Where’s the line between getting your needs met and being selfish?

Midlife daters generally have experience in relationships, and thus negotiating solutions to different relationship desires. However, if you have been unpartnered for a number of years, you are probably used to getting what you want because you haven’t had to take an adult partner’s desires into account.

So let’s say you (or your guy) want something. The other wants something different. Ideally, you find a compromise — without resenting the other. But that is not always possible.

For example:

  • You want him to attend your niece’s college graduation at which she will be speaking as class president. You would get to introduce him to some favorite out-of-town relatives who are only in town for the day. The same day — during the same time — he wants you to attend his dear friend’s wedding. He wants to show you off and for you to meet his old friends. You would know no one but him and the groom, whom you don’t really like. These are both once-in-a-lifetime events. You can’t attend both and neither of you are thrilled about the prospect of attending either event alone or with someone other than your sweetie. Because of logistics you can’t attend part of one then go to the other.
  • You’re both astronomy buffs. A meteor shower you both want to see will soon be visible in your area. You want to camp out overnight on a mountaintop as it will offer the best darkened view, plus will be romantic. He wants to pitch the tent in his suburban back yard as it will be easier, and he says it will be dark enough to see most of the meteor streaks.

What if your scenario’s options are win/lose? One of you must compromise, and there is not a solution that would allow you both to get enough of what you want to be satisfying.

One of you can say, “You have your way this time and I’ll get mine next time.” Or, if it is really, really important to you, you may propose, “I know your option/situation/event is important to you. Mine is really important to me. We aren’t seeming to come up with a compromise. If you’d be willing to let me have what I want this time, I promise you can have your way next time.”

Are you being selfish to request this? Or just trying to get your needs met?

If the trade-off frequency is uneven, with one of you compromising more often, then the power is not equally shared. You both deserve to get what you want half the time if it appears there is an impasse.

I’ve found you can sometimes invent a creative solution if both of you are willing to try — and not be wedded to getting 100% of your way. If you are willing to discuss what is important to you and what you want, you may be able to find a solution that has the most important elements for each of you. This is not always possible, of course, but it is worth a try.

The key for me, however, is the willingness to initiate a compromise. If both of you argue you will only be happy with 100% of what you want, then there is no room for negotiation. Or if neither of you is willing to suggest discussing options, it’s a lose/lose. And if one of you always initiates a compromise, that is lopsided, too.

If I were in scenario #2, I would ask my guy what is important about staying close to home. He might say, “I can’t sleep in a tent very well. If it were in my back yard, I could go inside when it became uncomfortable and sleep in my bed. I’d have a bathroom and refrigerator nearby.” Knowing that, I could suggest, “I see your considerations. Would you be willing to have us go up to the mountain top until a little past midnight, when the most meteors show up, then have us drive home or to a nearby hotel to sleep the rest of the night?”

If you are voicing your needs and not getting them met, you need to discuss this with your guy. Perhaps he’s not comfortable negotiating. Or perhaps he doesn’t know it’s important. And you need to be clear that sometimes some of what you want is better than none of what you want. At least some of the time.

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2 responses to “Where’s the line between getting your needs met and being selfish?”

  1. Allison Allen Avatar

    Definitely an issue. I’m sure somewhere it says, the willingness to compromise is directly correlated to a relationship’s longevity. 🙂

    I think part of it is ‘how important is this to me on a scale of 1 to 10’? On the meteor shower, in the scheme of things, that’s not quite as important as attending your niece’s graduation it seems to me. And your suggestion of what is it about your preference that he has a problem with completely opens the door to finding a compromise that is good for both.

    On the wedding/graduation scenario, those are both events that are important to other important people in your respective lives. Even though going alone isn’t fun, that may be the best of a range of not so great choices.

    I think that’s what compromise is, weighing the relative importance of the situation in the grand scheme of life, considering merits of the options available, and then being willing to tolerate the not so great option if there isn’t one that allows both parties needs to be met.

    Life was easier when relationships were based on economics and not getting emotional needs met, would you agree? 🙂

  2. nysharon Avatar

    Not being able to meet in the middle underminds most relationships, whether it has to do with money, time, or sex. It was certainly the demise of my marriage. Consistantly over time it becomes selfish and unloving.