Things I’ve Learned in Twenty-Five Years of Marriage – Part 2

There is No Place for Selfishness in Marriage

Photo Credit: peyri via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: peyri via Compfight cc

One of the first things that I learned when I got married was just how selfish both my wife and I were. Selfishness isn’t a trait that most people would attribute to themselves, but it is one that quickly makes itself evident. One of the things that my wife and I now say to one another, regarding selfishness, is “self-preservation is the first law of man.” We are hardwired to look out for ourselves first. This dialed-in self-preservation does, however, become an issue in marriage.

Selfishness is a Marriage Killer

Selfishness almost ruined our marriage. Honestly, in the first couple of years, our marriage was mainly on paper. We were, in real terms, glorified roommates with benefits. Pretty much everything was separate in our relationship but the queen-sized bed in our bedroom. Separate bills, differing habits, and minds focused mainly on living “our” lives marked the first year or two of our marriage. It wasn’t pretty. Our selfishness led to many arguments, sleepless nights, and consternation over whether we’d done the right thing by marrying one another. We were too focused on our individual selves to understand the damage that we were doing to each other, our relationship, and the ministry of marriage.

“Selfishness almost ruined our marriage.”

Most of Us Don’t See That We Have Selfish Motives

Does this sound familiar? So many couples get married without knowing that they’re being driven by a self-focused picture of what their life will be beyond the altar. The view they hold of marriage is one where they will make the other person happy. What they don’t confront is the conditional nature of this pledge to make the other person happy. They will make the other person happy as long as the other person makes them happy. As long as the picture that they personally hold of marriage is upheld, then they will keep the covenant made at the altar.

Coming Around to Know It Isn’t About Me

A truth that transformed our marriage was a simple one. Marriage wasn’t about me. If I continued to put myself and my needs first in my relationship with my wife, then I realized that our marriage wouldn’t last. I had to stop thinking about myself. I could no longer obsess over whether I was getting all that I wanted from the relationship, or whether I was one hundred percent satisfied. This relationship, the vows I recited at the altar, had implications far beyond what the payoff was for me personally. We came to understand that marriage wasn’t about us (our individual needs), because love wasn’t about us.

“…love wasn’t about us.”

Love is always other-focused. When we moved beyond simply acknowledging and rejoicing in Jesus Christ as Savior, but also accepting His lordship over our lives, our viewpoint regarding marriage changed. We began to recognize love as something we did for each other, rather than a feeling we had or something that someone did for us. If God, and His Son, showed their love by giving, then they modeled for us what love should be. Love is selfless and always other-focused. Honestly, this was a hard pill to swallow, and the transition took some time. In the next post, I’ll share what led to the transition.

Until then, I’d love to know what you think? Have you experienced the same kind of self-focused selfishness in your marriage that I’ve described? How did you overcome it? What does love mean to you? I look forward to reading your responses.