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Selfish Love or Selfless Love?  

Which is better?  Easy question to answer, right?  Obviously the answer is selfless love.  That certainly seems to be the way many people feel about it and the way they try to act out their love.  I’m not so sure.  Take a moment and let me try to convince you love needs to be a little selfish to work.

I’m speaking here about the love involved in adult human intimacy; the love that connects two people who have chosen to make a life together.  If you talk about the love a parent has for a child, perhaps there is a better argument for the need for selflessness.

A few days ago I was working with a couple who didn’t feel appreciated by each other and who were both in quite a bit of pain.  The question of whether they loved each other came up and with it, that sticky question about what love really is. 

One of them looked and me and shared, through their tears, they had done everything they could to make their partner happy and had ignored their own needs and unhappiness.  They said this was part of love.  I pointed out it had contributed to a situation where neither of them felt appreciated or loved.

This is a pattern I see quite frequently.  Someone in a relationship focuses exclusively on the needs of their partner and really believes this is the way to create happiness between them.  Often they end up feeling resentful because their needs go unmet and they feel like they do nothing but give.   

A key element in successful, mature love is its mutuality.  There is a give and take.  The truth is it feels good both to meet the needs of someone else and to have our own needs met by someone else.  Both must happen in a relationship for the full potential connection, and love, to develop. 

It follows that each of us in a loving relationship has the responsibility to communicate our needs to our partner.  We owe them this so they can have the opportunity to give and we owe it to ourselves so we have the opportunity to receive. 

If asserting our needs is selfish, then we need to be selfish to have a successful relationship. 

Let me know what you think.