I recently had a client say that they feel selfish if they complain about things they do not like in their relationship! They asked me if I think it is selfish to share their concerns and needs??? NOOOO, this is not selfish!
Now, I am not saying that I have never thought someone was selfish or narcissistic. In fact, sometimes I have diagnosed a client with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Traits. Some people are inherently too selfish too much of the time. For more on NPD, there will be another post later this week.
However, in most cases people are not selfish to tell someone their concerns or relationship complaints and to ask for what they need. In fact, in high functioning, successful families – repairing relationship complaints is a common occurrence. Along with positive appreciation and compliments, there is plenty of room to also discuss concerns and problems.
Who wants to be in a relationship in which you cannot ever bring up a complaint and have it resolved? Not ME!
As I say in the beginning of my book, most of my clients wish there was a big sign that said Relationship Repair Counter (think Customer Service Counter for your family relationships) right in the middle of their family room! People want and need to be valued at the Relationship Repair Counter
Unfortunately, some people have a bad history of bringing up relationship concerns so they get confused. For example, in some family relationships children are guilt tripped if they complain about something.
- “Stop being selfish”
- “You are too needy, sensitive, emotional, etc.”
Or, in some family relationships children are punished or ignored for bringing up complaints.
This breaks my heart because children are supposed to be able to go to their family members with their hurt, pain, and concerns. In fact, being able to do this is the essence of human bonding and attachment. It’s how we know “I am lovable.” I am not saying there are not moments when we need to tell our kids “just deal with it” but there are also needs to be a consistent response of validation most of the time from parent to child.
Think about a teenager saying, “it hurts my feelings when you….” to their parent. If the parent listens and is engaged and then repairs the pain their child feels with understanding and an apology, then the child feels loved and understood. The child learns, “I can be vulnerable and share when I feel hurt, and I feel important and lovable.”
The opposite of this experience – if it happens most of the time within a parent-child relationship -is a form of emotional mistreatment. Research indicates 1 in 8 children are being mistreated by their parents, with the most common form being patterns of emotional abuse. One form of emotional abuse is to repeatedly ignore a child’s emotional needs or to guilt trip the child for expressing their emotions – including their complaints, hurts, and needs. The child then grows up thinking it is selfish to share their concerns and vulnerabilities.
Sharing your complaints is the opposite of selfish – it is a good thing! When you can share your complaints, concerns, needs, and vulnerabilities with someone then you able to be fully attached with another human being, including with your intimate partner. And, since I am the business of helping people have close, happy, successful relationships then it is my job to help you get the idea of “I am selfish” out of your mind just because you have a complaint and a need within your relationship.
For more assistance with how to express your relationship needs, please Contact a Repair Associate for support!