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Why Selfless Relationships Last Longer – How To Be Less Selfish

Cain Parish

In This Article:

Selfish relationships are what we’re pushed into, by our peers, our environment and our surroundings. We learn to be ruthless and transactional from our past experiences, especially if they such. This article tells you how to think about it to avoid the consequences.

Woman on her knees giving flowers to her partner, demonstrating a selfless relationship

Introduction: The Issue With Selfless Relationships

Dating and relationships, especially in the modern era, have shortened and become more volatile. You can probably attest to this. It’s very common to have personal experiences or witness friends and family that make you feel as though trying to find a partner is like wading through a minefield.

The dating landscape we’re now faced with is a result of most people turning to a selfish perspective in order to further their own interests and protect themselves. We have the rise of the internet to blame for this.

I know it’s a played out objection, but the internet truly has made it simultaneously easier and harder to find a partner. Social media and dating apps give us hundreds of potential options, people that we’d probably never come across in real life. These potential options give us a more complete view of the market, and tempt us with the possibility of greener grass.

The Internet Has Done Some Damage

Before widespread adoption of the internet, you could be a medium sized fish in a small pond, and that was enough to be considered attractive. Being in the top 20% of your workplace or school or social circle put you near the top of the list for all those you’d come into contact with. And vice versa, you would only meet so many people through those avenues. The handful of women in your office block represented a majority of the potential partners you’d run into.

Now, we have dozens of carefully curated profiles slammed into our faces at a moment’s notice, from the comfort of our own bedrooms. Again, it’s an easy scapegoat, but it truly does convince our lizard brains that we have options. Imagine trying to pick a single dish off a menu with three items. Pretty simple. Now try and pick a dish from a list of three hundred, or even three thousand. Decision paralysis is a real thing, and even if you do land on a final verdict, FOMO is going to creep up on you and make you wonder if any of the remaining two hundred and ninety-nine were a better option.

Our brains are simply not designed to make long lasting, positive and productive choices when faced with such a ridiculous quantity of options. So what have we done as a response?

We Became Selfish

To combat this issue, our dating landscape changed. Our cynical attitude crept into the way we view relationships, and they stopped being a collaborative product of two people that enjoy each other’s company. Now, we’re transactional. We rank our potential partners on an invisible pro/con list against every partner we’ve had before and everyone we can witness on the internet.

We have hundreds of red flags, standards, wants, needs, choosing signals that go on for pages and pages and pages. Standards are getting higher and more polarising, until the average person starts to feel the weight of a rhetoric that says they’re not even worthy of a relationship.

Those that can ignore the buzz of the internet aren’t safe. Talk to people in social settings. It’s becoming increasingly common to ghost or dump your partner from one minor slight or a simple personal incompatibility. The truth is, people can afford to do this. By the law of large numbers, we can discard a perfectly capable partner, because statistically, there’s bound to be someone that succeeds where this person failed.

And in doing so, we miss the forest for the trees.

Selfish Doesn’t Work

It doesn’t make sense to be selfish. Yes, holding your standards high is a good thing. Yes, not compromising on your boundaries is something to aspire to. But there’s a difference between saying that you don’t want to date a man because he doesn’t want children, and throwing him to the wind because he’s 5 ‘8 instead of 6’ 0.

The term dealbreaker has been stretched and strained to the absolute reasonable limits of the phrase. A dealbreaker should be a deeply personal incompatibility between two people that can never be resolved, one that will make the relationship untenable over the short or long term.

For example, a polyamorous and a monogamous person are likely to find themselves incompatible. Running into a person with a different relationship goal should be a dealbreaker, because the two of you want different things. And there is the crux of the issue. 

You aren’t dating because YOU want something. Or at least, you shouldn’t be. Let me explain.

It’s selfish to date because you specifically want something. A 5’ 2 blonde girl with double D’s and an agreeable nature. That’s a selfish desire. How could it not be? The other person is literally reduced to their surface level qualities. Approaching dating from that perspective leads to shallow relationships built upon checking boxes.

As any artist can tell you, simply checking objective boxes does not make for a great piece of art. Similarly, just because your Tinder date checks all your boxes aesthetically or on the surface doesn’t mean the two of you are compatible. 

Instead, we should be dating because we’re looking to give our partner something. Think about this. On a first date, you’re trying to see if your date can provide something of interest to you, WHILST making sure that they think the best of you. What do we call people that simply screen for their date’s qualities whilst thinking they’re the belle of the ball and putting in zero effort? Entitled and self-obsessed. 

We are supposed to be givers. Human society is built upon the premise of giving our unique contribution to a community and sharing in dozens of other people doing the same, shoring up each others’ weaknesses and revelling in each others’ strengths.

Dating is the same. Your relationship is a collaborative effort. Both people involved are going to have different strengths, weaknesses, needs and experiences. It can only ever succeed if both people choose to give selflessly to the relationship and to their partner before looking to take for themselves.

Consider this logically. If you have two selfish partners, the relationship is doomed to fail. Neither party will be satisfied or find their needs met by the other person. If you have one selfish partner and one selfless partner, the relationship still fails. One person will be performing all the labour whilst the other simply basks in their selfish indulgence. On the surface, it’s plainly obvious that selfishness is toxic to the success of a relationship.

The only circumstance in which a relationship succeeds is the one where both people are more committed to giving to the collective relationship, and by extension, the other partner, than they are interested in indulging themselves.

This is why modern relationships are failing. A plethora of options and a whirlwind of lukewarm experiences has tilted people towards being self-indulgent and dating for superficial, external checkboxes. We look for external qualities in the hope that they represent some form of compatibility. They don’t.

Conclusion: What To Do About It?

Your first dates aren’t the time to bend over backwards. Just because you have a selfless mindset when dating doesn’t mean you have to fall all over the other person.

It does mean, however, that you might have to be open to more compromise. Connections are built, not stumbled upon. To develop something more than the sum of two individual people, they both have to be willing to work towards it. 

As a person staring across a restaurant table at another person, try and get a sense of whether the two of you could collaborate. Are you both likely to be selfless? There’s a reason so many dealbreakers are based around people demonstrating selfish or arrogant behaviour; because it shows that these people AREN’T RELATIONSHIP MATERIAL!

Use your red flags intentionally. Someone coming in below an imaginary height requirement or a dress size requirement isn’t a red flag or a dealbreaker. Their character is. The type of person they are will make or break the two of you, not their external attributes.

Date selflessly. Be willing to give of yourself to another person, in whatever fashion that might demand. Time, attention, gifts, there are a myriad of ways to demonstrate your sacrifice to a collaborative relationship. Find what suits you, and most importantly, suits your partner. 

Just as you know that it is unreasonable for your partner to expect you to simply meet all of their needs by default, do not expect that of your partner. The two of you are worth more than that. You’re worth more than that.


Why do selfless relationships tend to last longer?

Selfless relationships foster a giving environment where both partners prioritize the collective well-being over individual desires, leading to more fulfilling and durable partnerships.

What impact does the internet have on dating and relationships?

The abundance of choices offered by the internet has led to decision paralysis and a focus on superficial qualities, contributing to shorter, more volatile relationships.

How can one practice selflessness in dating?

Practicing selflessness involves being open to compromise, focusing on building connections beyond superficial traits, and valuing a partner’s character and contribution to the relationship.

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Cain Parish

Cain Parish is the owner of A prolific writer, educator and relationship coach since 2019, he specializes in dating, relationships, emotional intelligence and social skills. He is also the author and creator of the world’s largest and most comprehensive database for dating and relationship advice, which can be found on his website. His first book, I’m Sorry I Egged Your House, is due to be published in 2024.

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