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selfish behavior vs selfish person

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Mac4 posted 5/20/2014 08:11 AM

So there is always discussion about the "why" for the A. Advice to get to the heart of the A to fix it and prevent it from happening again. Many say they don't always get to the "why" and if there is remorse then maybe R can occur in the absence of why.

For my WW she went to IC for about 2 months and came out determined that depression, loneliness and low self esteem along with some communication issues in our relationship all contributed to the affair. And she is committed to working on us and addressing these issues.

But as Karmahappens pointed out in an earlier post, you shouldn't ignore those posts that hit a nerve so to speak. So I was reading a much earlier post where a BS stated that so many of their conversations about the A came back to being about the WS. The conversation begins with an issue that the BS is having and ends up being about the WS. This really struck a chord with me. Many of my converstations start about my needs (the BS) but somewhere seem to transistion to her needs (the WS).

Thus, my a ha moment, that probably isn't that clever; is this really all about selfishness and self-absorption? The A, the infidelity, the cheating behavior, the setting aside the needs of the marriage and the family all for the self-indulgence of the WS and the A. In my mind this strengthens the thought that the A wasn't about me, it was about my WW's need and her self-absorption in the A.

So then we strive for R, but I can't recognize if I'm dealing with a WW that accidentally slipped into selfish behavior because of the issues above. Because she was depressed and lonely and feeling bad about herself she inappropriately found something she needed in the affair. Or am I simply dealing with a WW that is a selfish person by nature, is this an inherent trait in a person that will always put her needs above mine. As I struggle with R, I just can't seem to confidently answer this question.

I realize that I am the one that should should truly know my spouse, but of course, I thought my spouse was committed to our marriage and uncapable of an affair. So the question I struggle with, is this a bad behavior from my WW, or is this the actions of a selfish person? In my mind, one is capable of change and changing behavior patterns, and one is a learned way of meeting your personal needs over a lifetime. Or said another way, good people occasionally do bad things, but there are also bad people too, and there is a difference.

Just thinking out loud, appreciate your thoughts and input

kiki1 posted 5/20/2014 08:25 AM


In my situation, my wh is extremely selfish. Always has been. Ultimately, that extreme selfishness allowed him to think he was entitled to that "little extra" and at my and my childrens expense. His selfishness contributed to bad behavior or at least behavior that was based on always making sure his needs were met and ignoring mine.

During this period we have been trying to rebuild, i wont even call it r, our conversations will mostly all the time transition to his needs as well. I find this very uncomfortable and selfish still.

I dont believe he can change that. He can change it some, but ultimately, I believe his needs will still continue to come first. He is unable to put aside his "needs" in order to meet what i ask of him at this time.

I'm feeling very stuck, frustrated and unable to move forward. We can go no farther, this is as good as it gets. And i find it is not enough.

I know and my wh will state that he had an affair because he was selfish and wanted something more. More, more more. Nothing, myself included, was enough.

i dont know if i responded to what you asked, but the why in my situation, is nothing more than selfishness.

Gotmegood posted 5/20/2014 09:50 AM

I see what you mean. In my case, I would never have labelled my WH as self-absorbed. I also never would have believed him capable of transgressing in the way that he did. Pre-A, we were dealing with some tough life issues. We were BOTH dealing with these things. In the face of these things, I chose my path, which was finding a job and coming home and working on our house to prepare for listing it. My WH chose to amp up his pornography usage and eventually hire a prostitute. Now, after working through this shocking and indescribably painful revelation for 9 months, this is how I translate it all: when things got tough and stress was high, WH crumbled. There are FOO issues. He was the 'baby' of the family, and pretty entitled. He became selfish and self-absorbed rather than stand up and do the hard work of facing a tough reality. He did what he did. He chose (a disgusting and base) path to soothe himself, forsaking me and my needs, and honor and integrity as well. The epitome of selfishness. It's there. It's in him. But I sort of think, or want to think, that if he is aware of these weak coping mechanisms, he can chose NOT to allow himself to put himself first and start sucking his own thumb when faced with difficulties. The ball is in his court...

HowToLiveWithIt posted 5/20/2014 10:18 AM

I too feel that it is the selfishness that is the ultimate elephant in the room. She (my WS) can be very generous, giving, loving person when she feels like this, but when she feel stressed, sad, threatened, unfulfilled, the rest of the world disappears or rather exist only to help her deal with her problems.
Many times I was completely blown apart by the absoluteness of this selfishness, so pure that nearly innocent. It was not that she purposefully decided to hurt me, she was so absorbed in her feeling that was totally oblivious to other concerns.
After seeing it this way it is tough to think of what to do ... I cannot attempt to change her. I guess the only thing I can do is to help her see the consequences, the tough love, let her learn now what should be probably learned in kindergarden years.
Couple weeks after the Dday she seemed to "get it" was remorseful, loving, trying. It was enough to meet first real world challenge, first sadness, work problem, to completely forget the reconciliation work and be again "me me me".
No one said it will be easy process. Life sure is a fascinating game.

Mac4 posted 5/20/2014 14:58 PM

Kikil & Gotmegood, thank you for sharing your experiences. I didn't really ask a specific question, but really just what role self-absorption and selfishness played in the infidelity experience of others.

HowToLiveWithIt - I think you are right, it is the elephant in the room, I was just surprised I hadn't noticed it sitting there sooner.

No12turn2 posted 5/20/2014 15:23 PM

I think anyone is capable of selfish behavior. Now anyone who acts on it, can also wear the badge but those who do it often can't take it off.

Sal1995 posted 5/20/2014 15:32 PM

Mac4, in my case, the WW has a long history of being unselfish, so her affair really seemed to come out of nowhere. It's hard to make sense of this kind of thing.

I noticed your WW's age. The Big 4-0 screws with a lot of people's minds. It's the stereotypical MLC age. I don't really understand it, but saw my wife start acting nutty when she was 39, and then it really ramped up right after she turned 40 and started her affair. There were times it seemed like I was dealing with a girl half her age. Put a drink or two in her, and she started acting like an idiot sorority chick. Girls Gone Wild kind of thing.

Now she's 42, we're in R, and for the most part she acts her age.

I wish you the best, and certainly understand your need to make sense of this. After about a year (we're at 15 months) I started accepting that I'll never really know why she did what she did and how she could justify it to herself. So now I'm just focusing on what she's doing today.

Mac4 posted 5/20/2014 17:27 PM

Sal1995 appreciate your thoughtful comments. Yes the BIG 40, I hadn't thought about that one. I threw a great surprise party for my wife on her 40th birthday. Then a month later she turned her year long EA into a PA.

I guess the A must be her shiny red sports car...

sunvalley posted 5/20/2014 18:02 PM

I have a hard time with this one too. In a sense I very much feel my H led a 'double life' so to speak. He was loving and attentive at home, but the side of him that had As was narcissistic and selfish. At home there were things he was selfish about as well, but not to the same degree as during the As...they allowed that side of him to grow into the monster it became. There was a general sense of him looking out for himself first and foremost always though, so I understand your fear about someone always being self fact MIL has nothing to do with me because the whole narcissist discussion came into play.

But as IC has explained to him and MC to us both he is a highly needy man with a lot of sadness in him. Trying to fill his 'inner void' with attention and validation from the wrong places was going to make him a selfish person, because he was so low self esteem and needing constant reassurance so he did always make life about me me me... I get what you're saying about the acts themselves being selfish vs the person, but I do believe that if someone is needy and low self esteem then the whole person becomes selfish until they learn to heal. I think if she is low self esteem she will have a long road ahead of her to learn to fill that emptiness inside her in positive ways, but I do believe it can be done...I have to, I'm sticking it out with someone in similar shoes and I've seen big changes already.

I think the difference between someone whos acts are selfish and someone who has a severe personality issue that cannot be overcome (or without a huge workload) is empathy and compassion. If she is remorseful, empathetic and compassionate towards you then I would say she stands a chance of repairing her inner confidence and neediness, which will reduce her selfishness. If she lacks empathy for you, then I would be more concerned about how deep these damages have taken their toll....I believe selfish people get blinded in a sense to the true damage they're doing because they are truly just focused on themselves, but once those blinders are off if they still don't want to change then it means they aren't really grasping the compassion and empathy they need. Like during the As my H could rationalize to himself why he was doing what he was, but as soon as he saw my pain on DDay he realized OMG look what I've done to HER and actually thought about what all this had done to me...I think they become very good at blocking that empathy while doing the damages, but if they can get it back after DDay then there is hope.

I'm not sure how far out you are at this point from DDay but at 10m I have seem big improvements in my H this way.

hopefull77 posted 5/20/2014 19:50 PM

I think my H's selfish behavior turned him into a selfish person...thank GOD that selfish guy hasn't been around for awhile....

crossroads2010 posted 5/21/2014 05:32 AM

Mac4...I think what you are experiencing may be a new awareness that your WW has some characteristics that you never noticed before you started trying to process the fallout of the A and R. Selfishness...not sure if that is the right word...self-centeredness one of them. I can relate.

Over the last 4 years, since his A, I have come to realize that "the nice guy" image he projects to others is really a ploy to get the ego boost HE needs. His self-centeredness is more and more obvious to me his actions, body language and words. It is like after the A, you see traits you never noticed before in everyday things they do.

Mac4 posted 5/21/2014 12:01 PM

Sunvalley, that really helps, appreciate your comments. I do see empathy and compassion in my WW, just hope she can keep it up as I still struggle day to day.

Hopeful 77 glad to hear your "selfish" H wasn't around much.

Crossroads2010, yes, the selfishness and self-aborption are very much a part of my wife that I didn't recognize before. I think my WW projects the happy homemaker do it all soccer mom image, when that isn't the reality. And because of her A, I am now more aware of her selfish behavior. But for R I'm going to need continued empathy and compassion from her just as Sunvalley pointed out, these actions are the oposite of self-absorption.

hopefull77 posted 5/21/2014 20:27 PM

You know Mac4 sometimes I feel selfish...I show it in my anger and my words...I know it gets us NOWHERE but man for that moment it feels good!

Mac4 posted 5/22/2014 08:09 AM

hopeful 77 - Great thought...besides just feeling generally flat like a pancake most of the time, I'm starting to feel a lot more anger and resentment building. Not sure why those feelings haven't been there from the start. I'm also just feeling plain bitter about this whole experience. So I think I will be selfish in sharing that with my WW.

Merida posted 5/22/2014 08:57 AM

you've gotten some great responses

absolutely agree an A is all about that wayward's selfish desires/needs above all else

as far as behavior vs personality? Unless and until my WH gets a NPD diagnosis (not likely) than I lump it into he can change catagory

My WH's story was at first classic transitional anxiety - new job, new baby, turning 40 and an end of contact with his other kids / very nasty, contentious custody case from 2002-2008... so yah = he crumbled instead of turning to me sadly. When the CLfuck said she was pregnant by him, he went downhill from there due to FOO and underlying trauma-bond so that now I am dealing with the nuclear fallout of only finding out about his 2008 in 2014

What I would say to look for is if you WW displays "generosity" but it really masks her constant need for external validation. Feeling internally insecure, inadequate etc.coupled with needing external validation, I feel definitely contributed to my husband's self-destructive selfish behavior.

My "great guy" always so "generous" is also incredibly insecure with a massive inferiority complex (major FOO crap) so that no amount of my atta-boys was defeating his negative self-talk and as he didn't properly process his anger at his ex = shoved it down and compartmentalized = to the point where he than justified it was "better to feel bad than feel nothing at all"

so yah, all the best as you try to understand your WW's broken-ness and figure out if you want to reconcile

Mac4 posted 5/22/2014 19:55 PM

Merida, yes I appreciate all of the input. I certainly don't think personally my WW has a personality disorder. But in the aftermath of the A, I have been a lot more sensitive to selfish behavior and thus, I think I am noticing it more. I think I'm hopeful for R, and hopeful that in time my WW may be less selfish. But I'm not optimistic that she will change drastically in this regard as these are behavior patterns learned over a lifetime.

crossroads2010 posted 5/23/2014 05:30 AM

But I'm not optimistic that she will change drastically in this regard as these are behavior patterns learned over a lifetime.

I agree...awareness of/new perception of my H requires that I accept that person as he is I am to stay M.

The anger/resentment evolves...I was experiencing a lot of that at the 2 year point...still do but it has lessened greatly.

Merida posted 5/23/2014 08:50 AM

Have you given her your list of what you feel she must change - drastically or otherwise - for you to feel safe?

On the one hand no one wants to feel this process is like training a dog ... on the other, how can a person know if they are doing what is needed to repair and R?

I found it really helpful for me to put into words

please do X... to clearly ask for what I want and need.

I have a hard time asking for help, hard time accepting compliments etc. so unfortunately pairing with my H sometimes feeds into his "I didn't think about it" / what I find to be selfish behavior

And BTW - they can be real simple requests

like for me - help me make the bed in the AM, make me a cup of tea at night, be willing to answer my questions, make the kids lunches in the morning, etc

Ive been able to focus more on what he is doing NOW to get over the what he's done... not a magic bullet, but helps me avoid the "he never..." fears where I am more prone to label him as a selfish person vs just slipped up like we all do occasionally

I've found most of what I have perceived as "selfish" is his insecurity and based on his fear of rejection. Kind of like the person who is shy who comes across as aloof and a snob as their coping mechanism. So it's helped me address my fear of feeling "I don't matter" to be able to speak up and ask more directly "hey go get me..." "honey I need you to..." kinds of requests

good luck - you can only work on you and hopefully it will make you feel better about how you can then see your WW's behavior

Mac4 posted 5/24/2014 00:40 AM

Merida - absolutely. I am starting to take control of my needs and asking her what I need from her to feel safe, to feel appreciated and to feel loved.

Appreciate the support and solid advice.

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