The value of selfishness

Yes, ok, spoiler: by selfishness I don’t mean callously putting your own interests above and beyond anyone else’s, and trampling on loved ones in the process. Obviously 😉

But, something I value tremendously in those I am close to is a certain level of selfishness. I’ve come across thoughts like ‘love is putting their interests above your own’. That strikes me as less love, more co-dependency. At most, from The Rake (with whom I intend to spend the rest of my life until we are old and grouchy), I’d expect him to consider my interests alongside his own, of equal weight… at MOST. But in other relationships, I hope and trust that people will put their own interests above mine. I’d do the same for them.

Why? I’m not a mind reader, and nor is anyone else. If people can not only confidently identify their own needs and wants, but also have the confidence to convey them to me, without holding back for fear I might disagree, then I can decide how to respond. If someone were to selflessly decide that ‘although I want x, I’m pretty sure she would prefer y, so I just won’t mention it’, that takes away my autonomy and capacity to make informed choices.

Plus, with any luck, if you focus selfishly on your own needs and wants, you’ll find someone – or someones – whose needs and wants correspond neatly. If you don’t, you’re always working to someone else’s agenda. Dan Savage talks about selfish lovers apparently being (paradoxically) better in bed; this may or may not be true, but wouldn’t it be great if my ‘selfish’ wants in all areas of life were also the one which my partner/s were most happy to fulfil or for me to fulfil?

All relationships involve compromise, obviously, but no-one should compromise on the things that are really important to them. If you have wants and desires that rely on someone you’re in a relationship with, say, also wanting to have children within five years, or calling you once a day no matter what, or listing you in a relationship on Facebook with them… No matter how irrational it might be, if you have things you want that are important to you, you’ll only make yourself (and someone else) unhappy if you compromise on them. And no matter how much you adore someone, if you’re setting your own needs aside to focus on theirs, they may not even realise you’re doing this – and then who’s looking out for your needs?

When your selfishness corresponds with that of others, it stops being selfishness at all – I am getting what I want out of my relationships, and feel extraordinarily fulfilled by them, but so are the other people involved (…at least as far as I know!). That selfishness can stop you from ending up in relationships with people who may be awesome, but want completely different things; it allows you to be clear about what you want, confidently ask for it, and feel able to move on if you don’t or can’t get it.

(Plus, fairly often, my selfish needs include showering my loved ones with affection, kisses, adoration and praise. Oddly, that seems to work out well for everyone.)

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7 responses to “The value of selfishness

  1. This is a real balancing act in open relationships when there is not just one or two people but three, four and more~ Thanks for this post~ xoxo

    • Thanks for commenting 🙂 yeah, I totally agree. Which is why I think it’s all the more important in open/poly relationships to think about your own needs first (place the oxygen mask over your own face before… etc). If you know what you need/want and what you don’t, it’s kind of a buffer against getting caught between the potentially conflicting desires of two partners.

  2. Devil's Avocado

    Being clear about your own wants and needs is as much first step as being aware of the wants and needs of those whom you care about. Being open about your wishes, to yourself and others, leaves the door open for others to be the same. I would call that honesty rather than selfishness; the word selfishness implies a disregard for the welfare of others.

  3. Can’t believe I missed this post before. I love what you say about selfishness stopping you from ending up in relationships with people who want completely different things. I should follow my instincts more on stuff like that. It’s OK to be selfish in certain ways 🙂

  4. Realising, reading this, that there is a subtle crossover with the open and honest approach at all times, especially with oneself. If I know what I really want, and I am honest about that with myself, then my actions are unlikely to be seen as selfish if I communicate them openly and honestly to my partners.

    Simple to write down, of course…

  5. I love your attitude here, and 100% agree with the notion of finding the right people!

  6. Pingback: » Meeting your needs Poly Means Many

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