Selfish love: giving everything without receiving anything

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Louise Hay
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Selfish love: giving everything without receiving anything

There are people who don't love us as we deserve. They stay with us only to benefit from it or to satisfy their desires or fill a void. Selfish love hurts and leaves its mark. Reacting in time is the only way to get out of these toxic relationships safe and sound.

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2022


Selfish love can cause real personal catastrophes. There are people who, behind the clothes of adults, hide a way of relating through a childish ego, which sees emotional relationships as a means to satisfy their needs.


They are people who take instead of giving, immature figures who do not understand, nor do they want to understand, the language of reciprocity.

Abraham Maslow said that not all selfish behaviors are negative. At least, those whose motives and origins we can understand are not. So, for example, giving priority to ourselves every now and then and investing our energies on our personal well-being, is not only a positive behavior, but it is highly recommended to improve one's self-esteem.

Erich Fromm was one of the first to speak of selfish love. According to the author of Escape from Freedom and The Art of Love, some people conceive relationships in an instrumental way, in a give-and-take dynamic. They are men and women unable to see beyond their precious personal sphere.

Selfishness does not consist in living as we please, but in demanding that others live as we please.

-Oscar Wilde-

Selfish love: the fifth knight

When the psychologist John Gottman of the University of Washington enunciated his famous theory of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse to predict the arrival of a separation, he totally ignored the dimension of selfish love.



In his essay, Gottman presented the 4 greatest dangers of a relationship: obstruction or indifference, defense, criticism and contempt. In this context, selfishness could be the fifth horseman, just as devastating as its predecessors.

However, Dr. Gottman did not consider it a useful element for the prediction of emotional breakdowns. probably because selfishness underlies each of the other four dimensions mentioned. The person who criticizes, hurts and despises the partner or who shuns his responsibilities, does nothing but exude selfishness from every pore.

However, even if it seems obvious, we are not always aware of it when we find ourselves involved in selfish love. As we all know, love sometimes hurts, and this is because - especially in the beginning - love is blind. Most of us, at one point in our lives, risked everything for someone. We launched an attack with all the cavalry to conquer that person, apparently perfect and fascinating, to end up in an emotional precipice.

Because the selfish person is cryptic and deceptive, especially at the beginning of a relationship, and it's easy to fall into his web.

Later, when he has conquered his prey, he takes advantage of it by revealing his true nature. He uses emotional blackmail and manipulation to turn himself into a real black hole, which swallows anything. And, as if that weren't enough, it returns nothing of what it takes, because the selfish personality has nothing to offer, apart from shortcomings and disappointments.

Selfish people don't love, because they don't know how to love themselves

This sentence may seem contradictory, but it's worth thinking about it for a moment: selfish love arises from the inability to love oneself. How is it possible? We are used to thinking that selfishness, like narcissism, responds to those personalities who love only themselves, but in doing so we ignore the hidden reality of these behaviors.



As Erich Fromm rightly pointed out in his book The art of loving, the selfish person actually hates himself. She is totally devoid of self-love, she is a frustrated person and so full of needs that she exploits relationships to take momentary benefit from them.

The selfish person does not love himself enough, indeed he loves very little; in fact, he hates himself. Such a lack of love and self-respect, which is nothing more than the expression of her lack of productivity, leaves her empty and frustrated. She feels necessarily unhappy and anxiously worried about wresting from life the satisfactions that she herself prevents herself from obtaining.


-Erich Fromm-

In selfish love, the partner claims the love he does not have for himself

A few years ago, the psychology department at New York State University conducted a study that compared altruistic behavior with selfishness. It became clear that selfless people were more personally and emotionally fulfilled. They give without receiving anything in return, they offer their time and resources to others freely, because they experience it as a spontaneous act that generates well-being.

In reverse, selfish people claim from others what they do not have. They have nothing to offer, nor do they want to give anything to those around them, because the only thing they have are shortcomings. The selfish person lacks self-esteem, self-love and security.


For this reason, selfish love is nothing more than a decoy, a trap to capture a person good enough to serve as a devout giver.

As we have seen, selfish love is a toxic and painful behavior that can undermine romantic relationships. This reminds us, once again, of the fundamental principle of relationships: loving yourself is essential to be able to love others.

So let's learn to apply this principle correctly and healthily, because selfish love is like a boat without a sail: it never leads anywhere.

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