It’s been said that everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. I’ve found the same to be true about marriage.
Everybody wants to be married but no one wants to do the work. Having been married nearly 21 years I’m often asked how we make it work. Here’s the secret: Marriage isn’t about you. It never was. It never will be.
When I met my husband in high school we were 15. Our relationship turned down the road of “It’s complicated,” when we learned I was pregnant. At first, everyone was against us. Our parents didn’t think we could handle the enormous responsibilities of parenting on top of wanting to get married.
The first few years of our marriage had a “It’s us against the world” mentality. And as we started to grow up, we began to have different points of views and we began to grow apart.
At one point I really questioned staying married. Filled with anxiety, I thought: Did I make the right choice? Maybe we aren’t ready for this kind of commitment after all. How can he make me happy again?
Perhaps you’ve had a moment like this in your marriage. Maybe you’re two, eight, or twelve years into marriage and wondering if you made the right choice. You did. Period.
At least this is what my aunt told me late one night. After driving seven hours, I arrived tired, fed up and frustrated on her doorstep. As we talked late into the night, she said something so pivotal that it’s been my advice to singles and married couples alike.
“Heather, it’s not about you. It’s selfish to get married to a person because you think they will make you happy. You marry because you want to share your life with someone. You marry because you want to build a family. You get married because you want that person to help you raise your children. You marry because that guy is your person.”
According to recent statistics, the average couple today spends $30,000 on a wedding. That’s a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to the real costs of marriage. It’s going to cost you something you never expected, it will cost you yourself. It will cost you everything.
While happiness is the result of a healthy relationship, marriage is designed to refine you. Marriage is holy work. Hard work.
It was meant to expose the splinters in your soul. As selfishness rises up, God offers to sand it down. The job of marriage is to expose our dysfunction and propel us towards steady wholeness in Christ.
Marriage is about commitment, sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving–and then doing all over again–everyday. Regardless of changes in personalities, aging bodies,or the ever waning ebb and flow of romantic love.
5 Signs You’re Being Selfish in Your Marriage:
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1. It’s Your Way or the Highway
Every time your spouse has a discussion or heated moment with you, he ends up doing what you want to do. If you expect your partner to change their personality, hobbies, friends, and habits to match your needs and wants, it’s a sign of being self-centered and selfish. Philippians 2:3 reminds us to put others above ourselves and to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Be willing to compromise your time, finances, your career, your wants and needs. Be willing to compromise in arguments. Be loving about your specific take on a situation. Clearly state your wishes or concerns is important to finding a workable compromise.
In any healthy, Biblical compromise, gratitude is what allows for the possibility of even more successful compromises later on.
2. You Don’t Take Accountability for Your Actions
You rarely apologize because you think you’re never wrong. Instead you place blame on your spouse. This is a sign of selfishness that needs to be uprooted. 1 Corinthians 10:24 reminds us no one should seek their own good but the good and wellbeing of others.
Being accountable to one another is not about policing or parenting the other, but promoting a healthy oneness with your spouse. Being accountable for all of your actions creates trust and dependability. When you take responsibility for your behaviors it demonstrates your willingness to be honest and vulnerable, which in turn encourages your partner to be open and authentic with you.
3. You Put Your Own Needs before Your Partner’s
Philippians 2:4 reminds us to take care of the needs of others. It’s vital to the wellbeing and growth of your spouse to serve his needs to create a healthy marriage. Selfish people tend to do the opposite and put their own wants or needs first.
Make your partner’s needs a priority by making them just as important as your own. A “sense of we” forms as you maintain this priority on purpose each day. You make your marriage a place where each person fully belongs. Putting your partner first means his or her needs, feelings, and wellbeing take priority over other people or things.
4. You’re Always Taking but Never Give Back
Your partner gives and gives but you only take and never or rarely give anything in return. Experts say a balanced relationship is never fifty-fifty. There will be moments when you give 110 percent. A truly balanced marriage includes the willingness to do what it takes to meet each other’s needs. John 15:13 says we are to lay down our lives.
A healthy marriage includes its share of sacrificing for each other. Two people cannot come together in one home, love, communicate, and care for each other without occasionally suffering for each other just as Christ suffered for us. It is one of the purest ways to show love to someone. Saying “I love you” is good and necessary; but, giving of yourself, time after time is proof that you really mean what you say.
5. You Lack Empathy for Your Spouse
If you don’t take your spouse’s feelings into consideration, it’s a sign you take your spouse for granted. It also means you’re not willing to think about how your actions or words affect him. If you can’t empathize and instead disregard, belittle, or ignore your partner’s feelings, it is a huge red flag of selfishness.
We are reminded love is patient, kind, not self-seeking and keeps no record of wrong in Corinthians. Seek to understand how they are feeling and be willing to step out of your feelings in order to stay engaged in the moment and present.
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My Advice: Ditch the “My Happiness Comes First Complex”
As our shallow, self-centered, me first, culture continues to deteriorate around us it’s no wonder why we choose divorce with our “my happiness comes first” complex. The apostle Paul paints a different picture of marriage with broad strokes of selflessness in Ephesians 5:22-27.
And verse twenty-eight buttons up the essence of marriage: “Husbands have the obligation of loving and caring for their wives the same way they love and care for their own bodies, for to love your wife is to love your own self.”
Marriage is about loving your spouse more than yourself.
It’s about giving of your time even though it’s not convenient.
It’s about 11 p.m. trips to Wal-mart for milk.
It’s about sharing your heart when you’d rather hold back.
It’s about saying what you mean when you’re upset.
It’s about getting up at 3 a.m. with a sick child despite an 8 a.m. sharp workday.
It’s about keeping no records of wrongs.
It’s about praying for your spouse every day. Fervent prayers every.single.day.
It’s about offering forgiveness even though you’ve been wounded.
It’s about loving the stretch marks that made room to carry each of your children for nine months.
It’s about listening to what your spouse has to say even though you’re exhausted and rather go to bed.
It’s about embracing his thinning gray hair.
It’s choosing to respond in love even though your blood is boiling.
It’s about laying down your rights.
It’s about rising up to meet your spouse’s desires between the sheets.
It’s about cleaning the kitchen after a long day.
It’s about putting her needs before your own.
It’s about giving up that last bite of brownie so your spouse can enjoy it.
It’s about commitment when feelings ebb and flow.
It’s about laying down your life.
Lay Your Life Down
To make marriage less about you means to lay down your life for your spouse. We live in a world that believes happiness is the bedrock of marriage. And the second our spouse doesn’t deliver, we are justified to do what feels right and not settle for anything less.
We live in a world that despises sacrifice and values selfishness. We’re taught to hustle for power and control. But if you want a thriving marriage that leaves a legacy for future generations, lay your life down.
Lay down your rights, your time, and your pride. Choose your spouse over yourself. Choose your spouse over yourself just as Jesus chose the cross for you over himself.