Why yes, it can actually be summed up in just one word.
I must warn you that this is a post for those who actually desire a GREAT marriage…not just a roommate/business partnership “let’s pay the bills together and get the kids grown” type situation.
Maybe you were hoping to hear me hash out all the things your spouse is doing wrong that is the reason your marriage isn’t vibrant and alive. But we all know that would too easy… in fact, it would be a lie that would do none of us any favors.
When I survey the whole of my marriage, reflecting back on times things got rough and marriage seemed to fall far short of feeling anything like a love story, I would have to admit that it was during times in which one or both of us was making constant withdrawals from our relationship without sufficient deposits to cover it. Our love tank quickly became overdrawn, the embers of passion went cold, and to be frank, our marriage was on the verge of a serious code blue.
For me, the times I tend to be most selfish in my marriage are usually in the seasons I feel like he hasn’t earned anything better and doesn’t deserve a wife who is tender and loving. Usually, it is the small interactions between us (which I say nothing about) but which I have been offended over, that build and build until my heart is one bit mountain of offense and I feel fully justified in holding back my love until he is “a better husband”, more deserving of a tender, loving wife.
Maybe he was working too much and had little time for me. Maybe he was under a lot of pressure and spoke harshly towards me. Maybe he was preoccupied and didn’t seem to notice all the ways I needed his help around the house and with the kids and I felt it had all just been left to me to do. Maybe he seemed distant and apathetic, so I held back my love in return.
Resentment always leads to selfishness…a taking back of something we feel we should be getting, and are not.
It is HARD to love someone when they are difficult or when they lack a response of tenderness and warmth towards us. But maybe that is precisely the only time it counts!
For the little things, like when he is overwhelmed at work, or tired, and I give him a free pass on all the ways he falls short at home instead of being a nagging wife that makes our home miserable. And the bigger stuff, like when he was in the throws of a pornography addiction and instead of yelling at and degrading him like my flesh wanted to do, I stayed and held him. And when I had admitted to an affair and he showed tenderness and mercy towards me, stayed and loved me when he would have been justified to do anything but that.
He who covers over an offense promotes love. ~ Proverbs 17:9
Truth is, there is no room for selfishness for those who want a marriage that is far beyond ordinary.
Selfishness comes in many forms in marriage, but often it looks like:
- Laziness in being there for the other
- Apathy (you just stop caring and putting forth effort)
- Selfish ambition “Regardless of what you think or do, I’m just gonna please myself, I’m gonna get mine.”
- Harshness/unkind words & tone of voice
- Bitter words
- Lack of respect (BIG one)
- Pursuing personal agendas at your spouse’s expense
- Ungrateful, flippant attitude towards one another
- Not supporting and participating in one another’s vocations/dreams/interests
- Putting everyone/everything else before your spouse
- Making little time to spend alone together
- Making decisions without the knowledge and blessing of your spouse
And then of course there is the “big stuff”:
- Affairs/emotional affairs
But those aren’t usually what kills a marriage, just what finishes it off.
Big or small, we all have our own specific areas in our relationships that could stand a little work, or maybe a complete overhaul. But can I just remind you that the work is worth it? A healthy, passionate marriage is so much more valuable than careers and all the material gain that money can buy.
So maybe you’ve been working hard to replace an unhappy, less than fulfilling marriage with “other things” because you’ve believed the lie that it is possible to make up for love, but down deep we all feel the loss of knowing it is not.
There is no space for selfishness in marriage. It is the destroyer of all relationships and the cancer of love.
My challenge to you: Do just one selfless act each day this week towards your spouse, expecting nothing in return. Only love today.
I sure love ya’ll.
~ Rachel R.