Do you have an ego in your relationship?
The ego is the human mind’s way of distinguishing itself from the selves of others and objects of its thought. Although everyone possesses an ego in some form, the degree to which people let it meddle with their relationships varies considerably.
There are three main instances in romantic relationships where the ego is directly reacting to the situation. This article aims to explain each of those instances clearly so you can determine yourself just how deadly your ego is in your relationship…
How much do you like your partner?
It sounds silly to question how much you like your partner. You wouldn’t be with them if you didn’t like them, right?
Personal qualities and physical attributes go without saying; humans have an innate intuition as well as a logical assessment regarding those two factors. What I’m referring to here is how much you like your partner on a deep, subconscious level. In other words, are you with your partner because you share a deep connection and it actively adds to your external happiness, or are you with them to feel a more complete sense of self-worth? Humans have an inherent desire to feel loved so it’s not something that anyone should be ashamed to admit. It is worth thinking about in order to determine if you are going to experience real love and everlasting happiness with your partner.
How you ended up in your relationship plays a big part in how much you actually like your partner on an egoistic level, at least up to a point:
- Did your relationship blossom out of friendship?
- Did your partner approach you and instigate the whole process?
- Did it just sort of happen unexpectedly?
- Were you consciously looking for a romantic partner and they happened to be in the right place at the right time?
- Was the relationship a mutual and steady progression from the first meeting?
There are many cases of fulfilling and happy relationships stemming from each of these categories and none of them are invalid at all. Generally though, the more conscious and organically a relationship develops, the less ego there will be by default.
The truth is that the majority of relationships aren’t meant to be everlasting. Finding the perfect relationship for you is a long and arduous process if you are being completely honest with yourself about your values and desires. Even knowing this, the ego is to blame for keeping people in subpar relationships longer than they should. On a subconscious level, an ego in relation to pair-bonding makes a person feel like something will be missing from their life if they are single.
There is an old saying that states, “before you can learn to love, you must first love yourself” and this is completely true if we are talking about what is colloquially known as true love.
Ask yourself these questions if you are in a relationship: Could you live without your partner? Would you be just as content and happy if they weren’t in your life?
I love my girlfriend very much but I know that my internal happiness is controlled wholly by myself.
True love can only happen when a relationship is completely free of ego, so it is the perfect test of your relationship’s foundations. The paradox is that true love is quite easily created in the mind by the very thing that wants it to be sincere… your ego!
True love has no opposite and if you claim to be in love but still often feel emotions opposite to love, such as anger, frustration, contempt or even hatred – emotions that crop up over time as a couple become more complacent with each other and don’t feel the need to hide their egos anymore – then I would question the sincerity of that love. It may feel real to you but there are many instances where the ego tries to obscure the truth. The most common instance where the ego tricks the mind in relationships is regarding the validation one gets from being in love. These sorts of emotions are extremely addictive, hence why love is sometimes referred to as a drug.
Do you have a lot of arguments?
As I have mentioned before, most notably in the article Dealing with arguments in a relationship, the majority of arguments in a relationship are wholly ego-orientated. This means that they largely revolve around the ego’s desire to be right!
The next time you are in an argument with your partner – especially if you feel they are responsible for starting the argument – observe how defensive you become as you feel you are being emotionally attacked. You will almost certainly be able to feel the emotional energy building as you try to prove the other person is wrong to strengthen or justify your side of the argument.
One of the primary concepts I teach in getting attraction from people you meet is to be non-reactive. This is useful to bear in mind regarding relationships too as it embodies someone who is in control of their ego. Being non-reactive isn’t about being an emotionless robot. It means that when someone actively tries to get a reaction out of you, you are in complete, conscious control of how you react to it.
Arguments are ALL about inciting and reacting to each other but all arguments also require two egos to exist. That is why it only takes one person to actively repair a lot of the problems in a relationship, whereas other relationship experts might suggest it takes two. The reason for that fallacy is because the hardest time to keep your ego at bay is when you feel victimised and arguments are classic examples of that. The ego says, “Why should I make all the effort? Why should I get chastised? I’m giving as good as I get!”
Keeping that aspect of your ego in check takes constant work. Popular self-help author Eckhart Tolle talks about remaining present and disassociating with the past and future as a means to conquer the ego and this is essentially the same thing.
Although arguments feel like they are in the moment, the actual content always comes from past events or future decisions (recalled emotions and projected emotions respectively), both of which are created in the mind and both fuelled by the ego.
The more past experiences you have with someone, the more ammunition there is for arguments, so it actually takes more effort to control the ego the longer a relationship progresses.
This is why ego-centred people find it so hard to remain friends with ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. The ego is reacting to past experiences with that person. Ask yourself if you have bad feelings towards any of your ex-partners and if so, ask yourself why you continue to attach negative emotions to something in the past. It is possible that you could be doing a similar thing with your current partner without evening knowing it!
Do you try to impress your partner?
Ideally, relationships should develop beyond the dating stages with a mutual progression of attraction, rapport and commitment. This is often not the case though and invariably there is always one person who is in a more ascendant role, with the other person vying for their approval.
In most cultures, during the dating phases of a relationship it is typically the male who acts as the pursuer – at least up until the relationship becomes sexual, where there is a distinct power-shift – and this sets men up to feel that they need to impress women, especially in the early stages. As long as you feel the need to do something, you will always feel dependant on the outcome, which ironically will actually play against you. This is the same in long-term relationships.
I love doing nice things for my girlfriend but they always come from a place of self-intention and I am definitely not dependant on Heidi’s reaction or approval.
In a sense, you have to stop judging yourself rather than judging your partner if you want to have an egoless, fulfilling relationship.
To summarise this article, the three main instances where the ego has an effect on a relationship are:
- Feeling loved and validated,
- Dealing with arguments,
- Trying to impress your partner.
With all this in mind, how much do you think YOUR ego plays a part in your relationship?
This is a great article. It made me think about aspects of my relationship in a different light, especially with regards to arguments. I think you are right that the longer the relationship, the more difficult it is to keep the ego under control. I also agree that arguments become worse by both person’s refusing to back down. Being non-reactive is definately a good way to be, especially for avoiding arguments. Sometimes though, being so calm when your partner is clearly not, can come across as patronising and could even make an argument worse. On the other hand, if in the end, it makes your partner realise that there is no need to act in such a ego-centred manner, such arguments may cease to exist.
Thank you for your interesting insights, I will definately take on board your ideas!
You make some great points! 🙂
There is definitely a subtle skill in being non-reactive in a non-patronising way. It was actually something I learnt from my older brother when I was growing up, as he has the ability to stay remarkably calm even during the most vicious of arguments. I do recall my sister pointing out that he was occasionally coming across as patronising though, so there is definitely a fine line.
If someone is coming across in a patronising way, then they are not acting ‘non-reactively’ in the correct way, as patronisation comes only through contempt for a situation. Most people know that staying calm is more conductive in an argument than becoming negatively animated but at the time, ANY form of negative emotion (including being patronising as you say) will only insight the other emotions further.
Thanks for your comment,
How long have you been in your relationship out of interest? I notice you’ve commented a few times on this website now and you always have really good insights. 🙂
I have read all your articles Sam and this is probably my favorite, wonderful stuff. I can completely relate to the arguements part. It is a lot easier to notice whilst on the outside though. I have a friend whos husband can never let anything drop. He can never accept being proved wrong and I don’t know how she lives with it to be honest. As for myself, I have found myself in lots of the situations you mention as I am sure everyone has, so your ideas here are very useful.
Another part that stuck with me is when you mention how we feel about ex partners. I have an ex husband from when I was very young and naive and I know he is a wonderful man, else I would not have married him in the first place. We rarely talk now though and I do find that a massive shame. There is a good thing in moving on but you are right, I should not hold resentment for things not working out.
I look forward to your next article and hope you write more on this topic in the future.
Glad you like the article! 🙂
Yes I also know of people who are unnecessarily argumentative and feel the need to prove their point all the time. Unfortunately, once certain roles in a relationship have been established and accepted, it is a lot harder to change behaviours. Like I said in the article, as long as someone is feeding the ego of someone with those characteristics, they will continue to act in that way.
The ex-partner reference is something I am going to expand on in an upcoming article but you are right… Most people’s minds focus on the BAD aspects of a past relationship and completely disregard the many positive memories. I have nothing but praise for all my past girlfriends as they have all shaped the person I am today in one way or another, as well as having taught me many unique things about different relationships. In the same way that friendship with ex-partners won’t be actively avoided by an enlightened mind, forcing a friendship through feeling some sort of obligation carries the same effect. So what it really equates to is that to feel totally at ease, you don’t HAVE to be friends with all of your ex-partners (people move on and change like you say)… but you must not be enemies with them!
Thanks for your comment Jill,
Best yet, Sam:) I’ve always thought about these subjects in the back of my mind, but it’s just great when you put it all into words for me:) Catch up with you later…
Don’t forget to send me the rest (make that all) of your update on bacefook! 🙂
PS: ‘Eggo Waffles’ look and sound disgusting!!! I can’t comment on taste until you send me a batch… 🙂
yes, we all have to remember to keep our egos in check and that we are all responsible for our own happiness. Happiness is a choice, choose to focus on the negative and you will be eternally unhappy, choose to focus on the positive and you will always find the happiness. “If you love the live you live, you will live a life of love!”
Keep writing your wonderful posts. They are great!
Some more wise words Sheree… I love the quote too! 🙂
Thankyou very much,
Thanks for the reply!
I have been in a relationship for nearly 2 and a half years now, I can’t believe it…that time has flown by!
Wow that is a long time… Congratulations!
It’s a good sign that the time has ‘flown by’… It means you must be enjoying it! 🙂
Thanks for reading,
Suffering from a relationship that has turned non-reciprocative, I have been looking back at my past and analyzing what goes wrong with my relationships.
I think my problem is different from what most other people face, in that I have NO ego when it comes to relationships. Or am I making a mistake in saying that?
I am a solitary fellow most of the time and a rather non-emotional person. But with the onset of a relationship, as I begin to trust a person, I gradually lose the emotional fortitude I usually have in interpersonal affairs.
After a beautiful time during which I become completely devoted to the person, involved in the relationship to the exclusion of everything else, and completely vulnerable, at some point my relationships stop being mutual and go downhill. The other person inexplicably stops reciprocating my love, probably starts taking me for granted, or just becomes sick of me or something. I have learnt not to be ‘clingy’ and ‘possessive’, though it’s natural for me to be so.
I have NEVER had an argument with the other person. When differences arise, I defer to the other person’s opinion, apologize, take all the blame to myself, make compromises and try to fix things in the best way possible. Even if something seems wrong to me, I NEVER react. My being in love with a person precludes all possibility of a retaliation. But my relationships don’t last, and end with me being a complete emotional wreck. I don’t know where I go wrong.
I have read about ‘co-dependence’ and ‘limerence’ and these seem to explain me somewhat. I am not sure.
Does my Ego manifest itself in a different way than usual, or is there a certain minimum Ego required to maintain relationships?
I would say that to have “no ego” is a slightly misleading statement, at least in the eyes of a romantic partner. Whilst remaining calm and appearing indifferent to certain issues in a relationship does have its uses, there are emotional side-effects that will affect both attraction and connection in the long run.
For example, whilst being able to avoid arguments is definitely a useful and desirable trait, if it is not conducted in an empathetic or sincere way, it can quite easily make the other person feel like you don’t care. I always say to avoid the argument but don’t avoid the issue and this goes for a lot of things in a relationship.
As emotional investment in a relationship increases, it is natural to let your guard down somewhat and showing vulnerability isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What it does do though is modify how much ‘control’ you have in the relationship. Whilst there is nothing wrong with becoming more passionate, committed and devoted to a woman, it is always wise to keep the relationship in perspective. This includes things such as always striving to be an attractive man (confident, fun, emotive and dominant) and never sending conflicting messages. These can all be achieved without the influence of ego (letting any sense of self-righteousness dictate how you treat your partner).
An article I wrote that discusses some of those transitions from a mutual perspective is called ‘Managing the most powerful emotion in the world – The love equilibrium’.
Whilst I am familiar with the terms co-dependence and limerence, I haven’t studied the psychological nuances of either one in depth. In changing any unwanted behaviour though, the first step is always awareness, so it is great that you have researched and understand what the possible causes for these relationship downfalls might be.
In summary, I wouldn’t say that it is your ego that is directly affecting your relationships but more some of the traits that coincide with how the ego is expressed, most of which you have highlighted yourself in your comment.
I hope this helps answer some of your questions and thanks for writing,