How selfish is too selfish?
March 19, 2010 8:16 AM   Subscribe

How much selfishness is normal in a relationship?

My boyfriend and I are young and college aged. We've been together over a year and we're both selfish, at least about little things.
Like for instance, I could buy myself x nice thing then I decide my boyfriend might appreciate a spontaneous present, and I just cannot get him anything as nice as what I got. Even then I do this because I think it might make him happy, not because I really want to.

He never to very rarely gives me spontaneous presents.

He's sometimes selfish in other ways too, like if we're playing a video game together and he finds like a nice sword or something then he keeps it. This is really petty but it's an example.

He also has said if gets into to grad school, etc, in a different state or something then he's definitely going and that would be the end of this relationship, at least according to him right now. I think if he was actually in that situation he wouldn't have such an easy time going or breaking up with me, but maybe I should just believe what he says about himself. I guess I would however also end the relationship and move away if given a great opportunity though.

My boyfriend and I aren't really super gift giving people. He doesn't give presents to many people and I tend to only give them on holidays and birthdays.

However in the ideal relationship in my head, the partner should come first. Like in an ideal relationship I should want to buy him something even nicer than what I bought myself, he should offer me the cool in game weapons, and neither of us should necessarily say we would move away given a good chance and break up.

I know I've said a lot of not so good things about my boyfriend but this isn't really an issue in our relationship. I just want to know if this level of selfishness is normal, and if it's not if we're like this because a. we're both still immature and will grow out of it by the time we marry each other or b. we're just not right for each other and if we both found someone we were more into then we would not be selfish at all.

It's possible my ideal relationship is not possible but I feel like that's a big thing people stress when talking about if a relationship is good and lasting or not. If each partner is completely selfless then the relationship works but if both are selfish then it's gonna break up.

I'm also selfish about other aspects of my life. Like when my friends talk about if they would take a bullet for each other I feel like I would not take a bullet for anyone because I want to be alive. (I think in this situation however I would feel really guilty after for not taking the bullet). I don't want to take a bullet for my boyfriend either, and he's the person I'm supposed to love the most in the world, my best friend!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You're in college. It's normal to be selfish.
posted by scarykarrey at 8:23 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


How selfish is too selfish? There's no single answer. It's as much as you are willing to tolerate of your boyfriend. That's all. If you feel like he is too selfish to ever meet your needs in the relationship, then end it. If you feel you can work through what you can and can't tolerate to make it work, then work through it.

Keep in mind, this doesn't include what your boyfriend's perspective is about you.

Talk to him about it.
posted by seppyk at 8:23 AM on March 19, 2010


However in the ideal relationship in my head, the partner should come first. Like in an ideal relationship I should want to buy him something even nicer than what I bought myself, he should offer me the cool in game weapons, and neither of us should necessarily say we would move away given a good chance and break up.

I think your problem isn't your relationship, its your ideal relationship in your head. Since it does not exist in real life, why are you thinking about it? You need to ask that question. Sometimes these "ideals" are really just escape mechanisms where we don't have to deal with the real things that people face.

No, I will not give the cool sword I found to you.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:25 AM on March 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sounds like a little bit of a) [and sweet jebus, never plan to marry *anyone* hoping to outgrow your doubts] and a lot of b) with the addition of c) framing an ideal relationship solely in terms of your own expectations.

FWIW, I wouldn't take a bullet for a friend, either. But I'd take one for my kid. Priorities, ya know. It's OK to draw some lines somewhere.
posted by jamaro at 8:26 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


However in the ideal relationship in my head, the partner should come first. Like in an ideal relationship I should want to buy him something even nicer than what I bought myself...

It's not automatic. There's no relationship ghost that will transform you into a generous loving soul.

You must DECIDE to sacrifice little and large things, explicitly "because (you) think it might make him happy." Fake it until you make it a habit.

-
posted by General Tonic at 8:27 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


He also has said if gets into to grad school, etc, in a different state or something then he's definitely going and that would be the end of this relationship, at least according to him right now.

This may not be selfishness. This may be what he perceives as emotional generosity, knowing that keeping an LDR going will be very difficult and stressful for both of you. From experience, I'm inclined toward this latter interpretation.

Like when my friends talk about if they would take a bullet for each other

Your friends are bullshitting. They are current and future average people who have an extremely low chance of ever being at the business end of a gun. Do not use this as a barometer of anything other than your tolerance for BS.



Your relationship sounds fine. You may need to beat your BF at video games more often to keep his ego in check.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:28 AM on March 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Even then I do this because I think it might make him happy, not because I really want to.

Uhh, isn't that why most people give gifts? Am I doing it wrong?

You're keeping score where you shouldn't be. If you buy yourself something, you shouldn't feel guilty about not getting the BF something. If you buy the BF something, you shouldn't feel angry if he doesn't reciprocate right away. If he cooks you dinner one night, you don't owe him dinner one night in return.

If spontaneous presents are important to you, and he's not a spontaneous presents sort of guy, then you may have a problem. My point is thta you can't keep tallying whether every give and take in this relationship is "fair" - it will kill you two.
posted by Think_Long at 8:33 AM on March 19, 2010


The trouble is that you're simplifying selfishness. I have a feeling the situation you're describing isn't that selfish at all – there just isn't very much investment in it.

Why do human beings form close, intimate partnerships with other human beings? Because there are some things we can't get without involving ourselves deeply in the lives of others, things that mean a good deal to us. That involvement may seem, in the simplified moment, to be a series of sacrifices; but it's really not. It's a selfish process. It's not that the "partner comes first" in an ideal relationship. It's like this: in an ideal relationship, you offer the other partner the best of what comes to you knowing you'll get just as much good back in return. It's an ongoing process of give and take, and you both get more good things by buying each other's favorable treatment in this way.

That's partially because two human beings are more capable of getting good stuff than one human being, but it's also because – as corny as this may sound – the intimacy itself is in some ways its own reward. The point is the trust that's built when you both share the good things with open hands, each knowing that your partner isn't about to run off with all that goodness and leave you hanging.

You're worried that you two don't necessarily have that, and you think it might be age. It is that, yes; but it's also a stage in a relationship, an early stage that every partnership has to go through. Every time two people partner up, they have to go through the process of setting up a system of give and take so that they can learn to share with each other. Now, people aren't just born 'right for each other,' and, like I say, this is just a stage in the process; maybe the fact that you're noticing this, and that it worries you a bit, is a sign that you'd like to take the relationship to another level of closeness of trust. I think you should talk to him about it.

It does seem odd that he's apparently put up a block to further growth by giving an ultimatum that says he'll end it if he gets a good grad school offer elsewhere. Maybe you should begin talking to him about it by wondering out loud if he really feels that way, and if he'd be willing to try to make a few sacrifices to continue the relationship. If this is going to be a big sticking point for him, you might not get the growth you seem to want from this relationship. But I wonder if he realizes what that statement of his entails.
posted by koeselitz at 8:35 AM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Both my boyfriend and I don't do "gifts". We have no gifts at Christmas and no gifts at birthdays. Neither of us can be bothered to buy them and neither of us really want to receive them.

What a pair of heartless bastards we are!

However, when he thinks of me during the day he sends me random text messages with "x" in them. When I pass the sweet shop I buy him a 33p packet of gum drops. When I said a bedside cupboard would be handy, he built me one. When his computer needs fixing I fix it. When he goes to raid the fridge he asks if I want anything.

To me, this feels more loving than a relationship with less attention and more gifts.

So the question is: What makes your BF feel loved? Swords? Hugs? Grilled cheese sandwiches? Hearing "I love you" for no reason? Great, then that is what you should be getting him, and never mind all that other stuff. (Yes, and the other way round too).
posted by emilyw at 8:39 AM on March 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


this isn't really an issue in our relationship

Are you both happy with each other's level of selfishness? If so, then it doesn't matter. Don't gauge the health of your relationship on what people outside of the relationship value.
posted by theraflu at 8:46 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


All the other things are silly and collegeboyish, except for the thing where he says he would drop you if he gets into grad school far away. If you have ideas of being together indefinitely, and he sees grad school as > your relationship, then maybe you guys should break up before it gets harder. If you also plan on dumping him if you get an opportunity far away post-college, then you guys can keep hanging out or whatever.
posted by ishotjr at 8:48 AM on March 19, 2010


This doesn't sound selfish to me at all, particularly for a college relationship.

1. You say you're both not big gift-giving people, but you want him to get you nicer gifts than you get him, and you want him to get them for you spontaneously. Have you ever told him this? Not in a whining way, but in a hey, this is important to me (maybe it's your love language?) It's not wrong to want to be given nice, spontaneous gifts, but if that's not the type of person he is, you need to accept that. That, for me, certainly wouldn't be a deal-breaker in a relationship. (Full disclosure: my fiance and I exchange birthday gifts, usually experiences we can share together, but we don't give each other Christmas gifts. I would never expect a nice, spontaneous gift from him, and I'm unlikely to buy one for him.)

2. WHY should he give you the nice sword while you're gaming? Really, why? Are you not as good of a player and you feel like he should be helping you more? Are you at equal levels and feel like he should be giving you advantages? Why is this? Frankly, to me, this sounds like special-princess talk, which indicates that he's definitely not the one being selfish here. (Full disclosure: we game, too. When I started and was really bad, he gave me the nice weapons. I'm not so bad anymore, so of course the weapons he finds are his to keep. Why should I benefit from his luck?)

3. Breaking up upon getting a great offer to move somewhere. Well, this is one of the banes of having a college relationship when you're both likely to move on (physically, emotionally) at some point in the future. I agree with what someone said upthread, that ending the relationship rather than keeping it up long distance is a kindness, and also very realistic. That doesn't mean it won't make you sad. But maybe this is part of a larger conversation, like where do you see this relationship heading? If it's a good thing while the going is good, but neither of you see it lasting past your move and you know you're definitely going to be moving, that's something to keep in mind. If neither of you are ready to commit to following the other, that's ok too--it might come with time or it might not. It's a weird time of life to be in a relationship where you want permanence but neither party is at a point in life where they can promise that.

4. Taking bullets for a friend--this is a ridiculous conversation to have. It's not likely to ever happen, and you'd be surprised at how few people stand by their words if it did happen. Ignore this entirely.

To sum up, he doesn't sound unreasonably selfish at all to me. You sound like you should focus more on the relationship that you're actually in, rather than the ideal one in your mind. Start noticing the little not-selfish things he does--giving you his coat if you're cold, knowing what you like to drink, making your dinner if you had a bad day. Those little things tell you much more about someone than whether they'll give you the +12 damage flaming dragon sword.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:48 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


You may want to think a little more on your ideal relationship here. I don't know of any relationship that is full of someone holding open a door and saying "Sweetie, why don't you go first?" "No dear, I insist, you first." "Oh, heavens, I couldn't, you go first." "Oh honey, I couldn't..."

Nobody would walk through the damn door.

If you're both happy in the relationship, then it's a good relationship. If someone's not happy, then it's not a good relationship.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:48 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


However in the ideal relationship in my head, the partner should come first. Like in an ideal relationship I should want to buy him something even nicer than what I bought myself

As a practical way of living, this doesn't usually work in my experience. If you are in a relationship with someone who is equally altruistic, then you end up in Gift of the Magi situations where you both make sacrifices for each other but neither of you get what you really want. In the much more likely situation, the one of you that is more altruistic will end up feeling used because the relationship is one-sided. There's no reason to treat a relationship like a becoming a martyr for the other person's needs, it makes more sense for you to be open about your needs and for him to be open about his needs and try to each other half way.

He's sometimes selfish in other ways too, like if we're playing a video game together and he finds like a nice sword or something then he keeps it. This is really petty but it's an example.

Ha, I never really thought of this. Personally, I would only go out of my way to do something like that in a video game if they were significantly worse at the game than me. Otherwise, even if it's a cooperative game, I consider it to be somewhat of a competition, even if I'm just competing against myself to do better than I usually do. That doesn't mean that I'll do anything to win or anything like that, but it's fun to have a sense of friendly competition when playing games.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:51 AM on March 19, 2010


Gary Chapman is a Christian relationship counselor who came up with an interesting concept called the "Five Love Languages." peanut_mcgillicuty alluded to it earlier in the thread. It's not actually a very religious idea, and I think it can be helpful for any relationship.

The basic idea is that people communicate love in different ways, of which Chapman names five: acts of service, physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts, and words of affirmation. Of those five, most people have a primary way they like to express love to their partners. They also respond well to the same thing in return. Chapman suggests identifying your love language, and that of your partner, so you will be able to understand each other better and express your love more effectively. If you're interested you can take an online assessment (for males or females, which I believe are identical except for swapping words like "he" and "she"). The assessments are written for spouses, so substitute "boyfriend/girlfriend" for "husband/wife" where appropriate. The principles are the same, regardless.

Anyway, I brought this up because you seem particularly interested in the gift-giving dynamic, which is an important language of the five, but not the only one. Perhaps you and your boyfriend are miscommunicating because one or both of you have some assumptions about how to show you love each other. Some recalibration might be in order.

I also feel I should mention your statement that "even then I [buy the gift] because I think it might make him happy, not because I really want to." That strikes me as odd; isn't making your boyfriend happy something you want to do? Seeking to make your partner happy is a huge part of a healthy relationship and shouldn't be viewed as a burden. Of course, there are other ways to do that besides buying him gifts (see above).
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:00 AM on March 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


The word "selfish" isn't very useful. Everyone is selfish, so you can describe almost any behavior as selfish if you want. Try removing this word from the discussion and talking in terms of what the two of you want and whether you can achieve that or come close.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:05 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I loved giving people gifts long before I met my boyfriend. I just get such a kick out of imaging how excited they'll be when they get it and how much they'll use it. The fact that I enjoy getting my boy (and my parents, and my friends) presents doesn't make you selfish and me not. It just means I'm a gift-giving sort of person. Gifts are but one of the many, many ways we can express selflessness.

I do think in a really compatible relationship there are lots of circumstances in which people need to put their partner's first, from arguing (put hearing your partner out and taking their point of view ahead of being right) to getting up in the morning (I am a lazy bum so the boy, who is only slightly less lazy, selflessly gets out of bed to turn the alarm clock off and then kisses me awake). I'm not saying that if your partner makes you turn the alarm clock off yourself you're doomed - just that there are lots of little moments that are ripe for conflict which a tiny dose of selflessness will solve. If there's no give and take in a relationship, it's probably more likely to buckle under pressure.

So don't focus on presents, swords, or even grad school as an example (although the grad school thing may be a dealbreaker for other reasons). Look for the other ways in your life where selflessness comes more naturally to you, and lavish him with it. And you can always ask him to do the same with you.
posted by shaun uh at 9:08 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think there is much wrong with your ideal relationship. It sounds to me like you just want more of an equal partnership than a competition. That's actually a requirement in a relationship for me. In my eyes, my partner's needs are just as important as my own. If my partner would benefit more from an in-game upgrade then sure, I'd probably give it to her. But if you guys are not really gift giving people, then I wouldn't stress about not giving/receiving gifts.

I think the only issue here is that you are both young, and are not as invested in the relationship as you all are in your own future. There's nothing wrong with that. It just means you need some more time to live life before you engage in a long-term relationship.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 9:18 AM on March 19, 2010


However in the ideal relationship in my head, the partner should come first. Like in an ideal relationship I should want to buy him something even nicer than what I bought myself.

I think this is more of a grand idea than how things actually work. Would you expect him to go get himself a shirt and pants, then pick you up a pair of shoes more expensive than what he got for himself? If so, you might want to re-think that. If not, then realize that he's not expecting this from you either.

I just watched last night's episode of The Office which kind of illustrates this point. So....WARNING - THE OFFICE SPOILER ALERT

Ahem. Ok, so in this episode the support staff is angry at the sales staff for behaving like spoiled brats because they are now getting hefty sales bonuses. The sales staff gets together and decides that they will, as a goodwill gesture, give the support staff 2% of their bonuses. They set out a nice spread of cookies and treats in the conference room and call everyone in. As they start their little speech about wanting to show their appreciation, the un-bonused staff starts to chow down on the treats and say, "Hey thanks guys, this was really nice of you." No mention of the 2% needed. The moral of the story is that people are usually happy to know they are being thought of, not how expensive the token of your affection is.

Come to think of it, I can go on a shopping spree for myself, and my husband will be quite happy if I say "And look, I got you gummi bears!"
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:18 AM on March 19, 2010


And to clarify - there are definitely times when your partner should come first. This gift-giving situation is just not necessarily one of them.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:20 AM on March 19, 2010


If each partner is completely selfless then the relationship works but if both are selfish then it's gonna break up.

No, no, no. The only way a relationship with two "completely selfless" people would stand even a slight chance is if they were both, I don't know, ascetic telepaths.
posted by griphus at 9:24 AM on March 19, 2010


Neither one of you is really invested in this relationship as a long-term commitment yet, and that's okay. You might be in the future. Right now, you're both enjoying the companionship, and that's fine. Why do you feel the need to keep score with the gift-giving thing? Reminds me of a high-school friend who would make up ridiculously manipulative "tests" to "prove" her boyfriend's love. You don't really want to play those kind of games.

I buy my husband and my kids gifts because I want to, and lots of times they are nicer than anything I would buy for myself, just because I know it would make them happy. But if I expected my kids to do the same for me, I'd be one sad puppy a lot of the time. Again, keeping score is silly. They love me, I love them. Simple.

Oh, and the sword thing--it's a GAME. Whoever finds the sword gets to keep the sword. That's part of the fun. There's some competition there, to get to the treasure first. Giving away the sword? That's crazy talk. Now, if one of you is a much better player, you can handicap that player to level the playing field, but that's a whole different ballpark.
posted by misha at 9:52 AM on March 19, 2010


There really isn't a level of "too selfish" because it depends on the people. Some people need kinda what your idea described, someone whose primary concern is the other, who spends most of their energy directly on the interpersonal aspects of the relationship; on the other hand, some people don't require that much care and would rather be with someone similarly able to take care of themselves, so that they can spend energy working on other things that they want in their lives and relationship. You're young, and operating off of an idealized vision that rarely matches reality -- part of relationships is figuring out what you really want from each other, and seeing if there's a match. If you're finding that you really want that level of selflessness, fine... but if you don't really want that despite thinking you should, give yourself a break. It's perfectly fine not to.

There's some yellow flags here, so proceed with caution instead of jumping into action on them: he might be floating the grad school comment just to see how attached you really are to him; he could also be testing the level of we vs. me that you asked about; the gaming thing might be a selfish thing, but it could also be respecting you as an equal who doesn't need to be cut breaks.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to know how "there" for you someone is until you get into a situation that really tests it. It doesn't sound like you've had one of those moments yet, so maybe you just don't know.
posted by Pufferish at 9:53 AM on March 19, 2010


Selfishness equity is important, but whether you are selfish or not and whether it is a problem or not are individually not as important. As an example: I need a lot of "me time," so I can be stingy with my time. I'm in a short-range long distance relationship. My partner is a parent. Each of us winds up having a little less time than we might like to spend on the relationship, but for different reasons. However, since we're both like this and both very understanding of the other's issues, it works out just fine. We have "check in" time that we both make for each other pretty much daily to catch up, be schmoopy together, whatever. This is, to both of us, something that takes work, but it's a compromise we both make because being in the relationship is important, even if it's not always convenient. I think both of us see this as a step outside of our normal tendencies to be a little more self- or family-involved.

There are some times when one of us makes a decision that gets in the way of the relationship [I travel a lot, my partner can do all-day kid activities where he's not available] and on the rare times when I find this irksome [say I had a bad day at work and I'd really like someone to make "there there" noises into the phone and my partner is out playing paintball with his son] I'm quick to remind myself that I give this level of freedom because I also get this level of freedom, something that is quite important to me. And then I get over it. But I do need the reminder. And I think this goes both ways.

My freedom to not go nuts on holidays or presents [which I like] also means that I need to be more understanding about being with someoen who does not go nuts on these sorts of things. Not that you can't be a present-oriented person and be with someone who isn't, but that for selfish people [and I count myself sort of among them, though maybe self-involved is a better way to look at it] it's hard to sometimes not look through every event in your life through the whole "How does this affect ME?" lens and learning to work within a relationship means that there's [at least] one more person to take into account when doing these sorts of calculations. People guess at all sorts of behaviors and try to do the best they can. If your SO is guessing wrong, give him an opportunity to know how you're feeling, if this sort of thing is important to you. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 10:09 AM on March 19, 2010


I don't think there's anything wrong with being selfish if it means 'self-interested' as opposed to 'never willing to share'. I believe that it's every person's responsibility to take care of themselves and make themselves happy. I feel like women in general are brought up to believe that if they're not putting someone else first, they're being selfish. But that is just not true.

The right balance of 'selfishness' is something that I think most people recalibrate constantly in their lives. When you're single, you can be extremely selfish and no one's the worse off for it. When you're in a relationship, you figure out whether your degree of selfishness is standing in the way of a happy relationship, and so you tweak it accordingly. And then if/when you have kids the balancing act goes the other way - trying to keep something left for yourself....

And this whole 'I'd take a bullet for my friends' thing is crap. I have many friends I love dearly but I would not take a bullet for any of them (nor would I want any of them to do that for me!). For my kids, yes, in a heartbeat without hesitation, but that's a completely different thing.
posted by widdershins at 10:38 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I forget birthdays, and I rarely buy gifts. However, when I do, it's always because I saw something I knew the person would like, or thought of something to do for them that they'd like, and (because I care about them) found it very easy to pay for/do.

Some of my girlfriends hated this, but as often as not they were girlfriends who didn't buy things for me, either, or who bought me lots of gifts that showed they clearly didn't know the kinds of things I liked.

My wife? She doesn't complain when I don't buy gifts for birthdays and such, and she doesn't buy them for me, and on that rare occasion (really, I could count them on two hands and we've been together 12 years) I find something/do something I know she'll like, she mentions it for years to come, and sometimes she cries because it's "perfect", or "exactly the kind of thing I love."

The amount of selfishness -- or what you perceive as selfishness -- that your relationship can tolerate is based entirely and exclusively on what you both are willing to tolerate, and ideally you're in sync on such things. So if this is bugging you, it's bad, and if it's not, it's good.
posted by davejay at 10:55 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


People tend to be selfish about some things, not so much about others. It's really individual to the thing.

The compatibility is how much their particular selfish habits drive you nuts. Does he even care that you don't give him nicer gifts than you, or whatever? If he doesn't, whatever. Be happy that he doesn't notice or doesn't mind, and move on.

I am rather selfish about giving gifts. My gifts are usually either nonexistent, or something I obviously got because I like it and want to play with it myself. Instead of trying to counter that particular weakness of mine or beat myself up about it, I build on my strengths so that he feels loved and cared for in other ways. I make all his doctor's appointments, I visit his in-laws with him 3-4 times a year, when I'm getting Netflix I always get a movie he'll really like (like the cartoon Transformers movie).

I'm sure you two are nice to each other in a lot of ways, no need to beat yourselves up over little things.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:56 AM on March 19, 2010


If you're interested you can take an online assessment (for males or females, which I believe are identical except for swapping words like "he" and "she").

Interesting is that they also seem to assume a gendered division of labour "I like it when my wife helps me with yard work" vs. "I like it when my husband helps me clean the kitchen." Meh.

As to the OP, I don't see how your bf giving you better gifts than you give yourself would even work. The person who knows best what you like is you. The person who knows best what he likes is him. The person who is going to come closest to buying you the perfect thing is you. If someone's going to buy him the perfect thing, it's him. Gifts within a relationship aren't about their utility or their quality, they're about showing someone you thought of them. If you each get each other something small that the other will like then you'll both have money left over to get yourselves the perfect thing and you'll both feel loved by the other.

Nobody takes bullets form anybody and because it will make them happy is exactly the purpose of gifts.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:09 AM on March 19, 2010


He also has said if gets into to grad school, etc, in a different state or something then he's definitely going and that would be the end of this relationship, at least according to him right now. I think if he was actually in that situation he wouldn't have such an easy time going or breaking up with me, but maybe I should just believe what he says about himself. I guess I would however also end the relationship and move away if given a great opportunity though.

Really that seems like the definition of a relationship that is not currently that serious. In which case not being exceptionally generous doesn't say so much about how intrinsically selfish you are. When you're really serious about someone you don't cold-heartedly discuss the conditions under which you're going to end it with them.

People also grow up, grow deeper in love, etc. so sure, your relationship may have a future. What you describe does not sound particularly generous or loving but of course you've only really described one side of it. Are the qualities you're describing as ideal (strong natural generous feelings toward your partner, inclining to give small, thoughtful considerations to your partner, assuming the continuance rather than the end of your relationship) reasonable, normal? Yes, they seem pretty minimal to me. If they aren't developing over time your relationship probably doesn't have a future.
posted by nanojath at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2010


The ideals you're talking about come with maturity, which comes with time. As in, years and years spent together, in which you genuinely begin to lose track of who got what, and are glad to give and give.

Don't rush it, and don't beat yourself up, and for certain don't give anything you aren't genuinely willing to part with.
posted by hermitosis at 12:23 PM on March 19, 2010


However in the ideal relationship in my head, the partner should come first.

Bleah. No.

An ideal relationship is one where both people have plenty of life for themselves and choose to share part of it with each other.

You are responsible for yourself and your own wellbeing. Taking care of that obligation is not selfishness.

As for the more superficial things, those are negotiable. Talk to your partner about what you'd like.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:26 PM on March 19, 2010


He's sometimes selfish in other ways too, like if we're playing a video game together and he finds like a nice sword or something then he keeps it. This is really petty but it's an example.

I like the sound of this relationship, actually.

I wouldn't worry too much.

Imagine if everyone had to wonder if the nice gear you had was just given to you by your boyfriend? so embarassing... better getting your own loot.
posted by ServSci at 1:50 PM on March 19, 2010


However in the ideal relationship in my head, the partner should come first.

Do you mean that in your ideal relationship you would put your partner first, or that in your ideal relationship your partner would put you first?

Even then I do this because I think it might make him happy, not because I really want to.

Then it's time to find someone who you really want to make happy. And it'll be an ideal relationship when he really wants to make you happy, too.
posted by motsque at 7:49 AM on March 20, 2010


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