Q: Am I Selfish? I’m Stuck in an Unhappy Relationship
First, thank you for this site. Let’s start: apparently, I am selfish and my timing is bad – any articles on getting better at this? I made a fast decision 8 months ago to move in with a guy I barely knew. Poor choice by me. We’ve had many obstacles, and I stay because I can’t afford a safe place to move to. I want to leave him. Two days ago we found out his father had a stroke and that he has a mass on his brain. My boyfriend’s way to deal with this is to act arrogant, smoke lots of cigarettes and pot, and eat junk food while watching cartoons. This is pretty much his whole life; not the beet-eating, hiking, happy person he portrayed himself to be when I first met him. I told him I am not strong enough to support him on my own through his father’s illness and suggested therapy. He got angry. He thinks I am selfish and don’t care about him. Am I selfish? I am disappointed in myself, him and STUCK. Any help?
– Laura, USA
The truth is that we are all selfish to differing degrees, and we all act out of self-interest every day no matter how saintly we think we are. Our choice of partners, our selection of cars, houses, jobs, friends; our willingness or lack of willingness to do anything is a product of self-interest. Even the act of giving to another is not selfless because we get something out of it: joy and pleasure.
The real issue here isn’t whether you are selfish or not, but how much love and respect you have for yourself. This may sound absurd or completely irrelevant, but it couldn’t be more vital to your personal freedom.
Your level of self-love determines who you connect with, why, and how much love you can give to others. It’s good that you are honest with yourself and your partner about your inability to emotionally support him. But keep in mind that your inability to support him is a reflection of your inability to support yourself. Our partners are often reflections of our own projections.
So don’t worry about being selfish if you are stuck in a relationship that you want to leave. The truth is that you are selfish: but so are the rest of us. And being selfish is not necessarily a bad thing. The kindest, most loving people spent years dedicating time solely focusing on themselves, figuring out their problems, and cultivating healthier ways of being. This is the value of inner work; that by learning to love ourselves we can learn how to authentically love others, without limits.
If you are stuck in an unhealthy, unhappy relationship, you need to first confirm that the relationship is toxic. I recommend read our toxic relationships article to help you out. Perhaps you will find that the relationship isn’t really that toxic, but your expectations are. If this is the case, you might like to explore the various mental traps you may have fallen into along the way, as well as how to understand and support your partner in their pain. However, if your relationship is toxic, you need to focus your efforts on finding a way to leave and move on. Likely, what got you into the relationship in the first place was your lack of self-awareness and foresight.
Although you might be disappointed in yourself and your partner right now, remember that life is a journey of change and maturation. It is very normal for you to be at the stage you are right now, and it is very normal for you to feel unhappy and dissatisfied, even though it might not feel that way. Before you blossom you must first be buried in the dirt. Before the sun rises, there must be darkness. So honor this difficult, uncomfortable situation for the lessons that it brings unexpectedly. This experience will trigger immense growth within you if you allow it to.
While you can do your best to be kind and understanding towards your partner for the time being, if you feel that the relationship is toxic, you need to find ways to cut ties. If you are unable to do this at this point in time, I recommend setting out a plan of action. For example:
- What people or places do you need to visit to ensure a quick, clean cut from your relationship? (For example, you might need to visit a counselor, child services, a legal practitioner, a hotline, etc.)
- What expenses can you cut down on to save enough money to leave? (For example, how can you be more frugal with your money? Can anyone borrow you money such as a family member, friend, or organization?)
- Begin slowly and subtly organizing your possessions after you have a found a way to leave. It is preferable to have your belongings organized in such a way that will allow you to leave quickly, without messiness, stress, and drama.
If you experience domestic violence, or other forms of abuse there are many good resources out there which I recommend reading immediately (for some, it can be very difficult to admit that violence is a reality in their lives, so please consider whether it could be a possibility for you).
How Can I Prevent Myself Getting into a Bad Relationship Again?
Love, or at least infatuation, blinds us. If you would like to make wise decisions about your future relationships, here are a few tips:
- Discover who you are, what you value, and what you deeply desire from life. Focus on developing self-awareness, self-discovery, and self-understanding. These are the three beginning paths that form the foundation for inner work.
- Learn how to take care of yourself, respect yourself, forgive yourself and value yourself. This is also known as developing self-love. Here is a good place to start. Without learning how to love yourself you will frequently make poor decisions.
- Learn how to balance your masculine and feminine energies (anima and animus). Let your reason guide your passion. As a rule, never move in with someone you haven’t been dating for 6 months, and never move in with someone who you don’t know the “dark side” of.
- If something doesn’t feel right, make a conscious effort to look into it and to discuss the issue together at the beginning. Issues left unresolved often inflate into massive problems in the future.
Leave a comment below …
What experiences have you had with toxic relationships? Have you ever felt stuck or unequipped to truly give and receive love? What did you do to resolve that problem?