There’s something that happens to a relationship when you slow down long enough to recognize that the person you’ve given to selflessly for the duration of your relationship couldn’t be bothered to do the same when they had the opportunity reciprocate.
These harsh realizations always seem to come after the fact — usually during moments of reflection and after the imbalanced relationship has been allowed to continue for years — as people generally don’t expect immediate reciprocity from loved ones. While the reaction is often delayed, it doesn’t make the impact of being in a relationship with selfish and self-centered people any less hurtful. When that revelation comes, one natural reaction can be to cut off the person, as it’s easy to assume they are fully aware of their actions; however, this may not be the case.
“Emotional intelligence exists on a spectrum, and some individuals are higher in emotional intelligence than others,” Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, told O Magazine. “One symptom of low emotional intelligence is the tendency to be self-absorbed, or exclusively concerned about what you’re thinking, feeling, needing, and wanting, instead of the thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires of others.”
In these instances, Dr. Bobby recommends having some level of empathy or understanding for the self-centered party.
“One thing that I’ve found to be helpful is to conceptualize the way that people are functioning in the context of their life experiences. People who are ‘selfish‘ tend to have been raised in environments in which their feelings, thoughts, and needs weren’t recognized or valued,” she said. “In contrast, from earliest childhood, highly empathetic people have had their feelings and thoughts reflected back to them, and at least respected. In this way, thoughtful and compassionate people are not born, they’re made. Likewise, people who have arrived in adulthood without the easy ability to understand or value the emotions of others tend to be products of their environment.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that givers or considerate people should simply tolerate the behavior of their selfish loved ones, so here are some other ways of dealing.
Take a break
For those who generally like to avoid confrontation or feel that a conversation would have little effects on the selfish party, withdrawing, at least for a short period of time, might be the ideal approach.
When you realize that you’re extending yourself to a person who doesn’t even attempt to meet you halfway, it may be time to reassess how freely you give. Keeping score is unhealthy, but strong relationships have a reasonable balance between giving and taking.
Sometimes the best approach is to have a calm conversation with the inconsiderate party and let them know how you’re feeling. While they may not initially be receptive and go into defense mode, it can be beneficial for the relationship in the long term.