How Selfishness Nearly Cost Me My Marriage
Editor’s Note: This is Part 2C Putting Off Selfishness in the Biblical Peacemaking Series. This is renamed from “God Head-Butted Me” so if you’ve already read that post, you’ve read this one. I felt it was a more appropriate title and got at the heart of what I was trying to say better.
A Whole New World
When I was in college, I remember that I couldn’t wait until that first vacation. I really did enjoy school, but going to classes at the same time every day got old fast. It was my goal to make it to Fall Break and then I would take at least one entire day off from homework. My brain (and my stress levels) really needed that break.
Yet after these mini vacations I would lose some of my resolve. I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic or as diligent as I was when I first started. I needed a mid-season push, something to kick start my second time around. Usually this came in the form of the pressure of a big project or encouragement from a friend, but often what I really needed was just some good long chats with God.
Marriage, like the school year, starts out with good intentions. You promise to love, honor, and cherish one another. It all sounds and feels so wonderful in the beginning – new love, fresh starts, a constant companion. But then you come down off of Cloud 9, and have to face reality – that you have a new life, new home, new structure, new roles, and a new roommate who may not be as “perfect” as you made him out to be. Contrary to popular belief, you will not want to spend ALL of your time with your man. Adam and I didn’t even spend every waking minute together on the honeymoon. I brought my novels and he brought his computer. Does that shock you? It actually was quite nice to get ten minutes to an hour by myself and then to go back refreshed and ready to spend time with my love. Something happens after you’ve been married for a few weeks (or maybe a few months): the rose colored glasses come off.
In my first couple months of marriage, I didn’t know how to make real life work. I was in a new town with my new husband who had new expectations for me and no close-by family or friends. Adam worked odd hours and I was often home alone wondering what to do with my time. I think we both struggled with changing over from our single-life, college-student habits. I’d never liked cleaning, and so days and even weeks would go by without doing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, changing the sheets, etc. Disgusting, you might be saying! Yes it was. I felt stuck in a whole new world I didn’t understand and didn’t really want to – I was a totally self-absorbed, lonely, confused newlywed bride who didn’t have a clue about running a household.
Thankfully, after time and much love and patience from Adam, I learned how to function in my new role and grew to love being a housewife. But in all honesty, my selfishness nearly caused me to give up on my marriage a few times in the first few months. I was quite blinded by my own selfishness, and that had some serious effects on my marriage. I was distracted by my own agenda, deceived into thinking I didn’t need to change, and dissatisfied with my new life – three things that selfishness breeds.
#4 Selfishness Breeds Discontentment
Was I happy? Yes, I would say I was still thrilled to be married to Adam, the wonderful man that he is. But I don’t think I really knew how to handle real life with him. It was often late at night when I was alone and Adam was at work that I would feel pangs of discontentment creeping in.
How is this different from dissatisfaction you might ask? Dissatisfaction is defined as “a particular cause or feeling of displeasure or disappointment” whereas discontentment is defined as “a restless desire or craving for something one does not have” (Dictionary.com).
When you are selfish in a marriage, once you become dissatisfied with what you have, you will find yourself wanting more. There are two branches that come from these roots of discontentment:
1) you are either standing in your own way, hindering your own relationship because you are blinded by unrealistic expectations, or
2) or you are trying to fulfill your emotional needs elsewhere or lusting for something or someone else.
You may be trying to satisfy it through daydreams and fantasies about a fictional person, a movie or a book character. Similarly, you could be trying to fulfill your emotional needs through the Internet, movies, music, food, etc. Or you could be trying to fulfill your emotional needs through friendships with the same or opposite sex. Discontentment is dangerous. It can lead to addictions, health problems (emotional, mental, and physical), marital unfaithfulness, and spiritual disconnect from God. Discontentment leads to disaster, and often the results cannot be undone.
Hebrews 12:15-17 says, “Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears” (MSG).
When you are selfishly discontent, you are essentially saying, “MY NEEDS ARE MOST IMPORTANT IN THIS MARRIAGE AND IF YOU WON’T FULFILL THEM, I WILL GET FULFILLMENT ELSEWHERE.” Discontentment gives you the A-okay to toot your own horn and say, “I’M SO MUCH BETTER THAN YOU AND I DESERVE BETTER.”
In my first married months, my relationship with God had faltered so badly that I would go weeks without truly talking to Him or spending time in His Word. I remember the day that God broke me. I was lying on the couch in the living room, letting my mind wander and listening to music when the song As the Deer came on the radio. Just read the first verse and chorus:
As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after You
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You
You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You
I was convicted. I didn’t even realize that there were tears rolling down my cheeks until I had been praying for several minutes. I had walked so far away from God that I didn’t even know what I was missing. I had been so wrapped up in my selfishness that I didn’t know what my heart truly desired. I had derailed so far off track that I didn’t even realize I was substituting Adam for God, and had been lashing out at him, discontent, because I felt he was the cause for all my problems. My husband is not God, can’t fix all my problems, and won’t always make me happy. And let me tell you something, dear daughter of God, ONLY GOD CAN TRULY SATISFY!
I had been in need of a serious kick-start and God had just head-butted my selfishness, forcing me to come face to face with the reality and depth of my sin. I was in need of some new resolve, and the love of God washed over me and the healing balm of His purifying forgiveness reached the darkest depths of my soul.
1 John 4:9-11 says, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
If you are struggling with discontentment, precious sister in Christ, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The next time you feel this way in your marriage or life, run to Jesus and pour out your heart out to Him. He is the only one who can truly satisfy you. Make a list of all the things you love about your spouse. You don’t need to necessarily show it to him, but keep it close by and review it regularly. It will help keep your mind on positive thoughts regarding your spouse. Write a thank you note to your spouse and slip it in his lunch bag for work or in his car or someplace else he’d find it. Remember all the reasons you married him. And if you are struggling with discontent, communicate your thoughts and feelings to your spouse and ask him to pray over you. Prayer is such a wonderful binding tool and gift in marriage.
Now I am not perfect. I still struggle with selfishness, but I know now that when my relationship with Adam is off that my relationship with God is off. And that’s when I go running to Him, the first Love in my life.
BOTTOM LINE: When discontentment creeps into your marriage, selfishness is not far behind. Discontentment will cause derailment from the train tracks of marriage. Contentment and satisfaction will breathe life into your marriage, but remember true contentment is only found deeply rooted in Christ.
1. Jump on the Peace Train An introduction to the Peacemaking in Marriage Series – “Sometimes conflict is a good thing, but it’s never a God thing.”
2. When You’re Flying Downhill: Running Headfirst into Discord When desires quickly become idols and lead to discord
3. Don’t Toot Your Own Horn (Putting off Self) Part 2A “Idols are anything we’d toot our own horn for – things we desperately want other people to notice and praise.”
4. Don’t Toot Your Own Horn (Putting Off Self) Part 2B “I am convinced the farther away from God I am, the more I’ll pursue my own selfish ambition, and in turn, the farther away from my husband I’ll be.” I share some lessons I’ve learned about selfishness vs. selflessness in marriage.