Chances are, you have been socialized to believe that to be included and valued and loved by other people you have to be a good person. Basically, you have to be a good person to get your needs met in human society. The worst thing in the world is to be selfish. Because of this, you have been taught to abandon your best interests for other people’s best interests. The thing is, this is a huge crossing of your wires and as a result, though you see yourself as a good guy for abandoning your best interests, abandoning your best interests makes you a covert bad guy.
You have heard me talk a lot about the zero sum game in relationships. A zero sum game being “I win and you lose”. It is not possible to create a relationship that will work if there is a zero sum game being played. The reason is that trust cannot exist within a zero sum game. To trust someone is to rely upon someone to capitalize on your best interests. So obviously in a zero sum game, the opposite is occurring. An example of a zero sum game is a couple where one person has decided that they want an open relationship and the other wants a monogamous relationship. If the person who wants an open relationship simply goes and sleeps with other people, he or she is playing a zero sum game. If the person who wants a monogamous relationship says “tough, you committed to me so we’re in a monogamous relationship” he or she is also playing a zero sum game. There is no win-win in the scenario. To understand trust, which is the most important part of a relationship, watch my video titled: What is Trust and How To Build Trust in Relationships.
Parents and caregivers are the ones who teach children to play zero sum games in relationships. This is because a child is treated as sub-human. An adult has more power and tends not to accommodate a child’s best interests, especially when that parent is convinced that they know what is best for the child. For example, if child is miserable in a certain situation, a parent will usually say, “You’re going anyway” and invalidate the child’s perspective in some way. But many parents take it one step further. When their child expressed his or her best interests, they shame their child for it. They call their child selfish for it. They teach their child that to be good and to have a chance at meeting any of their needs and to show their parents love, they should abandon their best interests. The child is literally systematically programmed to disown his or her best interests.
When we have disowned our best interests, we have swung to the opposite side of the pendulum from people who are so attached to their own best interests that they refuse to accommodate other people’s best interests. The funny thing is, this opposite pendulum swing also creates a zero sum game. We have created a set up. The set up is that when we disown our best interests, we force other people around us to enter into a zero sum game that they never knew they were playing and never intended to play and none the less, we punish them for it.
In a business situation, it is expected that whatever other business you are doing business with, will acknowledge your best interests and if there is now way to accommodate them, then there is no business deal. The best interests of the two companies would then be considered incompatible. Therefore the conversation is no longer about how to create a business deal. It is about what to do in light of the incompatibility so that both parties feel resolved about there being no business deal. Seems straightforward right? But we have a hard time realizing that for a relationship to be good, the relationship has to run the same way. We don’t commit to creating win-wins in our relationships. We don’t change or end relationships with people who play zero sum games. Instead, we bank on the fact that the other person’s best interest is to stay with us and so we give ourselves room to play zero sum games with them. We keep people as partners and friends even though they play zero sum games because we think not being alone is in our best interests. We don’t want to face incompatibility in relationships. For this reason, I highly suggest you watch my video titled: Incompatibility, a Harsh Reality in Relationships.
Something most people don’t get is that facing incompatibility is part of accommodating both your and other people’s best interests. A fish can’t be in the air and a bird can’t be underwater. If a third option can’t be found, it is in the best interests of both to face that incompatibility rather than to demand that a fish fly or a bird swims.
In a relationship, just like in good business, you need to really know what your best interests are and really own them. When you own them, you are taking responsibility for caretaking those best interests. A big part of this is clearly communicating what your best interests are to people in your life. Not doing this sets a person up to be a bad guy even when they aren’t.
I often say that all it takes to become a narcissist around a person who is really codependent is to have an opinion, take the lead, be honest or ask for something. The reason is that a person who adapts this codependent style of relationship interaction, disowns themselves in order to meet their needs covertly. This includes their best interests. The person who disowns their best interests, does not take any responsibility for caretaking their best interests or communicating them. Instead, they expect the people in their lives to be psychic. They expect them to not only be psychic so as to know what their best interests are, but also for people to own and therefore take the full responsibility of their best interests for them.
Underneath this behavior, is the programmed belief/expectation that if this other person loved them, he or she would sacrifice their own best interests for them. This is after all how they have been trained to show their love to mom and dad and everyone else in their life. It only makes sense that other people would reciprocate. But the thing is, they don’t. And then they get to see those people as total self centered, narcissistic ass holes. This moral judgment about what people should do (and especially should know to do) relative to the best interests that were never even communicated, demolishes relationships.
This is a big reason why some people feel like they are constantly self-sacrificing to all the selfish people in their lives. The thing is, the people in their lives have been expected to be psychic about their best interests and know when yes means no. And they have been expected to own best interests that were never even communicated, keep transactions they never knew they were getting into and sacrifice their own best interests to prove their love.
It’s tempting to see these self sacrificing people who are always conforming to the best interests of others as the good guys… As the ones who are saintly and used by everyone. Don’t jump to this conclusion so fast. Have you noticed that everyone around them are bad guys? Perhaps that isn’t because they actually are bad guys. Everyone around them seems to be playing a zero sum game with them. Perhaps it’s because are they setting everyone around them up to play a zero sum game that those people don’t even know they are playing.
I’ll give you an example of this dynamic. Someone I know started a business. She figured that it would be a good opportunity for a friend of hers (who hated his job) to offer for him to come work with her and start the company with her instead. She paid him a salary. When the articles of incorporation were written, 100 percent ownership of the company was written to the name of the woman who started the business. The man who had quit his job to work with her to start the business knew this and said nothing about it. Years later, this friend wanted to move into a different house with his girlfriend. Because it cost more money than he had, he approached her to ask for twenty thousand dollars. She was totally shocked during that conversation to find out that without ever communicating the expectation, he had not seen the opportunity she gave him as an opportunity to work as an employee, but instead saw himself as a business partner and instead expected that because he started the business with her, regardless of what the articles of incorporation said, that she would simply give him a portion of the company or buy him a house when he needed it or at the very least give him a lump sum of money that a partner in a company would be entitled to, incase he ever ask for it. It was a transaction that she never knew she was getting into. A debt she never knew she was accruing. It was one she would have said no to from the beginning. But nonetheless, her refusal to agree with his estimation of the situation and her refusal to conform to his vision of what being a good person in the situation would mean, she got to be branded as the narcissistic bad guy and their relationship still has not recovered from it. She wasn’t actually playing a zero sum game, but the man in this scenario thought she was. Really, it was him that did not own his best interests or communicate them from the get go, so they could never be accommodated in the first place.
If I had a quarter for every time I’ve been sitting with a woman who is complaining about how selfish her husband is and how he never takes the best interests of the kids or her into consideration because he never spends time with them, only to watch him call and say he’s gonna be home late; to which she says “Ok sweetheart, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow” and then hangs up the phone and rolls her eyes as if the call was a validation of what she’s been saying, I’d be a rich as hell.
By not owning your best interests, you make it impossible to consider you or accommodate those best interests. You make it impossible to find a win win. You also make it impossible to figure out that there is incompatibility that needs to be faced in the relationship until it’s so late that the incompatibility will create serious pain to you both. If you don’t own your best interests, you are very dangerous to be in a relationship with because you unconsciously frame people.
Whether you directly own your best interests or not, you can’t get rid of them like you think you can. They are essentially needs. If you try to disown your needs, all that happens is that you will manipulate to get them met. To understand this in depth, watch my video titled: Meet Your Needs. If the pattern of disowning your best interests runs deep enough, the way you will covertly meet your needs and unconsciously manipulate to meet your best interests is through the pity you get for being the victim. You will turn everyone around you into the bad guy so that you see yourself as good and so that other people see you as good and you get the kickbacks of being the underdog, even when you actually aren’t.
The nicest person in the world could be forced by you into a zero sum game they never knew they were playing and definitely never wanted to win, if you disown your best interests. So, even if it is terrifying and runs totally counter to everything you’ve been taught, the time had come to re-own them. The time has come to really become conscious of what your best interests are in any scenario and to clearly communicate them. Love is not about self-sacrifice. Love is about finding the win-win. Love is about mutual accommodation of each other’s best interests and consciously facing incompatibility if no win-win exists.