Could You Possibly Love Yourself Too Much?
It's one thing to take care of yourself. It's another when you're so self-focused that your partner is always taking a back seat while you do and say whatever you like without regard for his feelings. It sets up your partner for rejection, anger, and poor self-esteem, and if you're always putting yourself first without thinking of your significant other's needs, you're setting up your relationship for failure.
"If you focus on yourself to the point where you never let your partner know that he or she matters, then your relationship is in tremendous jeopardy," says Karen Sherman, Ph.D., author of Mindfulness and the Art of Choice.
When someone is always thinking of what she wants or what she thinks she needs, it's hard to have empathy for others, says Leslie Sokol, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and the co-author of Think Confident, Be Confident. And if you are unable to even consider the other person's needs because you are so wrapped up in satisfying your own, that person will be disappointed and ultimately can feel unloved.
"You may be showing that you are unable to make the other person a priority," Sokol says. "You are unable to compromise, and life doesn't work without compromise."
When there is a true and complete lack of consideration for another person's feelings, it sometimes points not just to a relationship conflict but to a mental health issue, says Deirdre Fitzgerald, associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University.
"Narcissism is where a person is completely focused on themselves to the extreme," she says. "It is treatable, with a structured behavioral approach, but it is fairly intensive."
Chances are that you just have some garden variety selfishness, and that you may need to step back and take a long look at your behavior.
How to Keep Yourself in Check
So how can you balance your needs and wants with those of your partner?
1. Have a periodic relationship check, Sherman says. "Ask each other, what's been working, what needs improvement, and what's been going well in our life," she says.
2. Show your love and respect for each other. Create rituals for just the two of you to share. Learn to express your love for your partner and be mindful of the fact that your partner needs this love from you, Sherman says.
3. Ask yourself whether you are always making yourself the priority, or whether you take the needs of others into consideration. If you find that you're surprisingly self focused, you may want to take a long, hard look at the quality of your relationships as a whole. "If you have relationship problems across the board, it's probably a clue that you are not taking other's needs into consideration," Sokol says.
4. Aim for a healthy balance, says Fitzgerald. You don't want to always do what the pother person wants to do, and you should certainly feel free about expressing your emotions. "But you should also expect that your partner should be able to do that," she says. "If that's not happening, it's a definite source of concern for the stability of the relationship."
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