What is Your Relationship Style? Selfish or Self-Interested

Submitted by: Big Little Wolf

Relationship Style: Selfish or Self-Interested?

It was a delicious surprise. Receiving a lovely bonjour in the mail from an old flame – a Parisian paramour who remains in touch years after our relationship. I admit, it’s the French men in my life who seem to genuinely enjoy women as friends, even when a love affair has ended. And this appreciation is certainly reciprocal; I adore men who adore women.

As for sustaining a relationship post amorous end-of-the-line, it’s easy – as long as the foundation is strong and caring. So where am I going with this? Just one more reason that French men are irresistible?


In my experience, successful romantic relationships require a core of common values, a willingness to truly listen to each other, a sense of humor, and time.

Whirlwind affairs? Sure, they’re exciting. But if you want your connection to endure, it needs to build from a slow simmer to a sustainable flame. That takes knowing each other – really knowing each other, which takes time.

From sizzle to drizzle

Now come on. I’m not saying that a dash of dashing isn’t essential alchemy. Attraction may be present from the outset, or it may grow as you get to know the person you’re with. Sex is more important for some of us than others, but certainly we can agree that intimacy – a natural outgrowth of physical connection – is essential to a flourishing relationship.

Anyone who has lived the demise of marriage or a long term relationship will acknowledge the importance of sexuality. When the couple begins losing steam, dwindling physical engagement is generally cause or effect in the complex puzzle of relationship.

Back on point, “Very much a man”

Having heard from my former amour, I find myself pondering the elements of our post-love relationship. One that continues to be important to both of us. And what I find is an intriguing absence of selfishness, though we each gain from continuing our transcontinental friendship, and in a variety of ways.

As for the gentleman in question, I would term him self-interested but generous – with his time, his attention, and of course, in bed. He is very much a man, and I’ll sum that up as follows: He speaks his mind, he doesn’t compromise what matters most to him, and he takes care of his own needs – personally, professionally, and sexually. He also takes his responsibilities seriously.

And yes of course, he knows his way around a woman’s terrains and is the enthusiastic recipient of equal exploration.

Selfishness and self-Interest

Can we talk about selfishness for a moment?

Charismatic men often come with a sizeable portion of selfishness, and personally, it’s something I don’t abide. It’s also not a quality I aspire to possess. It may get you more creature comforts in the short term, but I want to be able to look myself in the mirror, and like the woman I see. Ditto, when it comes to the man who captures my heart.

Selfishness, by definition:

excessive or exclusive concern with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

In contrast, we have self-interest, by definition:

a concern for one’s own advantage and well-being; one’s own interest or advantage

I don’t care for selfish men, or selfish women for that matter – those who put their interests first, consistently and excessively. But I respect those who possess a healthy self-interest, often bringing more to the table – romantically and otherwise – including their capacity to give.

Character and chemistry

With media mired in a mountain of “mean girl” activity, it seems we’re bombarded by dreadful models of behavior – and from every age group. Unacceptable behavior, in my opinion. In fact, I wonder why anyone considers some of the rude, screaming, and self-indulgent women on Reality TV entertainment-worthy.

Whatever happened to manners? To the magical mix of chemistry and substance? Have we ceased to celebrate character and quality – to sing their praises, tell their stories, and offer up their examples?

For all the time we spend writing on relationships – how to find them, how to ascertain if they’re “good” or “good enough,” how to keep them, how to keep them hot, how to leave them, and how to start again – is anyone writing about how to deepen them? How to get to know the individual inside the beautiful body or behind the boyish grin?

Bad Boy, Good Guy

I consider myself to be a confident woman, and a feminine one. I’m certainly not “every man’s” cup of tea. Nor do I wish to be. I am attracted to men who genuinely love women, and who are unafraid of our complexity – men who know themselves, who pursue their passions, and do so without sacrificing character or honor.

Does this mean I don’t love a touch of Bad Boy in my Good Guy? Hardly. Nor do I reject the reality that a ripped torso and twinkling eyes make me weak in the knees. Who isn’t susceptible to a little sizzle in their seduction? But shouldn’t we also be looking for the personal qualities in a partner to keep the relationship healthy and growing? Isn’t that a matter of going deeper, beyond selfishness and superficiality?

© D. A. Wolf / Big Little Wolf

D. A. Wolf is an independent consultant, freelance writer, and single mother of two teen sons. She is a former art reviewer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and her work has appeared in ARTnews, Raw Vision, France Magazine, ForbesWoman.com, and other publications. She holds a BA from Wellesley College, an MBA from the Wharton School, and has lived and worked up and down the East Coast and in Paris. These days, she reflects on life at her Daily Plate of Crazy, where she writes about women’s issues, divorce, parenting, popular culture, and anything else that strikes her on a given day as important, entertaining, or of interest.


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    Sandy says

    I loved this piece, Big Little Wolf. I love that you pointed out the difference between selfishness and self-interest: the one which detracts from a person’s attractivess — man or woman — so very much, and the other which subtly polishes the personality.

    A man who helped restore my faith in men after an ugly divorce and all that “co-parenting” with a selfish man entails, said to me right at the beginning of our relationship “In order to help others, you first have to help yourself.” I suspected at the time that it was an indicator of selfishness, but I came to see him very differently. He is, as you say, “very much a man” in that he is direct, doesn’t compromise on the things that matter to him and takes care of his needs; but I prefer his directness, and it doesn’t preclude his considering the needs of others. He is a generous and responsible man in every sense. And that’s what induced me to marry again!

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    So happy to hear you enjoyed the article – and even happier to hear you found a great man who understands give and take. There are some wonderful men and women out there… Just waiting for each other!

    Happy holidays, Sandy.

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