How to Respond to a Selfish Partner (31 Ways)

I’m guessing you’re reading this because you’re tired of your partner being selfish. Love can feel a bit off sometimes, like you’re doing all the giving and not getting much back. It’s more than choosing what to eat or watch. You want to feel like you matter, too.

Selfishness in a relationship can be hard to deal with. No worries, I’m here to help.

In this article, I’ll teach you how to say what you need and keep feeling good about yourself. By the time you’re done reading, you might wonder if you should stay and work on it, or if it’s time to think about what’s best for you.

Spot When Your Partner Is Being Selfish

Seeing your partner act selfishly can be challenging. It’s like when they always decide what to watch or eat without asking you. Or when they talk all about their day but never seem to ask about yours.

If you’re always the one giving and they’re always taking, that’s a sign. It’s not about fighting over it, but noticing the pattern is the first step.

Example: Say your partner always decides what you both do for fun without asking you. This could be a clue that they’re thinking only about what they want.

Reflect on Your Own Contributions

It’s easy to point fingers, but let’s hit pause and think about your own actions, too. Are you also just taking or are you giving back?

Maybe there are things you do that make your partner feel the need to act selfishly, or perhaps there are things you could do differently to encourage more teamwork. It’s not about blaming yourself but about understanding the dynamic from all angles.

Example: Think about the last time you did something nice for your partner. It’s a way to make sure you’re not just talking the talk but walking the walk, too.

Determine if Selfishness Is Temporary or Chronic

Sometimes people go through selfish phases because of stress or other issues. Everyone can have a bad day (or week) and act out of character. But if it’s all the time, like they’re always putting themselves first, that’s a bigger problem.

It’s important to figure out if this is just a short-term thing or the way they always are. Understanding the pattern helps you approach the problem more effectively.

Talk About Your Feelings Calmly

Talking to your partner about being selfish can be hard, but needs to be done. Pick a good time when you’re both not too stressed. Think about what you want to say and keep it simple.

Say it like it is, like, “I felt left out when you picked a movie without asking me.” It’s not about blaming them but telling them how you feel.

A few things to consider:

  • Talk when you’re feeling calm, not upset.
  • Be clear about how their actions affect you.
  • It’s about explaining how you feel, not blaming.

Use “I” Statements

When you talk about difficult stuff, starting sentences with “I” makes a big difference. It’s like saying, “I feel ignored,” instead of “You’re ignoring me.”

This way, it’s about sharing your feelings without making your partner feel accused. It helps keep the peace and makes sure you’re heard. Using “I” statements can make your partner see things from your side without getting defensive.

Example: You could say, “I feel lonely when you don’t spend time with me.” It’s a softer, yet clear way to express what’s bothering you.

Listen to Your Partner

After you’ve shared your part, make sure you’re ready to listen to theirs. True listening means paying attention, not just waiting for them to finish so you can talk. Take in what they’re saying and consider their body language, too, as it can say a lot.

Example: If they explain why they’ve been acting a certain way, listen to the whole thing. Then you can say, “I see where you’re coming from.”

Be Honest About Your Needs

Being honest about your needs means being brave and saying what you really want. It’s about not hiding the fact that you were hoping for more help, love, or attention.

Think of it like ordering a pizza—you wouldn’t keep quiet if you got the wrong toppings, right? It shows you respect yourself and your relationship to speak up.

Example: You might say, “I really need more help with the kids. It’s been difficult handling it alone.” It’s simple and straight to the heart of what you need.

Set Boundaries and Expectations

Setting boundaries is like drawing a line in the sand where you stand firm on what’s okay and what’s not. It says, “This is where I need things to change.” Expectations are like a wish list of how you’d like things to be.

Together, they make sure everyone knows what’s acceptable in your relationship. This is key to not feeling like you’re getting the short end of the stick.

This could mean:

  • Telling your partner you need a day a week just for you.
  • Asking them to help out more around the house.
  • Letting them know you expect to be included in decisions.

Understand Your Partner’s Perspective

Getting where your partner is coming from can change the game. It’s about trying to see things from their side of the field. Maybe they’re acting out because they’re stressed or have a lot on their plate.

Understanding doesn’t mean you let selfish behavior slide, but it can help you find a better way to talk about it. It’s like trying to read a book in their language—it might be hard, but it shows you care enough to try.

This could mean:

  • Asking why they chose the movie without checking with you first.
  • Wondering if something at work is bugging them when they hog the conversation.
  • Thinking about what’s going on with them before you react.

Encourage Empathy

Getting your partner to see things from your angle can turn things around. Imagine if they start thinking about how things feel for you. That’s empathy—feeling with someone else’s heart.

If they get that your hurt is their hurt too, bingo! That’s what you want. This doesn’t happen overnight, but little by little, with patience, they can start to get it.

Example: Say, “If I always chose without asking you, how would that feel?” It’s about making it click for them.

Evaluate Give-and-Take Balance

Looking at give-and-take is making sure both of you are pulling your weight. If you’re always the giver and they’re the taker, it’s lopsided. It should feel fair like you both win some and give some.

If the scale is tipping too much on one side, it’s time for a chat. Think of it as making sure both sides of a boat are balanced so you don’t tip over.

Example: You might say, “I feel I’m always the one planning our dates.” It points out the imbalance without making a fuss.

Prioritize Self-Care

Taking care of yourself is super important, just like securing your oxygen mask first on a plane. When you’re feeling good and strong, it’s easier to deal with a partner who might be being selfish.

Without that, everything feels heavier and tougher to handle. Remember to do things that make you happy and keep you healthy—mentally and physically. It’s not selfish; it’s essential.

Example: Decide to spend an afternoon a week on your favorite hobby. This can recharge your batteries and boost your mood, making everything a bit easier.

Avoid Enabling Selfish Behavior

Sometimes without meaning to, we make it easy for our partners to keep being selfish. It’s like every time you sigh and do the dishes yourself because they won’t, you’re telling them it’s fine not to help.

Letting things slide over and over might keep the peace for now, but it can let the selfish acts grow bigger. It’s important to speak up about what’s bothering you. After all, if you don’t tell them, how will they know?

Compromise, But Not at Your Own Expense

Finding a middle ground is great, but not if you’re the one always giving in. It’s like if you’re always agreeing to watch movies you don’t like just to avoid an argument. Over time, this can leave you feeling unhappy and overlooked.

Compromise should feel like a two-way street, where both of you win something. So, if your partner wants Italian and you’re craving Chinese, why not alternate each week? This way, everyone gets a taste of their favorite now and then. It’s all about balance!

A few things to consider:

  • Make sure compromises are fair and shared.
  • Sometimes, you take a stand, even if it’s not the easiest route.
  • Remember that your needs are important, too.

Establish Consequences for Selfish Actions

If talking and compromise don’t seem to make a dent, sometimes the only way forward is to set up some rules. It’s like when parents give kids a time-out for not sharing.

If you’ve talked about it and nothing’s changed, it might be time for tougher actions. You’re not trying to punish them; just being clear about what happens if they don’t start thinking about both of you.

Example: If they keep forgetting about your date nights, maybe say you’ll make plans with a friend instead. It shows you’re serious and that your time is valuable, too.

Pick the Right Time to Talk

Choosing the perfect moment to chat is like picking a ripe peach – timing is everything. You don’t want to start a serious talk when your partner just walked in from a terrible day at work or just as you’re both rushing out the door.

It’s about finding a calm spot in your day when you won’t be interrupted. Think of it as setting the stage for a good, honest conversation.

Example: Maybe bring up your chat over a quiet coffee on Sunday morning. It’s all about finding that sweet spot when you’re both chill and can talk things out.

Stay Calm During Discussions

Keeping your cool when talking about something that bothers you is tough but important. If you get heated, the discussion can turn into an argument where nothing gets resolved.

Staying calm helps you think clearly and makes it easier for your partner to hear you out. This way, you can keep the talk from turning into a shouting match.

A few things to consider:

  • Take deep breaths if you feel your temper rising.
  • Take a quick break if things get too intense.
  • Keep your voice even and avoid harsh words.

Focus on Solutions

When talking about selfish behavior, don’t just focus on the problem. Instead, figure out how to make things right.

It’s not about blame; it’s about saying, “Okay, here’s what’s up. Now, how can we fix it?” Think of it like looking for the way out of a maze rather than just standing there, wondering how you got lost.

Example: You could say, “I feel we’re not spending enough quality time. What if we set aside one night a week just for us?” It’s about creating a plan together that gets you both on the same page.

Be Patient and Understanding

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Give your partner time to adjust and try new behaviors. Remember, nobody’s perfect, and everyone has their own pace.

Be encouraging and recognize that slip-ups happen. Patience goes a long way in helping things change for the better.

Example: If they forget your anniversary, rather than blow up, remind them calmly. It’s better than expecting things to be fixed all at once.

Model Selfless Behavior

Lead by example. If you show them how it’s done, they’re more likely to follow. It’s like yawning; when one person does it, everyone else does, too.

This doesn’t mean you should let your own needs go unmentioned. Instead, it’s about showing kindness and consideration without keeping score, which can inspire your partner to act similarly.

A few things to consider:

  • Share parts of your day and ask about theirs.
  • Help out with tasks even if it’s not your turn.
  • Put their needs ahead of yours sometimes to show them how it feels.

Acknowledge Positive Changes

When your partner starts to show they care and make an effort, give them a shout-out. It’s like when someone loses weight, and you tell them they look great. It motivates them to keep going.

Recognizing the good stuff can make a world of difference. It’s a thumbs-up for their hard work.

Example: If they remembered to ask about your day, tell them you noticed and that it means a lot. It lets them know they’re on the right track.

Discuss Future Plans

Talking about what you both want down the road sets you up for success. It’s like using a map on a road trip. It keeps you both headed in the same direction.

These chats help make sure you’re both aiming for the same things and have shared goals. Aligning your future plans strengthens your partnership and keeps you both excited for what’s to come.

Example: Bring up where you’d like to be in five years, over coffee or a walk. It’s a great way to bond and make sure you’re in sync.

Consider Couple’s Therapy

Sometimes, getting through to a selfish partner or solving deeper issues needs more than just talks between the two of you.

Couple’s therapy is like bringing in a coach when you’re stuck in a tough game. A therapist can help you both understand each other’s point of view and teach you better ways to communicate and solve problems.

It’s not admitting defeat; it’s about being smart and getting help to make your relationship stronger. Plus, it shows you’re both willing to work on things, which is a great sign.

Determine Your Non-Negotiables

Think about what you absolutely need in a relationship, those deal-breakers that you can’t budge on. It’s like knowing you need oxygen—some things are just essential for survival.

These non-negotiables keep you from losing yourself and what’s important to you. It also helps you realize if a relationship is truly right for you in the long run.

A few things to consider:

  • Decide what you can’t live without, like respect or honesty.
  • Talk about these things clearly with your partner.
  • Be ready to stand firm on these points.

Assess Long-Term Compatibility

Looking at your relationship in the long term is like checking the weather before a hike. You want to know what you’re getting into. 

It’s about both of you ideally wanting the same things in life. If you’ve got different dreams, you might be on different paths. Agreeing on the big stuff now can save a lot of heartache down the line.

This could mean:

  • Talk about where you both see yourselves in the future.
  • Make sure your big life goals match up well.
  • Be honest if your paths seem to be heading in different directions.

Seek Support from Others

Dealing with a selfish partner can feel lonely sometimes. It’s essential to remember you’re not alone, and there are people who can help you. Talking to friends, family, or even a professional can give you a fresh perspective.

Think of them as your personal support team. And sometimes, just talking it out with someone else can shine a light on things you didn’t see.

Example: You could call up your true bestie and say, “I’m dealing with some stuff. Can we talk?” It can make a big difference in how heavy it all feels.

Focus on Personal Growth

While you’re working on relationship issues, don’t forget about “you”. Take time to learn new things and work on personal goals.

It’s like when you’re on an airplane, and they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. Working on yourself can make you stronger, happier, and more able to deal with relationship issues.

Example: Think about goals you’ve put off and start working towards them.

Trust Your Instincts

Your gut feelings are there for a reason. If something doesn’t feel right, pay attention to that. Those instincts are your inner guide, like a little voice telling you when to take a closer look.

Trusting yourself is important in deciding how to deal with a partner who may not always consider your needs.

Example: If you feel like you’re always being brushed off, you probably are. Trust that feeling and think seriously about what to do next.

Remember Your Worth

You deserve to be treated well, just like anyone else. Don’t let your partner’s selfishness make you think any less of yourself.

You’re valuable, and you bring a lot to the table. It’s like knowing you make an awesome chocolate cake—you’re a catch! Reminding yourself of your worth helps you stand up for what you deserve in a relationship.

A few things to consider:

  • Make a list of your strengths and qualities to remind yourself of your value.
  • Talk to friends who make you feel valued when you’re down.
  • Stand up for yourself and your needs.

Reevaluate the Relationship If Necessary

If things aren’t getting better and you’re feeling unhappy more often than not, it’s time to think things over. It’s like checking your car’s engine when it starts to make weird noises.

This doesn’t always mean ending things but adapting and changing what doesn’t work. You need to decide if the good outweighs the bad or if it’s time to move on.

Example: Sit down and think about what you want in a partner and if your current partner fits that.

Be Prepared to Walk Away If Needed

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, things just don’t work out. It’s tough, especially if you’ve invested a lot in it. But sometimes, leaving is necessary for your own well-being.

It’s kind of like realizing a shoe is too tight; no matter how much you love it, it’s not worth the pain. 

Being ready to leave shows that you respect yourself enough not to settle for less than you deserve. It’s not giving up; it’s choosing to prioritize your happiness and health.

Example: If you’ve tried everything and nothing has changed, you might decide it’s time to say, “This isn’t working for me anymore, and I need to move on.”

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if my partner is selfish?

If they mostly think about what they want and forget about what you want, and if you feel left out or used, these can be signs they’re being selfish.

What if my partner gets upset when I talk about problems?

Keep your cool and talk about the issue directly. Listen to what they say, and ask questions that make them think about what they’re doing. If it keeps happening, a therapist might be able to help.

How do I work on my own goals while dealing with a selfish partner?

Set aside time for things you love and make sure you have friends to hang out with. Keep reminding yourself that you’re important, too. Growing on your own is really important.

Can a selfish person change?

Yes, they can if they realize what they’re doing and want to change. Sometimes they might need help from a pro like a therapist.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a selfish partner can really wear you out, can’t it? But hey, you’ve got this! Stand up for yourself and your relationship, and remember that you have people to help you when you need it.

At the end of the day, you’re in control. If your partner is willing to change, you can have the relationship you’ve always wanted. But if they’re not ready to work with you, it might be time to think about what’s best for you. You deserve a love that’s fair, caring, and wonderful — don’t forget that! 

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Talkspace is an innovative online therapy platform that connects you with licensed therapists, offering accessible mental health support right from your device. With flexible scheduling and a user-friendly interface, it empowers you to manage your well-being anytime, anywhere.


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Jessa Claire is a registered healthcare provider. Music lover. Daydreamer. Thalassophile. Foodie. A hardworking Capricorn. Most days, an incurable empath. An old soul. Down-to-earth. Vibrant.

When she's not writing, she can be seen relaxing with headphones on or engrossed in her favorite fan fiction book.