Selfish love vs selfless love: 30 ways to spot the difference

Like different kinds of love, people love the way they know  – and they’re all valid.

The only difference is knowing whether this love comes from a needy, selfish place or a pure, selfless one.

And the truth is, many traits set selfless love apart from selfish love.

So is love selfish or selfless?

In this article, let’s explore the differences and understand what selfless love and selfish love are all about.

30 undeniable differences that set selfless love apart from selfish love

So we can better understand the difference between selfish love and selfless love, here’s a brief rationale behind these concepts:

  • Selfish love: is focused on getting what one can gain from their partner and the relationship
  • Selfless love: is about sacrificing everything for another and accepting the other without judgment

Now, let’s go over all the aspects to know where you stand with these two concepts and if there’s a distinct character trait you can identify with.

1) Selfless love is caring more for someone than yourself

You make your partner or loved ones’ wellbeing and happiness your goal. You care more than what you deserve without neglecting yourself.

It’s about allowing the love you have for them to take priority.

Most of the time, you’re putting their needs, desires, plans, and dreams ahead of your own.

Sometimes it even means making difficult decisions and sacrifices if you need to support the other person.

It’s not easy, but then you choose to put your needs behind you because that person’s smile is the most important and most beautiful thing you can ever see.

And that’s how selfless love works.

2) You’re willing to let go

Loving someone selflessly isn’t about staying when you know it’s time to let go.

While it’s difficult to do this, sometimes you have to walk away for their benefit.

Sometimes unexpected things can happen and you face obstacles where you need to move to see the other person happy.

Selfless love is understanding what the other person wants. This could be because of their career, dreams, or wishes.

And you have nothing to do but to let go so you can both grow, heal, learn, and mature.

Celebrate the person when they’re in your life, but let them go should they need to.

3) Selfless love is accepting what’s best for the other person

Selfless love is allowing the person to move on. You know that staying in a relationship isn’t best for both of you.

It’s about having the freedom to set things free while hoping that things will come back.

You understand that staying won’t be the right thing to do.

You let go even though you love them and want them in your life. But you don’t ask them to stay by making them guilty for leaving.

Loving selflessly is respecting someone. It’s accepting the best for them, even if it’s not what’s best for you.

I learnt about this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. In his incredible, free video on cultivating healthy relationships, he gives you the tools to plant yourself at the center of your world.

And once you start doing that, there’s no telling how much happiness and fulfillment you can find within yourself and with your relationships. 

So what makes Rudá’s advice so life-changing? 

Well, he uses techniques derived from ancient shamanic teachings, but he puts his own modern-day twist on them. He may be a shaman, but he’s experienced the same problems in love as you and I have.

And using this combination, he’s identified the areas where most of us go wrong in our relationships. 

So if you’re tired of your relationships never working out, of feeling undervalued, unappreciated, or unloved, this free video will give you some amazing techniques to change your love life around. 

Make the change today and cultivate the love and respect you know you deserve. 

Click here to watch the free video

4) It’s about sacrificing your dreams

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Being selfless means putting your goals and ambitions to the side.

Sometimes things happen and you have to take a back seat first. You’re doing this so you can fully support your partner.

You want the other person to shine, reach their fullest potential, and achieve their dreams first before you do your own.

You understand the deep connection you’re sharing.

You become their biggest support and the wind beneath their wings.

5) You’re happy to compromise

Being selfless doesn’t mean forgoing your wants, desires, and needs. It also means working together so that you both get what you need.

This is why you’re always willing to compromise in your relationship. And you do it for your partner’s happiness.

You don’t just listen or do things for yourself. You listen and do things for each other.

For instance, you’ve already set plans for the weekend. But you have to forgo it because your partner needs you.

Loving selflessly is doing something because you want to and not because you have to, without conditions or limitations.

If you want to learn how to communicate and compromise better in your relationship, watch the video below. Ideapod’s co-founder Justin Brown explains how to communicate better in relationships.

YouTube video

6) You practice empathy

Being selfless means focusing on someone’s needs and wants as much as your own.

  • You empathize with what they’re going through
  • You acknowledge their pain and difficulties
  • You appreciate the person for sharing and trusting you
  • You show genuine interest and care
  • You do things to make the person feel loved and supported

Psychology Today shares that empathy is one secret to a happy relationship. This can also create a strong and deep bond.

Selfless love means choosing to put yourself and your feelings aside so you can be their strength when they feel too weak.

7) You’re not critical or judgemental

Love doesn’t depend on perfection as it holds space for imperfections.

Selfless love isn’t about blaming and judging the person for all that he or she does. You don’t love a person with judgmental eyes.

You hold on to contentment beyond your observations without allowing bad behavior to continue.

Instead of criticizing and judging your partner, you accept that we all have our flaws. But you help the other person change and improve without passing judgment.

Selfless love is being able to endure one’s shortcomings. On the other hand, selfish love gets angered easily, punishes, and takes revenge.

8) You stir away from making assumptions

Selfless love is rejoicing in the truth while selfishness lives in the darkness of lies.

Assumptions can damage a relationship. It can lead to frustration, resentment, and even breakups.

When we make assumptions, we take it personally and tend to believe that it’s the truth.

When you love selflessly, you communicate your needs and feelings. You don’t jump to conclusions right away.

Instead of making assumptions, you take the time to listen and understand. You dare to ask questions when you need to clear things out.

Here’s one key to stop making negative assumptions:

Practice mindfulness.

9) You give the benefit of the doubt

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It’s difficult to stand by a person who’s let you down before.

But when you love this person selflessly, you choose to believe and give them the benefit of the doubt.

A new study shared by the Journal of Happiness Studies, suggests that being able to give someone the benefit of the doubt makes one happier as long as they put a value on the relationship.

Loving selflessly is always choosing to trust your partner.

You stand by them and support them when no one else does.  You allow them to rise instead of putting them down.

This makes your partner feel appreciated. It promotes positivity in your relationship.

You know that your partner is deserving of trust even though there are doubts.

10) Selfless love is working as a team

Working together is the cornerstone of selfless love.

When you love someone selflessly, you think of your partner as a teammate. Instead of thinking just for yourself and your needs, you consider your partner as well.

You don’t just prioritize your goals nor get things your way, you take into account your partner’s dreams too.

You both put an effort to make the relationship work, grow, and thrive.

Encouraging, helping, and supporting each other strengthens the bond and the spiritual connection that you’re sharing.

It’s because selfless love isn’t selfish.

Selfless love feels grateful and blessed, while selfish love is filled with envy.

11) It’s about changing your plans and priorities

Sometimes, you have to give up some things because you know the person you love needs you more.

It’s not always easy, still, you choose to do it. And you don’t just do it to satisfy your partner at the cost of your happiness.

You change your priorities because it’s best for both of you. You also know that you’re doing it for the right reasons.

It’s because you find joy and meaning when you support your partner. And you know that your partner will also do the same for you.

12) It’s doing without any expectations

When you do something for a person without looking for personal gain, that’s selfless.

You love the person because you want to be loved in return, but you do it without expecting anything in return.

You give more and you love as much as you want. Most of the time, you give more of yourself and do things that you didn’t initially think you could.

You put yourself aside and put your partner’s needs before yours.

13) It’s not giving in easily

Loving and having a relationship isn’t that easy.

There are times when it’s tempting to throw in the towel, give and say goodbye to the relationship.

But when a relationship is filled with selfless love, you and your significant other can go through those rough spots.

Loving someone selflessly is about being there during the good and the bad times.

Instead of pulling the plug on the relationship, you worked through it.

  • You move forward with empathy, kindness, and forgiveness
  • You’re willing to acknowledge and accept each other’s differences
  • You try to be more open, communicative, and honest

Selfless love is working through your issues and is always worth the effort.

14) Selfless love is being with the person no matter what

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Loving someone and being in love with the person are different matters.

Selfless love is being with the person you love “in sickness and in health.”

You live with your promise to take care and be there for your partner no matter what. It is regardless of how things turn out to be, you stick with each other.

It’s because most of the time, things don’t go with our plans.

At some point in our life, we get sick, encounter accidents, and run across tragedies. Sometimes, we need to step up and take on a much greater role to care for the other.

You do whatever it is to show how much you value the other person. And that is what makes selfless love a beautiful thing.

15) Selfless love stays

Love changes the way people do.

Sometimes things happen – love shifts and fade over time.

Sometimes you or your significant other may not be the same person as before.

When this happens, it’s tempting to leave when they’re not the same person you fell in love with.

It might even be easy too when you have reasons to leave the person. Maybe your partner is going through hardships, becomes too stubborn or lazy, or when they’re no longer exciting as before.

When love is selfless, you remain to be there no matter what. It doesn’t leave when situations are difficult.

You work it out and keep holding on because you know that you can always make it through.

16) You accept imperfections

Nobody is perfect.

The perfect partner doesn’t exist and perfection only exists in our ideals.

Loving a person selflessly means accepting the person for who they are and who they will be.

You love the person for all their best qualities and even their flaws and shortcomings. You accept without judgment and without the need to change them at all.

What you can do is to encourage your partner to be a better person.

You recognize that everyone has shortcomings and every relationship has its ups and downs too. All these make the relationship a wonderful journey.

You understand that there will be great and difficult times. But when you love each other selflessly, you know you can handle and deal with those rough times together.

Selfless love is knowing that happiness resides deep within us and is right in front of us.

17) You never hold on to grudges

Grudges create negativity and poison a relationship.

Instead of holding on to it, you try to understand and learn to forgive.

Even if your partner has wronged you or caused you pain, you never allow it to screw you up. You acknowledge their faults and wrongdoings without judgment.

You don’t keep wounds open and active. You never hold on to anger, resentment, and thoughts of revenge.

Instead, you embrace forgiveness and move forward.

It is only by compromising and practicing forgiveness that you can experience genuine peace, hope, gratitude, and joy.

18) You help your partner be the best they can be

Loving someone means being willing to support your partner the best way you can.

You don’t just focus on your own goals and dreams. You also make sure that your partner gets to be the best version of themselves too.

You are your partner’s cheerleader. You’re someone who helps them survive the ups and downs of life.

You give support not just when bad things happen. You show your support in every little thing they do.

Selfless love is helping someone be their best self and supporting them in pursuing their goals. And sometimes, this also means enjoying every goal you have to pursue together.

19) Selfless love is embracing the silver lining

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Even if you’ve been hurt in the past, you continue to trust others.

Instead of giving up on love, you still follow what your heart says. You’re confident enough that love makes life possible.

Knowing that there’s a touch of silver lining in the world we live in is something that you hold on to.

You live in the present and aren’t afraid of what might happen in the future. And you know that the beauty of selfless love conquers all.

Selfless love is filled with happiness and positivity, compared to selfish love that’s filled with bitterness and negativity.

20) Selfless love is willing to work on the relationship

Love isn’t perfect and keeping a relationship isn’t easy either. It’s filled with challenges, struggles, and problems.

When you love someone selflessly, you give your time and effort to keep up with its ups and downs. You never give up at the sight of an obstacle.

It means knowing that your relationship is worth fighting for. You do your best to keep what you have and work on making things better.

You see those fights as a learning experience where you can both grow. You allow love to flourish despite everything because you know that it’s the best thing to do.

Selfless love doesn’t disappear in an instant. It remains no matter what.

21) Selfless love is abundant

People who love selflessly have a lot to give. They know that love is infinite and will never run out.

When you love someone selflessly, you do it without measures. You never expect anything in return.

You welcome love and share it genuinely with your heart.

Your love for it makes your heart happy. This love comes from a place of abundance.

And you never worry if you’re giving more or putting more effort into your relationship than your partner.

Because you know that the love you give grows more and helps transform your relationship.

22) Selfless love is trusting someone unconditionally

Trust in a relationship is everything.

You love the person freely without conditions and any expectations.

Fully trusting someone with your heart isn’t easy. You continue to trust even if you’ve been hurt before. You put your guard down and be vulnerable.

Loving selflessly is trusting your heart to the person you love.

It’s a risk like no other. You never know if the person will take care of it or will break your heart at some point, and trust them not to.

Still, you continue to trust and believe. It’s because, with this person, you felt safe and comfortable.

23) Selfless love is a gift

It’s life’s greatest gift.

It’s a gift you give yourself and a gift you give away wholeheartedly. And it’s the most meaningful selfless act you could ever do.

Selfless love is always present in your heart, in your breath, and in everything that you do.

It means that whatever you do, you do it from your heart. You love the person because it feels so good to give of yourself.

And when people love selflessly, they’re likely to give love back.

24) Selfless love creates space for growth

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Couples who love selflessly grow with the relationship.

When you love a person selflessly, you give the person the freedom to grow.

You don’t tie someone down or limit your loved ones’ potential, but you inspire the person to become their best self.

You never hold them back from reaching their dreams just because you’re afraid that you might lose them.

Instead, you encourage them to try new things in life and go with the opportunities that they truly deserve.

Selfless love is being supportive and receptive of their ideas. It inspires and motivates, while selfish love toxifies the relationship

25) Selfless love doesn’t keep score

Keeping score of what you’re doing or giving is a selfish act.

But if you’re in a selfless relationship, you both genuinely care about the others’ well-being.

You unconsciously do selfless acts for one another. The lack of compliment or the absence of material stuff doesn’t discourage you. You never demand anything.

To love selflessly means giving or doing as much as you can without worrying about that love you’ll get in return.

You never expect anything back, and you continue to love as much as you can. It doesn’t matter who did the dishes, paid for dinner, or did something wrong. You never keep score.

You love with all of your heart – and that’s all that matters.

26) It’s celebrating the concept of being perfectly imperfect together

Selfless love is free from demands, judgments, and expectations. It’s about accepting and embracing the other person profoundly.

Loving selflessly means that you never seek perfection from your partner and in your relationship.

Again, it’s because the person you love is enough and perfection doesn’t even exist.

You celebrate being imperfectly perfect and see beyond those flaws. You accept each other’s weirdness, behavior, limitations, extra pounds, and all.

This makes selfless love a lot uplifting.

27) Selfless love means doing your very best

Selfless love is fulfilling while selfish love feels empty. You give all that you can and do the best for the other person.

There are instances where this becomes painful, yet to continue to put your partner’s best interest at heart.

You do things for the person’s happiness and not what’s best for us. It’s because you know that in your heart, this person matters.

For you, the love you share and the relationship you have are the most important thing.

28) Selfless love is about faith

You know that unconditional love exists in this world. You simply have to be open to it and believe.

And you can see this from someone whose eyes light up when they’re with the person they love, from couples who are seeking to make the last of their days their best days ever.

Love is real. It’s out there, it’s within us all.

It’s having faith that we get to experience that.

29) Selfless love is growing together

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Loving selflessly is uplifting.

One doesn’t get drowned, get stuck in a rut, or feel tied. Instead, each person grows and becomes a better person every single day.

Couples who share this selfless love motivate each other. The love they share becomes a powerful force and a haven.

They keep working on themselves, face every challenge hand-in-hand, and see the beauty of the world together.

30) Selfless love is limitless

Love doesn’t end. It stands the test of time. It’s a love that lasts forever.

Even if the relationship ends or one says goodbye, the love they share never fades.

You never give up on someone you love and you never stop loving the person. It’s because selfless love sees no reason to end.

It’s in the eyes of our beloved, in our smiles, and our souls.

This is the love that lifts us and our spirits powerfully. This is the love that remains in our hearts when everything else vanishes.

Selfless love never ends while selfish love is swift and easily forgotten.

Keep loving selflessly

Selfless love is a beautiful thing that understands the true essence of love.

Selfless love is healthy as long as both partners in the relationship are loving selflessly.

Unlike selfish love that’s forced and unnatural, selfless love is peaceful, light, and free. Even when there are challenges, arguments, and difficult times, couples put an effort to resolve them and keep the love alive.

Selfless love is a give-and-take situation. It’s about having each other’s best interest at heart.

It is self-love that nurtures the light in us and leads us to greater love.

A relationship that’s filled with selfless love thrives and grows. And nothing is more beautiful than that.

It’s important to take responsibility for yourself as this is the biggest key to success in love relationships

As what shaman Rudá Iandê, creator of Out of the Box finding True Love masterclass shares,

“This key is to take responsibility for yourself, for your life, for your happiness, and for your misfortunes. To make a commitment with yourself first, respect yourself, and make sure you have a relationship of love.”

Love yourself more

But to be able to love selflessly, you have to love yourself first unconditionally. This is the way to achieve selflessness and true love.

It means taking care of your well-being. Because loving and understanding oneself means being able to love and understand others too.

It means taking care of your happiness as you care for other’s happiness.

And loving yourself – taking care of your needs – isn’t being mean or being selfish at all.

It’s about becoming the source of love and letting it flow from the inside out.

Picture of Czaroma Roman

Czaroma Roman

Czaroma is a content strategist and copywriter with a purposeful mindset. She finds fulfillment in crafting content for entrepreneurs and life coaches. In a place of love and growth, she's raising a tribe of three with her husband - and writes to inspire people to create impactful relationships. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram. Instagram: LinkedIn:

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