The Huge Problem in Every Marriage that No One Talks About!
I’m going to just put this out there before you read any further to make sure that you still want to keep reading this. This post is pretty hard for me to write. So I’m imagining that it’s going to be pretty hard for you to read. This post is going to unveil and shine a flashlight on some of the ugly stuff that we didn’t know was hidden back in our minds. The stuff that will always come out eventually,but for the most part we like to pretend isn’t there. So I’m warning you, if you don’t want to find out about some of the nasty stuff we keep hidden, then simply stop reading this post right here. Because it’s gonna get real. But if you want to learn more about yourself and why we do some of the things we do, then by all means, keep reading.
As I said, this post is about why we do many of the things we do. Like, why do I get so angry when I don’t feel like my marriage is 50/50. Or why the heck am I so deeply hurt when it seems like my spouse doesn’t value my “me time.” I’m going to be talking about a lot of different outward signs of one big problem that every single human being has ever had. And then at the end, you can decide if you’d like to fix it or not.
I made a simple little graphic for this post that I’m going to use a few times to remind you while you’re reading of the underlying idea behind this post. Here it is:
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Ways selfishness can show up in your marriage:
Finances and double standards
What does this look like? It looks like me going to Target and buying that new top and new lipstick I don’t need and then coming home to find out that my husband bought something on Amazon that I don’t think he needs and asking, “Why did you have to buy that? How much was it?” Maybe I wouldn’t care so much if I hadn’t just dropped $50 on myself…
I’m going to be completely transparent here and tell you what my 3 main anger triggers are:
- A messy home (completely impossible for me to even THINK about relaxing until it’s tidy. Do I clean it? No. I’m writing blog posts, silly).
- Our dog, Judah (I know it’s not your fault, Judah, that it is also completely impossible for you to relax- especially when there are birds outside- which is always. But when you insist on taking a break from bird hunting about 30 seconds after I shut the door, hard decisions have to be made. You’re staying outside. Sorry.
- My husband, when his listening skills are sub-par. He’s very aware of this one.
- (JK, there’s 4) “Me time” interruptions. Now since becoming a mama myself, I’ve had a lot of practice with letting go of “me-time.” I’ve gotten really good at knowing when babe needs his mama and when I need to just let go. That is up until nap time. Or bed time. If anyone is careless enough to wake that sweet sleeping child while I’m doing my own thing, I swear my head turns on a hinge and my eyes turn red.
(Read: 6 Things Moms Should do Alone)
*I realize that’s not a marriage example. So here’s one: when I plan out what I’m going to get done in an evening, whether for me or the blog (which I count as something for me because I love doing it) and then my hubs comes home and has different plans- plans that override my plans- that can many times make my eyes turn red too. I usually try to swallow my anger because 12 hour shifts suck and if he needs my attention after that, by golly he’s got it. But the feelings are oftentimes still there.
Expectations and disappointment
Ooh here’s a biggy! You know how when someone asks you what your favorite movie is and then all of a sudden you forgot every single movie you’ve ever seen?? Basically the same thing happens when a marriage counselor asks you what your expectations are for each other in marriage and you’re like, “Umm…Take out the trash?” The thing is, it’s kind of hard to know what to ask for until one day you realize they’re not doing it….
An example of this goes back to the messy home anger trigger I mentioned in the last point. It took about 6 months into our marriage for me to realize that my husband is completely oblivious- to messes that is. Trust me, he’s a pretty sharp guy. But when it comes to messes, clothes on the floor, dirty dishes- for real, he’s blind. Many times when I find myself in a whirling vortex of cleaning anger and I can’t help but notice that my husband hasn’t yet asked me if I need help, if I’m lucky, I have an out of body experience where I realize that my anger in that moment is really a problem of selfishness. I know what you’re thinking. My husband is the selfish one for not offering to help. Well, yeah probs right. But I’ll leave that one to God for now. If I’m being brutally honest, my anger is my own problem. I’m angry because this house doesn’t magically clean itself. I’m jealous that my husband is getting the house cleaned for him. I have an innate mindset of entitlement that is telling me that I shouldn’t have to self sacrifice for my family. I deserve better. He’s not doing his part, therefore I feel wronged and angry. All because of my sense of entitlement, which comes from inwardly focussed selfishness, which comes from my pride.
Here’s that graphic again:
This isn’t just about no phones and eye contact during a conversation, although that’s important too!! (Read: 10 Things to do While Unplugged). This is for fights, discussions, or everyday life.
Fights: Always getting the last word (or getting all the words).
Discussions: When hubs tries to bring a problem to your attention and you immediately think of reasons for why you don’t have to listen. Bring up examples of how he did the same things he’s asking you not to do, give excuses for why you do it, or simply tell him that he doesn’t understand. Sometimes those excuses may be valid, but avoiding blame shifting and not turning a discussion into an argument can go a long way for your husband’s morale and for your marriage!
Everyday life: When hubs asks you to do something and you think better of it. Because, of course, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and surely doesn’t have a good reason to be asking.
Also, just not interrupting is a big one. When we interrupt our spouse, we may not realize it, but what we’re really saying is, “Sweetie I know you had a point to make but let’s get on with it and get to my point.” which isn’t so nice when it’s spelled out like that. Simply taking turns can do a lot of good.
Not investing in your spouse’s interests
My husband, having grown up across the bay from the Emerald City, is a huge Seattle Seahawks fan. Every Sunday (or Saturday, or whenever they have games) he will plan his entire day around the game. But how many times am I there sitting next to him on my phone doing random crap or on my laptop working on the blog? Tons of times, I’ll tell you that. Even though I know that when he’d been planning his whole day around the game, he was picturing me there with him, cheering right along. Anything that I’m doing on my phone or computer can wait until after the game. To be honest, I’m really just bored and passing the time. And it would be really lame if my husband did the same thing at an event that I was really excited for us to do together.
So there we have it again, I’m putting myself over the needs and wants of my spouse. Why? because his desires aren’t important enough to require my full attention.
Blaming your spouse for not achieving your dreams
Many of us grew up with dreams and expectations (there’s that word again) for what our life was going to look like in the future. But when you realize you’re living in your future and haven’t seen your dreams come true yet, you begin to look for the reasons why those dreams still seem far fetched when you were sure they’d be a reality by now. And most of the time, it’s not our fault. Whether it’s the house you pinned on Pinterest or the places you wanted to travel (also pinned on Pinterest) or the job you dreamed of, somewhere a wrench got thrown in the works and by golly (there’s that word again) you’re married to it! Maybe if they had just worked harder and contributed more, you’d be far from where you are now. Or have the things you’ve wanted for a long time. Whatever it is, they’re the one holding you back from getting what you’ve dreamed of and they’re the reason you’re not content.
Or maybe this isn’t about material possessions at all. Maybe it’s the marriage you’ve always dreamed of or the children you thought you’d have (or wouldn’t have). Whatever the reason, you find yourself with a pretty good reasons to be discontent with your life.
Also, please don’t think I’m pointing fingers here. Guess how I know this stuff? Because I’ve lived it. Or empathized with others who have lived it. Whether you’re the one dealing with discontentment or your spouse, that issue of entitlement and selfishness is hurting someone, whether you realize it or not.
“I shouldn’t have to do this because ______”
I have some strong feelings about this one but I’ll try to keep it tame. It seems as though every time I say something about responsibilities and effort in marriage not being 50/50, I get backlash along the lines of, “My spouse needs to do their part” “Marriage is a two-way street” and my favorite, “Why should I have to pick up their slack??” Um, because that’s what marriage is. You’re not roommates, you’re married.
ANYWAY- What I mean to say is, in a perfect world, yeah, marriage would be 50/50 with no one ever having to pick up everyone else’s slack. Husbands and wives would always feel loved and appreciated and chores and workloads would be equally shared. But we live in a broken world and we made a vow to a broken person. In sickness and health doesn’t just mean bring him soup when he has the sniffles. It means when he is not at his best, don’t go thinking you’re entitled to a better life because your husband isn’t living up to his potential (whether his “potential” is something or someone he used to be when he was younger or just plain wishful thinking).
In every disagreement, you’re the victim
Being a sensitive individual, this is one of my biggest problems. When my husband tries to bring something up that he would like me to change, I can really easily make it all about me and turn it back to an issue with him instead of actually listening to what he has to say.
Josh: “Hey Chels, I’d like you to rinse the dishes after you use them, that way it makes them easier to clean later.”
Me: “Why do you care so much? I do the dishes more than you. And it’s not even hard to clean the food off. You don’t need to tell me how to do dishes.”
What I should have said: “Ok, I’ll try to remember that. It does make them easier to clean later.”
See? No big deal. His intentions aren’t to control me or to tell me that I’m bad at doing the dishes. He’s trying to talk to me about something that I could improve. Lots of times it’s not as little as how I do the dishes, but I’ll still react the same. I get defensive and make it as though he’s the one with the problem, not me, and instead of listening to and caring about what he has to say, I make it about myself.
Looking out for number 1
This is one of those not so tricky, more in-your-face ways that selfishness can show up in your everyday married life. Like when my husband makes himself a sandwich for lunch and forgets to ask me if I wanted one. Or, if you’re only going to buy one type of cereal at the store, buying the one that you like instead of the one your spouse likes. I’m not saying that in marriage you can forget about ever getting your favorite ice cream flavor ever again, BUT it’s good practice to think about your spouse’s needs and wants as more important than your own.
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves”
If we live our entire married lives thinking (consciously or subconsciously) of ourselves as more important than our spouse, we are bound to live in a marriage that is competitive, me-focussed, and a lot less secure than the one we probably imagined.
I challenge you, as unnatural as it might feel (because selfishness and pride is human nature) live your life as if you’re not better than anyone. Especially your spouse. To many people’s surprise, this can be done with great confidence and security in who you are and the results can be beautiful.
So let;s be honest here; what are ways you see selfishness popping up in your own married life? What are the good and bad ways you deal with it? What’s helped?
Much love my married friends!
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