When you’re in a relationship, one of the worst things you can be accused of is being selfish. After all, you’re supposed to be caring and generous to your partner, so what gives, and how can you be more selfless? Sometimes the differences between selfless and selfish love are subtle. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are considering whether you can love someone selflessly.
Selfless love is accepting; selfish love judges.
If you’re selfless in your love for someone, you accept them as they are. A good way to find out if you love someone as they are is to think of their worst trait. Maybe they bite their nails or talk too loud in public. Now ask yourself: can you live with that trait for the rest of your life? Do you accept this as part of who they are, or are you judging them silently (or maybe publicly) for it each time they do it?
Selfless love is empathetic; selfish love doesn’t see outside themselves.
Empathy is the ability to feel and understand what another is feeling. If you can’t see outside of yourself to imagine why your partner feels one way or another, you’re still in selfish mode. Empathy is critical to selflessness.
Selfless love listens; selfish love shames.
You must be able to truly listen to what your love is saying and you have to hear them, too. Shaming is something that our culture does too easily and it can cause severe damage in a relationship. Brené Brown, a shame researcher, says, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
Selfless love makes no assumptions; selfish love knows without asking.
It’s hard to be with someone without making assumptions about what they mean when they say or do something or what their reaction will be. Assumptions are based on our experiences, though. Instead of assuming, ask the questions so you’ll know for sure.
Selfless love gives the benefit of the doubt; selfish love doubts first.
You have to give someone you love the benefit of the doubt. When you doubt first, it can tear you up inside. Doubting your partner can tear a rift between the two of you that can be very hard to put together again. Always start by offering trust unless you have a reason to behave otherwise.
Selfless love is on team us; selfish love is on team you.
If your love is selfless, you need to remember that you are part of a team. You will consider what is best for the two of you instead of what is best for you. Consider one another in the decisions to make so that you’re acting in both of your best interests whenever possible.
Selfless love is freeing; selfish love is binding.
Being selfless means that you and your partner are free to be who you are without restrictions. If you love them, it makes them happy, and it isn’t hurting you, then there shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re selfish, you will force rules on them simply because you want them to be, act, or behave a certain way. Selfless love doesn’t need to force other people to follow rules that only benefit you.
Selfless love lets go of grudges; selfish love holds on to them.
If you are holding on to grudges, past hurts, and disagreements between the two of you, especially when they have been resolved or no longer apply, you’re being selfish. In order to be selfless, you must let them go and focus on the now and the future of your relationship.
Selfless love walks away; selfish love holds on.
Some relationships are just not meant to last forever. It may be because you have different goals or because your lives are headed in different directions. There are many reasons people can be hurt by selfish love that won’t let go, long after the relationship should have ended. Selfless love will let you walk away in order to prevent the other from being hurt.
Selfless love is a cheerleader; selfless love is bitter.
There will be times when your partner is successful in something they’re working on and you may be struggling with your own goals. A selfish love will celebrate with your love instead of being bitter about your lack of success.
Selfless love is a gift; selfish love is pro quid pro.
If your love is selfless, you give it unconditionally. You don’t expect that it must be returned in the same way. A selfish love will demand that if you show love in a specific manner, your partner must do the same or find another way to show love that you consider equivalent.
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