For each of us as individuals, self-interest is a central issue. The roots of this fact go to the need for survival. Back in the old days of wild animals and a threatening and uncontrollable nature, the human brain had to provide the internal guidance to be safe, so it was wired to watch out for what would ensure one’s survival, at times at the expense of others.

So how would this tendency work in a relationship? If each person looks out for his/hers truly, how does the relationship bloom? By definition, a relationship is an emotional or other connection between people, sometimes between persons by blood or marriage. In other words, an involvement. Setting aside the legal part, how can one be involved and also protecting #1 at the same time? An oxymoron? A cruel twist by nature?

This is where that exquisite muscle that we have comes into play: The awesome, always-ready-at-the-job brain. The emotional need to connect and the biological need to survive can cooperate towards a path of compromise. I don’t like spicy food but this time, I will go to that Thai place with you and then we can try my fave, the French bistro the next time. You are good with finances; you handle all of that and I will take on our social life and commitments. These kinds of working with one another strengthen the bond for when even more drastic life events may come up.

But then, there are those who insist on their way or the highway. I just listened to someone whose partner would object to all suggestions by patronizing comments as to how ridiculous they were and then come up with a preferred decision. You may ask: Why would that relationship survive? Why would anyone put up with this? Not wanting to be alone? Lack of self-confidence? Having been brought up to bully for one, and not been encouraged to speak up and rock the boat for the other? Feeling too attached to the partner? Of course, the question arises as to whether one would label that “love”, and some do. It is not a healthy situation if any connection, romantic or otherwise, does not enrich your life, makes you feel bad about yourself and diminishes any joy in their presence.

As individuals, we can use material means to buy conveniences, to seek education, to immerse ourselves in social activities, to be physically active, to widen our horizons of cultural samplings. What we cannot buy or provide for ourselves is that emotional connection that feeds the soul. If you have that, nurture it, savor it and do what you can to reciprocate the loving while you also take care of your own survival. Nature brings it to our door; we just have to learn to negotiate the winding road.

Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577