusion that most problematic behaviors appear from your partner and not from you, it is best to apply behavior correction proposals that compromise you both (but not in the same measure), and not just the other. . This way you will motivate each other contribute more to the relationship, on the one hand, and appreciate these changes in behavior and facilitate maintain a constructive attitude, on the other hand.
4. Attend couples therapy
Couples therapy is a highly recommended environment for dealing with this type of problem. Psychologists often work with problems that do not concern one person, but they arise in the interaction between boyfriends, between husband and wife, etc.
Not only does it offer the possibility of expressing oneself openly with the support of someone who arbitrates and who neither judges nor takes sides; In addition, habit and thought pattern modification programs are applied to turn the relationship into a fertile ground in which love is strengthened, whenever possible.
5. In the face of breakup, avoid revenge
Failure should not be interpreted as failure ifGiven the cost of staying in the relationship longer, we’ve given you a chance to improve yourself.
But once that happens, it is not advisable to “cut” by using the situation as personal revenge; Not only will this cause unnecessary harm to the other person, but it can also create beliefs in us that cause us even more discomfort. The fact that we have hurt our ex-partner usually gives us more reasons to build up resentment towards them.
Are you looking for professional help?
If you plan to see a psychologist to solve a particular type of problem, I suggest you contact me to have a first therapy session. I am a psychologist specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and third generation therapies, and I deal with both individual patients and couples. You can find me both in my therapy center located in Almeria and through my online therapy services wherever you are.
- Albuquerque, JP (2017). Family, family conflicts and mediation. Editorial Ubijus. Mexico.
- Biscotti, O. (2006). Couples therapy: a systemic view. Buenos Aires: Lumen.
- Fisher, H. (2006). Anatomy of love: a natural history of mating, marriage, and why we stray. New York: WW Norton & Company.
- Morgan, JP (1991). What is codependency? Journal of Clinical Psychology 47 (5): pages 720-729.