“I love you, because I love myself.”

Doubtlessly, we are a long way from seeing the above title appear on a Hallmark card. Even so, that phrase embodies the very spirit of love, true love, as it is meant to be. Rather than the altruistic form of love that seems to be worshipped by our culture today, I advocate a different kind of love – selfish love – which I believe would solve many of the problems concerning our relationships if properly followed.

If I am correct, those of you who have read thus far probably already formed your opinion at the words “selfish love,” but before you begin furiously typing out a response, hear me out. Selfish love is a philosophical concept that leads to incredible happiness in one’s relationships while altruistic love, meaning a self-sacrificing, self-denying love, is irrational and leads one towards emotional strife.

Before we discuss love in particular, we should first examine the idea of “values.” Our values are conceived in our psyche through our rational perception of certain things to be immensely good or bad by their very nature. Often, this rational process is not carried out consciously but instead operates on a subconscious level. For example, we can reasonably admire Mt. Rushmore because of the value we place on the incredible time, effort, and skill it took to sculpt, while a landfill would evoke no such sense of rational wonder (save maybe one of profound disgust), but it takes no conscious mental activity to make that sort of judgment. Our values serve as a sort of guide for the things that we should seek, and oppositely avoid, in life. Virtues, in this sense, are human characteristics which we value (e.g. honesty, reason, self-esteem) over corresponding negative traits or vices (e.g. dishonesty, irrationality, self-contempt). In turn, our emotions are responses to our value system – good emotions arising from achieving our values and bad emotions from being kept from our values or having them taken away from us.

Consequently, love is a response to coming in contact with our most sacred values, or at least that is how it should be. Instead, we are told that love is inexplicable, that it needs no reason, or that it simply “happens.” Furthermore, we are told that love withstands any suffering or abuse that can be thrown at it, but is that really the kind of love we want? Who would really want their significant other to say, “I’m loving you as a favor to you; I’m getting nothing out of it?”

As ridiculous as it sounds, that is how many people view love. Countless individuals throughout their lives engage in relationships in which they claim, and maybe even force themselves to believe, that the happiness of their significant other is more important than their own. These are the “self-sacrificers,” the ones who live each and every day to please someone else regardless of the personal cost to themselves. Those who would spend their income on gifts they begrudgingly give, those who would sacrifice their time on events they hate attending, and especially those who would compromise their own convictions for those which they do not believe all fall into this category. In a very general sense, self-sacrificers believe that they are not worthy of their partner’s love and forever seek to please their perceived “greater” half rather than treating one another as equals. They feel like they are receiving the affection of their partner as a favor that must be compensated for by more favors. In the end, the self-sacrificers end up broken and unhappy even if their significant other is thrilled, and they still defiantly stand before the world asserting that they did it all for love – that the only thing that really matters is their partner’s happiness. Furthermore, it should be noted that many of those who receive the gifts, time, and ideological concessions feel equally miserable, knowing that their partner is not doing it because they want to but because they feel compelled to.

On the other end of the spectrum, there exists the “demanders.” Rather than being the one making the sacrifices, these are the kinds of people who require the sacrifices of their partner as proof of love. These are generally those who feel that their own love is provided as a favor to their “lesser half,” a favor that must be repaid. Should, for example, their significant other choose not to cater to their every whim, the response of the demanders is usually, “Don’t you love me?” As is common in our culture, this is an attempt by one person to impose their personal values upon someone else through the guilt of not living up to the personal standards of the former. Essentially, the demanders wish that their partners wanted what they want, and they seek to impose these values upon their partners through the claim of altruistic love. Again, the self-sacrificer is made unhappy by self-denial, and the demander is made unhappy knowing that the reality they seek to create is not reality as it is.

It is important to point out, however, that an altruistic relationship does not always consist of a self-sacrificer and a demander. In fact, a relationship can be composed of two self-sacrificers, each futilely trying to make the other happy while both rejecting their own happiness, or two demanders, each trying to achieve happiness through denying the reality of the differences between their own and their partner’s authentic values. In actuality, most people are a mixture of these two forms of altruistic lovers: they both deny their own happiness and demand, by the principles of altruistic love, that their partners do the same. Essentially, they claim to be solely concerned with their partner’s happiness while also claiming that their personal happiness should be their partner’s center of attention. In their heads, they are neither deserving of their partner’s love, nor does their partner deserve their love. Naturally, this presents a contradiction, and contradictions do not exist. Those who accept contradictions as reality deny reality.

Selfish love accepts no contradictions. It neither makes demands nor concessions. It accepts reality as it is and does not seek to escape from it. Selfish love is true love. Rather than trying to force another to live up to one’s own standards or denying one’s own standards to live up to those of another, selfish lovers seek to find individuals like themselves that fulfill their values without coercion or self-denial. Selfish lovers are aware of their own emotional needs and that denying themselves the right to attempt to satisfy those needs is innately self-destructive.

“So,” you might be wondering, “does this mean selfish lovers never make sacrifices for one another, ever?” Correct. Selfish lovers do not make sacrifices for nor request sacrifices from one another at any time.

Yes, you may call it cruel, unfeeling, heartless, or any other adjective you wish, but not before understanding me fully. You see, just because selfish lovers do not make sacrifices for one another does not mean that they “go Dutch” in every aspect of their relationship from paying for dinner to buying a house. Instead, because of the high value they place on their counterpart’s virtues and character, selfish lovers do things for one another because it is they who want to, because they have a selfish interest in doing those things. Naturally, by giving gifts, offering up personal time, or providing some other sort of sign of affection (but never giving up personal convictions), the receiver of these actions may be made happier by them, and will be made happier provided that the giver truly picked a proper mirror of his own values and acts in accordance with them, but this does not make the giving altruistic. Rather, the giver provides such things because he has a selfish interest in, and receives selfish pleasure from, seeing the receiver happy. Indeed, even selfish lovers who take bullets for one another do so only because the selfish desire of knowing that their loved one is safe is greater than that of avoiding the personal physical pain and potentially deadly consequences – they certainly do not do it because they do not care one way or another about what happens to the original intended target. Unlike the self-sacrificers, the selfish lover is concerned with the happiness of his partner insofar as it makes him personally happy, thereby making both lovers ultimately happy through shared values and emotional needs.

So, let’s review:

Altruistic lovers “fall in love” thinking either that they are either giving a handout of affection or are receiving one, or even both. Selfish lovers fall in love with those whom they consider their equals, a near-perfect reflection of their own values.

Altruistic lovers expect each other’s happiness to be of the greatest importance, each denying their own, making both individuals necessarily unhappy. Selfish lovers are concerned only with their personal happiness and emotional needs and do not enter into relationships with others who cannot meet the standards of their personal values, making both happy through their voluntary association with someone who does fulfill those requirements.

Altruistic lovers give to one another only because they feel that they should, regardless of their personal desires. Selfish lovers give because they want to.

Altruistic lovers try to make their partner happy because they feel it is required of them, even if the means to do so are contrary to their own interests. Selfish lovers try to make their partner happy because it selfishly makes one happy to see the other happy.

In essence, the creed of each kind of lover is as follows:

The self-sacrificer laments, “I don’t deserve you.”

The demander affirms, “You don’t deserve me.”

The selfish lover declares, “We deserve each other.”

To be loved as an equal, to be the embodiment of everything one holds dear in this world, the physical manifestation of one’s highest values, most treasured virtues, and deepest desires, to be appreciated for your greatness and not your faults by someone who mirrors the greatness that they see in you, and to be loved for who you are rather than what you sacrifice is the purest, most honest, and most powerful form of love that can ever be offered from one human being to another.

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10 thoughts on ““I love you, because I love myself.”

  1. So “I love you, for your wellbeing.” is selfless love, and “I love you, for my wellbeing.” is demanding love, and “I love you, because I love myself.” is selfish love. All of those phrases are reasons, not actions. They just declare the “why-for” without addressing the method of showing love. Or rather they are the reasons that drive the methods.

    If I’ve understood correctly so far, the ‘action’ phrase “I love you, as I love myself.” would explain which of the loves in your article?

    Just curious.

    1. I’d just like to clarify something before I get to your question, if that’s alright. You’re right in the ways that you describe altruistic and selfish love, but “I love you for my wellbeing” is actually selfish love. Selfish lovers do, in fact, love one another for their personal wellbeing. With that in mind, the demanding love is better described as “you should love me for my wellbeing.” Each of the two forms of altruistic love have their own moral dilemmas. Selfless love, though volitional on the part of the self-sacrificer, is still immoral in the sense that they are denying themselves for the benefit of someone else. In demanding love, the problem arises from asking another to deny themselves on your behalf. Selfish love, in turn, commits neither.

      Now, on to your question: “I love you as I love myself” would actually describe each of the listed forms of love. Those that hate themselves will display hatred toward their partner through one of the altruistic forms of love while individuals that love themselves will exhibit selfish love to their partners. I understand that “hate” is a very charged word and that there are varying degrees of affection, or lack thereof, between love and hatred, but I will use the word “hate” for purely semantic purposes from here on.

      You see, the self-sacrificer hates himself for obvious reasons – he denies his own values and emotional needs, supposedly, for his partner. However, this is an expression of hatred. By denying the reality of what he really wants, he creates a figurative wall between his partner and reality, keeping his partner from knowing the truth and deciding for herself if he is the reality she wants. This constructed reality is a lie, and lying is an expression of hatred rather than one of love.

      The demander, on the other hand, constructs the false reality for himself. He lies to himself about his partner’s individual desires, consequently expressing hatred toward himself. Again, the denial of reality keeps him from true happiness and from actually achieving his rational self-interest. In demanding love, the partner is asked to partake in that lie, inherently hurting her as well.

      So, in both forms of altruistic love, yes, you love your partner just as much as you love yourself. Both the demander and the self-sacrificer hate themselves and consequently display hatred toward their partners. Selfish lovers, however, love themselves and love their partners as a result. They accept reality rather than attempt to deny it.

      In an ultimate sense, I believe it is impossible to love anyone in a romantic relationship differently than you love yourself.

  2. So, let me ask this question. If the arguements always end “you don’t love because you won’t show me how much you love me.” Which type is that? The reason I ask is of course thats what I hear all the time. She’s always wanting me to change something else about myself to prove that I love her? I’ve changed so much and so many different ways and times, I’ve lost track of myself.

    any help would be apperciated it.

    1. I would call that a textbook case of demanding love.

      However, bear in mind that my next few comments make broad assumptions about you and your significant other based on my approximation of what the “average couple” is, so they may or may not apply to your particular situation. Additionally, note that I will only give a philosophical evaluation of the subject – only you know your own values, so only you will know the proper actions you should take. I will only attempt to give you the proper tools to act in accordance with your values.

      If a type of love is truly selfish, then there would be no pretenses about entering relationships if we required the other person to change significantly before they actually made us happy. Now, I say “significantly” because everyone has idiosyncrasies that may be of little consequence to their character but that their partner may have some mild value in seeing altered. Their partner may ask them to change these things, but so long as these changes do not actually alter their identity or ask them to sacrifice a higher value for a lesser one, then it is up to them as to whether they change them or not. My first girlfriend, for example, disliked me bouncing my leg while sitting down, so I stopped (as best I could remember) around her.

      On the other hand, the partner could be asking for major changes in behavior or conviction. These types of changes beg the question of if the “love” being expressed is true (as in selfish love) or if it is merely a love of something that does not exist but one would like to exist (as in demanding love). If the other individual accepts these demands, then that individual is being a self-sacrificer. If, instead, the individual refuses and asks their partner to drop the requests (if they are legitimate values of that person), then that individual is also being a demander (if the requests are merely fleeting whims, then they should be able to be dropped without much issue). In that case, the only rational (i.e. selfish) decision to make would be to accept the impasse and look elsewhere.

      In any case, if individuals pursue someone that is not the representation of one’s actual values, then one is loving altruistically. Additionally, if one enters relationships in accordance with one’s own values, but doing so does not make an individual happy or one’s values conflict with the ultimate value of life, then one is loving irrationally (for a slightly more rounded discussion, see the sixth paragraph in my article on the UN).

      Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of the individual to examine his values to see if he is rationally acting in accordance with them – that is the job that I cannot do for any man but myself. Otherwise, any advice would only be accepted blindly, and the recipient would only lend himself to be taken advantage of by anyone that would betray his trust.

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