Dear Adam: Am I Being a Selfish Boyfriend?

Dear Adam: Am I Being a Selfish Boyfriend?

Dear Adam:

My boyfriend is great but I feel like I rarely see him. He’s super busy at work, does a lot of volunteer work, and is very involved with this family. I don’t want to be selfish, but I want more of his time. I know he loves me but at this point I’m lucky if I see him once per week for a few hours. I guess I feel neglected. I’m afraid to bring up the issue too often especially because I know everything he is doing is worthwhile. Should I just get busier and get over this?

Signed,

A Little Lonely in Long Island         

*

Dear A Little Lonely in Long Island,

When I hear the statement “I don’t want to be selfish,” I get suspicious. Often it is code for “I’m afraid of expressing my needs.”

For some, the concept of expressing your needs sounds like a cliché. Having “needs” gets bad press. It sounds either “needy” or “narcissistic.” Let’s call it something more respectful today, like “showing up in life” or “I’m going to stop hiding.”

Here’s the thing about our needs: it feels so good when they get validated by others. I want to inspire you to pay a little more attention to them. One of your needs is to spend regular quality time with the man you love.

Needs In Your Relationship

Many of us are afraid of taking up too much space in our relationships. We fear he won’t like us if we express our needs. And yet, ironically, when we start to show up more with our needs, relationships get better. There becomes more of us to hold on to and to connect with. We get more love, not less.

For those of you who are thinking that I am advocating for self-centered relationships, let me explain.

Yes, there are times when we must sacrifice in relationships. It’s a good idea to pick up your partner at the airport even though you’d rather be in bed with your laptop. You do need to go to your spouse’s family funerals even though you hate funerals. It’s very important to visit your friends when they are in the hospital, and that includes sunny Saturday afternoons. These actions help people feel loved. But “sacrifice” as a mission statement in relationships only leads to resentment. And resentment only leads to distancing or depression.

Sometimes it is easier to understand this concept when we think about our workplaces. People who have trouble advocating for their needs often get chewed up at work. They are the ones working on the awful projects late into the night when others have figured out how to avoid that.

In Your Arousal

Sex is another place where it is important to express your needs. Sex gets better when you take responsibility for your own arousal. If you tend to escape your own needs and get preoccupied with your partner’s excitement, sex won’t be as exciting for either for you.

When you focus on your own pleasure and express it, it becomes exciting for your partner. That creates the synergy for better sex. Another way to put it: You must take your own pleasure in sex. To grab it and own it. That’s sexy.

The body knows its own needs. By tapping into your body, you are on the road to validating your own needs. If you’re now asking, “But isn’t that selfish?,” then we know not to worry about you being selfish. By asking that question it’s likely you have the opposite problem.

What Are Our Needs?

We know the obvious needs that we must respect our entire lives — for shelter, rest, safety, money, and ice cream.

Less obvious—but equally as important—are our needs for attachment. Attachment needs look like this: The need to be heard. The need to be respected. The need to know they think about us. The need to be loved. These needs are “wired in” to all humans and they help keep our species alive. These attachment needs drive almost everything we do in relationships. When injured, they are the basis of most fights.

How to Start Respecting Your Needs

From listening to my clients, I have already learned the best technique to start experimenting with need fulfillment. It starts with the classic question “Where do you want to go for dinner?” Your typical response might be to secretly figure out where the other person wants to go and to announce that as your preference, or to say, “I don’t know, where do you want to go?”

Next time, practice listening to what your body wants and seeing what happens emotionally when you say, “I want Indian food tonight.”

Remember that others are more flexible than you think. They don’t always want to be in charge even if they like control. It’s fun to see others enjoy their needs (sex!).

Learning about your needs takes practice and patience. And if your parents were overly focused on their own issues when you grew up, this work may take longer. But the pay-off is supreme — a life that expresses you, and relationships where you feel seen. And boyfriends who make you a top priority.

Answers Supplied by Adam D. Blum

Adam D. Blum, MFT is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of the Gay Therapy Center, which specializes in relationship and self-esteem issues for LGBT people. The Center offers services in their San Francisco offices, or by Skype and phone worldwide. Visit their website to subscribe to their e-newsletter and free guide on building gay relationships. Follow them on Facebook and read their blog.  Email Adam your questions for possible publication. (Questions may be edited.)

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17 Comments

  1. Kenny
    February 12, 06:47 Reply

    Get busier! Let him miss you, he’ll find his way back to you.

  2. Max 2.1
    February 12, 07:04 Reply

    Yassssssssss!!!!!! Preeeeeshhhhhh!!!

    Oh dear, he hit all the right notes in all the right places.
    Can I get an hallelujah in here ?
    @Sister Pinky @Sister D lemme hear ya say it ??????

  3. ken
    February 12, 07:58 Reply

    Break up already. Shit wasnt real anyways!

    Or no wait, just stab him in the neck (this seems to be the popular war to go these days)!

    • Max 2.1
      February 12, 08:37 Reply

      Are you sure we read the same piece?

  4. Terra
    February 12, 08:30 Reply

    That was an amazing article. Someone give that man an award

  5. #Chestnut
    February 12, 08:51 Reply

    Hmmm. Having a bf I hardly get to see even once a week? I dunno o…doesn’t he have days off? Or don’t they live in d same town? Doesn’t he even have time to eat and sleep? Like,he’s working LITERALLY 24 hours a day,7 days of every week? Hmmm…
    Well I guess if his reasons are genuine (work stuff),then I could understand…except if he doesn’t even (have time to) call me at all,and I have to be the one calling everytime; I mean if we don’t get to see,and we don’t get to talk,then aren’t we just memories in each other’s heads?

  6. bruno
    February 12, 08:56 Reply

    i should bookmark this!

    important issues about selfishness and sacrifice in relationships that i’ve funnily just started to learn myself.

    i mean, everyone knows you are supposed to sacrifice for the person you love but sometimes, sacrificing and accepting too much to your own detriment make you resentful and that resentment will eventually manifest in ways that would damage the relationship.

    for example, most versatile dudes have had that one guy they liked who only wants to top but not receive or vice versa. it seems it’s not a problem the first few times. but eventually some sort of discontent starts to creep in because you have certain needs that aren’t being met. god help you if you’re in a monogamous relationship with him.

    as helpful as these are i’m not sure they directly answer the poor guys questions though.

    • JustJames
      February 12, 10:37 Reply

      Bruno! Bruno!! Bruno!!! How many times did I call you??? The way I am looking at you right now ehn

  7. Di-Navy
    February 12, 09:02 Reply

    OK, let’s get this straight. That’s a Nice article and response to start with. Some humans are workaholics to start with, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make out time for someone you claim to love, that’s if you guys are in same location, cos I have myself falling in love with someone who’ll make me needy! That’s total disaster, you end up feeling miserable @ same time. If the boyfriend is so engrossed with work like say tomorrow no deh, he better stay single and date his work and career and quit making the other guy feel like a whinning nag… I can forgive thhe aspect of not seeing regularly, but call???? Helloooooo…. he gotta call, unless he has someone else taking his attention. If I were to be in ur shoes buddy.. i’m gonna confront bae/boo so we talk this over,,, cos if he’s acting this way, he’s definitely gonna teach you how to leave without his company and that’s bad… there are some technolgy apps that even make life easier, skype, video calls, whatever happened to all those. I’m just saying shaaaaaa, not that i’m being too opinionated… unu aboola chi???

    • Pink Panther
      February 13, 06:42 Reply

      ‘If the boyfriend is so engrossed with work like say tomorrow no deh, he better stay single and date his work and career’

      PREACH!

  8. Di-Navy
    February 12, 09:24 Reply

    Hunnay!!! I can’t be in a relationship with someone who makes me feel needy, it’s frustrating…. every guy, young and old needs attention…. telling him and yanking him off about how u feel ain’t selfishness *drops mic*

  9. Lothario
    February 12, 16:07 Reply

    The issue about this is that you both have to be mature thinkers, he should see your needs as ways to improve your relationship and not as criticism. Some people think that the minute you mention something that you’re uncomfortable with, you’re criticising them and automatically want to break up.

    Some people are so much work to be with.

  10. sensei
    February 12, 23:22 Reply

    Very interesting response. But why do I feel he didn’t really provide an answer for the guy?

    Personally, I do not think there is one formula that would apply to situations like this. A lot of factors come have to be taken into consideration. The personality of the two guys, the degree and direction of their needs in a relationship (some want their bf around always and some don’t. Some want at least phone calls and they are fine and some want to cuddle daily. We are all wired differently).
    There is such a thing as a needy, clingy bf. Those ones exist in abundance. Few are able to give so much for so long without breaking down, especially when the “taker” just takes and takes without stopping to consider the “takee”.
    There is much to say on the subject but like I always submit, the most important ingredient in any relationship is frank, considerate, empathic communication. Sometimes baring your soul to someone who is willing to put himself in your shoe solves the problem like magic. What this dude needs is a heart to heart talk. Hold hands, look into each other’s eyes, reaffirm the love you feel, be true to your needs and express them, beg to be understood, try to be understanding and take turns to talk. This will help

  11. Nefretiti
    February 13, 00:07 Reply

    I think he answered the question ….his answer was basically communicate ur feelings . Make ur desires known and let him know exactly what u want . Its not being selfish , its just being human , and we all have needs , if ur boifrd doesn’t eventually try 2 make amends after ur “talk” or anyway u wanna make ur needs known then I think its the perfect time 2 end it . Its a waste of time , strength and love.

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