9 signs you’re in a relationship with a selfish person, according to psychology

We’re all taught as children not to be selfish. However, not everybody gets the memo.

The thing is, most people regard selfishness as a bad trait. So people who are naturally selfish often learn to hide their selfishness behind a fake show of being kinder and more considerate than they really are.

This is especially true in the early stages of a relationship.

But no one can hide who they are forever. As time goes by, a person’s selfish traits may start to come to the fore.

And when that happens, you may find yourself wondering what you ever saw in them.

If you recognize the signs below, there’s a good chance you’re in a relationship with a selfish person.

If that’s the case, you may have some thinking to do about whether this is a relationship you want to maintain.

1) They prioritize their needs

This is perhaps the most obvious sign of a selfish person.

To them, their needs come first, always. So they will prioritize their needs over yours, every time.

“A partner can’t meet your needs all the time, but there’s a difference between someone working on their behavior because it’s important to their partner and just temporarily placating them until they can go back to status quo,” writes therapist Anita Chilpala.

“If a person isn’t willing to put in consistent effort after you’ve spoken up, they’re not prioritizing your needs or the relationship.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with someone in a relationship prioritizing their needs sometimes.

We all have different needs and desires, and expressing those is okay.

But when the needs of people in a relationship clash with one another, that’s when it becomes essential to compromise.

It can be small things, like what to have for dinner. Or it can be big things, like where to live or whether to have kids.

But no matter what, a selfish person will always prioritize their needs over yours.

2) They don’t listen

In an equal partnership, you should be interested in each other’s lives.

That means sharing your feelings and experiences with one another.

And sometimes, it means listening when your partner has something to say.

Maybe it’s something important, like a talk about the status of your relationship. Or it can be something more trivial, like venting about a difficulty they faced at work.

But no matter what, it’s key to listen to what your partner is saying.

“In my clinical practice, I see again and again that not feeling heard often leads to depression, feeds into anxiety, or invites anger,” writes clinical psychologist Susan Heitler. “Feeling consistently unheard also suggests that work frustrations or marriage problems could be on the road ahead—or that they’ve already arrived.”

A selfish person may dismiss what you are saying. They may pretend to listen, but when questioned on any of the details of what you said, they won’t remember a thing.

Alternatively, they may argue with you, minimizing your feelings and telling you that the things you’re talking about weren’t really a big deal.

However it happens, not being listened to by your partner can be extremely hurtful. And if someone won’t take the time to listen when you speak, it’s a good sign that they are only thinking about themselves.

3) They aren’t interested in your life

This is another way selfish people often don’t listen to their partners.

After all, your partner should be interested in your life.

That doesn’t mean they have to be infinitely fascinated with every single detail of what you had for lunch.

But it does mean that they should be your biggest cheerleader, excited by your success and upset by your problems.

And if they are not, the reason could be selfishness. Maybe they only care about themselves, and not about you.

“Someone who is self-centered could be too absorbed in thoughts about themselves to even give a second thought to how their behaviors impact others,” says former therapist and mental health writer Saya Des Marais.

In other words, a selfish person may not even stop to consider that they are taking no interest in your life.

But that doesn’t make it okay.

4) They ignore your boundaries

This is a definite warning sign in any relationship.

Boundaries are how we tell other people the kind of behavior we will and won’t accept.

It’s important to remember that boundaries are not about controlling others. Instead, they are about maintaining our own standards.

So, for example, you don’t have a right to stop someone from saying things you find offensive.

But you do have a right to remove yourself from that person because you don’t want to hear the offensive things they say.

“Setting healthy boundaries requires self-awareness,” says psychotherapist and writer Jo Nash. “Setting healthy boundaries requires good communication skills that convey assertiveness and clarity.”

This can be difficult, especially with someone you love.

You have to remember that we all have the right to set reasonable boundaries in a relationship. It’s not about controlling the other person, but it’s about telling them what you will and won’t do yourself.

And if someone ignores reasonable boundaries you have set, it’s a good sign they don’t care about you nearly as much as they do about themselves.

5) They don’t give back

Relationships have to be reciprocal to be healthy. That means you should get back as much as you give.

I’m not saying you should keep a scoresheet and jot down every time you do something nice for your partner.

But if you get the feeling that you are giving more than you get back in return, it’s time to think seriously about whether the person you’re dating is simply selfish.

“This dance of ongoing, reciprocal giving and receiving is a characteristic of all highly successful relationships,” according to relationship therapists Linda and Charlie Bloom.

Whether it’s gifts, time, attention, emotional support, or anything else, your partner should be as generous toward you as you are toward them.

If they aren’t, consider the possibility that they are selfish.

6) They are unwilling to compromise

Part of being selfish is wanting everything your own way. And with someone like that, compromise becomes impossible.

Compromise is the key to a healthy relationship. We can’t always get what we want, but if we are willing to give some ground to accommodate our partners, it’s a good sign that we are emotionally mature adults who can handle a productive relationship.

That’s not the case with selfish people at all.

If they can’t get their own way, they may pout and sulk. Or they may fly into a rage to try and get you to do what they want.

However it shows itself, this unwillingness to compromise is a definite sign of a selfish person.

7) They manipulate you

It’s an unfortunate fact that there are manipulative people everywhere.

And part of what makes their manipulation of others possible is that they are usually good at hiding it.

Manipulative people may lie to you. They may threaten you. They may gaslight you, causing you to question your grip on reality.

But however it happens, if someone is trying to manipulate you, it is a clear sign that they are selfish.

After all, manipulation is all about controlling the behavior of other people and getting them to do what the manipulator wants.

8) They avoid responsibility

A more subtle sign off a selfish person is that they often refuse to take responsibility.

You see this especially when things go wrong. Instead of admitting their own flaws and failings, they will look for anybody to blame, including you, their partner.

“You are not responsible for the way your partner feels,” writes therapist Assael Romanelli.

But a selfish person will often try to make you feel as if you are so that you feel you have to fix all their problems for them.

9) They never apologize

By now, if you’ve read this far, you will have noticed that selfish people have a number of traits that can make them truly unpleasant people to be around.

But don’t expect an apology for that.

Because another sign of a selfish person is that they will never apologize for their behavior.

“For non-apologists, saying “I’m sorry” carries psychological ramifications that run far deeper than the words themselves imply; it elicits fundamental fears (either conscious or unconscious) they desperately want to avoid,” says psychologist Guy Winch.

This is connected to a selfish person’s inability to accept responsibility.

After all, in their mind, they never did anything wrong. So why would they apologize?

So if your partner seems to be allergic to the word sorry, it may be time to consider that they are just too selfish to admit when they’ve done wrong.

Dealing with a selfish partner

It’s not easy to deal with someone who wants make everything about themselves.

Selfish people seem to think they are the only person in the world whose feelings matter, and they will trample right over yours if you let them.

So keep an eye out for these signs of a selfish person. After all, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with.

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Hack Spirit! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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