Every marriage encounters selfishness from both parties at some point. However, we can do a lot to keep our marriages happy by keeping our selfishness in check.
By Rob Stewart
Before considering different ways in which selfishness may be rearing its ugly head within your marriage, let me first share a quick disclaimer about the title.
Honestly, I was quite proud of myself for creating a clever play on the old saying “sex, money, and rock n’ roll”. Then, a few hours later I sadly realized that the saying was actually “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” – thus making my title less clever. But, alas, this not-as-clever-as-I-once-envisioned title was still better than my other lame attempts…so I’m running with it. 😎
Now, on to selfishness within our marriages…
The Sexual Relationship
Healthy marriages are clearly based on so much more than just the physical relationship. However, that doesn’t mean that a mutually satisfying sexual relationship isn’t important. Author and intimacy expert Laura M. Brotherson shared a number ways in which couples can benefit (both individually and as a couple) as they prioritize lovemaking.
Among these reasons, she noted that sex can improve emotional intimacy, can be a great stress reliever, can actually boost the immune system, can build self-esteem, and can improve sleep (and on and on).
A healthy and mutually satisfying sexual relationship really is a necessary ingredient for a happy marriage.
So, how are things going in your marriage? Is it possible that you are allowing sexual selfishness to sabotage your marriage?
Sexual Selfishness Quiz
1. Do you only consent to sex when you are in the mood?
2. Do you insist upon sex when your spouse isn’t in the mood?
3. Do you genuinely care about your spouse’s sexual satisfaction?
4. Do you place this bonding marital act low on your to-do list?
The sexual relationship has the potential to be a wonderful aspect of a healthy marriage. However, when selfishness exists, this part of marriage can become an area of disagreement, stress, and frustration.[More resources on improving intimacy here, here and here]
Money can be a source of stress in many marriages. Let’s face it, life can be expensive! Much has been written about how financial stress can harm your marriage (see this NY Times article as an example).
Sadly, too many of the “money issues” felt by couples are self-inflicted.
As you take this quiz, honestly assess if financial selfishness is an issue in your marriage?
Financial Selfishness Quiz
1. Do you generally find yourself thinking more about buying what you want rather than what your spouse would prefer?
2. Do you consider if your purchases fit within your family’s / couple’s budget?
3. Do you purchase things without your spouse’s consent (or against his/her will)?
4. Are you sneaky with your spending (such as hiding some of your purchases from your spouse)?
Over the years, I have observed that selfish financial behavior is fairly common. If you struggle in this area, please recognize that you run the risk of severely harming your marriage.[More resources on improving your marriage financially here, here and here]
There is one more area of selfishness that is a bit sneakier: self-loathing (see this article for more information). Let me clear, being consistently down and hard on yourself is not a very pleasurable form of selfishness. But, if we’re consistently “blue” it can still damage the marriage just like other forms of selfishness.
We all experience some sadness of course. Further, there are some who struggle with clinical depression and may benefit from medical attention to help with this illness. However, for the rest of us, as we frequently allow ourselves to remain mired in our own “pity parties”, we are unable to give our best to the marriage relationship.
Take this last quiz and consider if there are “pity parties” that are hurting your relationship?
Self-loathing Selfishness Quiz
1. Do you often find it hard to love and serve your spouse because of how you feel about yourself?
2. Do you allow negative thoughts about your body or your appearance to impact your physical relationship?
3. Do you convince yourself that you are not a good spouse and then allow those destructive thoughts to become a reality?
Among other things, marriages need consistent attention, friendship, spontaneity, creativity, and passion if they are going to thrive. Since we all have a finite amount of time and energy, if we choose to focus inwardly we will not be capable of spending the time or energy required to form and maintain such a marriage.
I am yet to know of a marriage that hasn’t previously (or currently) encountered selfishness. But how we respond to our own “humanness” (as well as the “humanness” of our spouse) makes all the difference.
If you are guilty of any of these forms of selfishness, for the sake of your marriage, work at it! We all possess the ability to improve!
Please remember that happy marriages don’t simply happen. Rather, they are the result of consistent effort and intentional decisions to nourish the relationship.
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