On paper I have a good boyfriend — he is sweet, helpful, willing to accommodate my needs, and always has my back. However, I have been feeling for a long time like something is “off” and only recently figured out what it was. He has been described by others as self-centered, an attribution that he willingly admits to. I told him that I feel like he is generally more interested in and entertained by whatever is in his own life and his own head than anything I have to say. For example, he laughs far more at his own jokes than he does at mine (maybe I’m just not funny?…) and while he is willing to listen to my stories and anecdotes, it is difficult for me to gauge his interest in what I’m talking about. I recently went on a trip to Singapore and his friends seemed more interested in hearing about my trip than he did.
He claims that the reason he is more interested in his own thoughts is because he is an introvert and that this is a very typical introvert characteristic. I’m friends with and have dated many other introverts and none of them have demonstrated this trait. He is not generally expressive or effusive, and I am accepting of this and his other “introverted” tendencies, but I find this particular trait troubling. I feel like, at some level, most people are more interested in themselves than in others, but shouldn’t some kind of exception be made for your close friends and the people you’re, um, *in a relationship* with?? Moreover, he doesn’t seem to have trouble conversing with other people (although I have a hunch that it is something of an act, due to his lack of comfort in social situations, and that he is comfortable enough with me not to “fake” it. Small comfort.)
I am also afraid that I am simply being sensitive to what I perceive as his lack of attentiveness because I have definite abandonment issues (distant parents, flakey friends, etc), which I am working very hard to address. I am afraid that I am simply looking for a brand of attention that no one will be able to give me because of my own insecurities.
Is this self-centered behavior actually typical of introverts? Am I just laying the blame for my own insecurities on him? I told him about my concerns and he said he would think about it and see if there was a way to address it, but am I just overreacting? — Diverted by the Introvert
You’re asking the wrong question. It doesn’t matter if your boyfriend’s self-centered behavior is typical of introverts (it’s not). What matters — what should always, always, always matter — is how that behavior affects you and makes you feel. If you are not happy with it, don’t put up with it. If what you want is a boyfriend who actually, gasps, pays attention to you, asks about your trip to Singapore (how cool, by the way), and generally treats you like someone he’s, you know, interested in, then don’t settle for a boyfriend who barely gives you the time of day.
And, I’m sorry, what the fuck kind of response is, “Hmm, I’ll think about how to address that” when your girlfriend tells you she’s sick of you being a self-centered ass who doesn’t pay attention to her? Seriously, what kind of response is that? And what kind of moron blames his narcissism on being introverted? It’s the other way around, dear! He’s introverted because he’s a narcissist. He doesn’t care about socializing with anyone or asking his girlfriend about her cool trip to Singapore because no one could possibly be as interesting to him as he is to himself. Thus, he is introverted.
You say you have distant parents, flaky friends, and “insecurities,” so I guess you probably have self-esteem issues to boot. Maybe you feel like you aren’t very important and so you don’t demand being made a priority by those who are supposed to make you a priority (parents, friends, significant others). I say you take a page from your boyfriend’s book and start cultivating a little more interest in yourself. You ARE important, and I’m sorry the people who raised you didn’t give you enough of a foundation to believe that. I’m sorry you seem to be choosing to surround yourself with people who are as distant with you as the people you were surrounded by as a child. You didn’t have much choice then. But you do now. You’re important. Choose more wisely. And if you’re having trouble doing that, invest in a good therapist who can help you. You deserve a present you didn’t have in your past.