There is a unique scale of selfishness that all relationships require. The scales have to be wiped clean of past experiences and both people must dump their selfish load on the scale and do their best to maintain balance.
Throughout our lives, there will always be stages where individuals need a developmentally appropriate amount of selfishness (an infant, identity-forming ages, early adulthood, etc). Given that some amount of selfishness is needed for one’s own life, how does that selfishness factor when you join forces with someone with the (assumed) intent to be unselfish and giving? Should we look to see what we can get from a partner and recognize what we can give as well? Some see that as a solution, but that’s not what I’m advocating.
I believe there are some fundamental truths about selfishness that are simple and can lead to a healthy and sustaining relationship.
1. Do your best to engage in a relationship with someone who has a similar life stage and/or selfish weight as you do. The full-time PhD student and business-owner’s selfishness may be a match made in Heaven because they both can understand each other’s needs. It’s more likely they have similar selfish weight. The “in-search-of-myself” person may not be the best match for the “established & willing” persona. One needs time to invest in their own identity and well-being, the other feels content with their life and is looking for someone to reciprocate what they can give.
2. Love for someone else IS SELFLESS. Isn’t that enough said? Don’t get into a relationship with the intent or unexpected outcome of constantly taking/receiving for yourself. Love your partner back in ways that have any and everything to do with making them feel loved, not yourself.
3. Love someone who’s willing to love you as selflessly as they can
4. It’s only selfish when you inconsiderately get your needs met at the expense of others…besides that, go for it!
To end this post, I’ll leave you with the words of RuPaul. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?”