Tips for Dealing with a Selfish Partner

In a perfect world, relationships would be equal. Both parties would give and take alike. However, our world is very imperfect, and many relationship partners are far better at taking than at giving. Such a person – and we all know one – does all the talking and attention-getting while you are forced to serve as a gracious audience. In extreme cases, selfish people are utterly lacking in empathy and will even lie to get the attention they want. They can be very manipulative in their need for control.

Such a one-sided, selfish partnership can become toxic if allowed to continue too long, especially if it involves a romantic partner. 

What Causes Selfishness

Most mental health professionals agree that selfish people were not raised in an environment where their thoughts or feelings mattered. As a consequence, they felt invisible. In adulthood, they have difficulty valuing the feelings of others and are almost entirely focused on their own needs. It’s as if they were physically unable to muster up any interest in anyone else. The proper term for this is “low emotional intelligence.” By way of contrast, compassionate people are raised to feel they are valued, and they, in return, value the feelings of others. 

Not all selfish people have enough self-understanding to realize their mindset. They lack the social clues and adeptness to understand that their behavior is rude, annoying, and one-sided. That usually means that they won’t respond well to having their behavior brought to their attention as they are mostly unable to see or admit to their own flaws. Selfish people can be cheap with their attention, time, and money. You may have them for dinner on a regular basis, but they won’t ever reciprocate.

What Can We Do About a Selfish Person in Our Lives

We can rarely change someone else. We are able, however, to control our own behavior by setting boundaries regarding what behavior we will accept and what we won’t accept. 

The first step is to ask ourselves why are with someone and want our needs met by someone who is showing no signs of doing so. Why are we with a selfish narcissist in the first place?

When these people involve family members, they may not be easy to remove from our lives. However, we can limit the time we spend with them.

How to Deal with a Selfish Partner

  1. Instead of getting angry and arguing, accept that narcissists simply do not have regard for other people. They won’t change, and they will not develop some miraculous caring for others. Simple acceptance can make it easier to deal with them when necessary.
  2. If the selfish person is important to you, you can try talking to them. At least give them a chance to change their behavior. However, selfish partners usually don’t take criticism well and can be experts at turning it around, “Why do you always have to nag me?”
  3. If necessary, remind the selfish person that they are not the center of the universe. A little reminder may not help, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. Deny them the attention they want by being non-committal in your responses. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can avoid giving them any more attention than you have to. When they are no longer the center of your world, they may just leave and find someone else. 
  4. If the selfish person keeps talking about subjects that are of interest to him or her, bring up something that interests you. It helps if the topic is something they have no interest in. Turning the tables on narcissists sometimes works.
  5. Selfish people expect you to be there for them. Set boundaries and stop doing them favors.
  6. Find friends that are better suited to your needs and who genuinely care about your feelings. Spending more time with kinder people will automatically limit the time you spend with someone who is selfish. Even consider ending the relationship altogether. 


It seems selfishness comes naturally to many people. The closer you are to them, the harder they become to deal with as the relationship turns more and more one-sided. If you are fortunate, they may be willing to change their behavior. If not, perhaps the best solution is to control your own behavior and create as much distance as possible between them and you.

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