WELCOME to our discussion on 31 Ways To Mess Up Your Marriage.
Back in 2011 I published a blog a week for 31 weeks called ’31 Ways to Mess Up Your Marriage’. This series was a result of what Blaine and I have learned from years of marriage counseling, marriage seminars, and of course our own 52 years of marriage. The series has gotten a lot of attention and as I am moving the old archived blog onto this new website platform, I will be republishing the blogs that seemed to strike a chord in people for my new readers to enjoy. Please read this article and leave your feedback below in the comments section as it is so helpful for people to share their own experience with others so that we can all grow and mature.
Now to Reason #1 – SELFISHNESS.
The afterglow from a marriage conference lingered as my husband and I drove away from the conference center. Marriages had been healed, renewed and restored. Although we were emotionally drained from leading the conference, we chatted energetically about the weekend.
“What, in your opinion, is the number one problem in marriage?” I asked my husband.
He responded quickly, “Without a doubt—selfishness.”
I have thought about his answer many times since that day. Selfishness seems to be the hub, the epicenter, the bull’s-eye, of all the other problems we encounter in marriage. (Tweet this!) We want what we want, when we want it. And we will do whatever we have to do to make it happen.
In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas says, “One of the great spiritual challenges for any Christian is to become less self-absorbed. We are born intensely self-focused. The discipline of Christian marriage calls us into the Christian reality of sharing and enjoying fellowship in a uniquely intimate way. Maintaining an interest in and empathy for someone else is by no means an easy discipline to maintain, but it is a vital one. It is a skill that must be learned.”
For instance, consider some of the common battlegrounds in marriage: finances, sex, power struggles, in-laws. Nine times out of ten, the ugly monster of self will rear its formidable head.
A young, exceptionally attractive mother sat in our office with tears brimming near the surface of her eyes. She tossed her long black hair away from her face and toyed with the large expensive silver earrings. Her tan, slender, athletic body gave her the appearance of a much younger woman than she actually was. She could have passed for a teenager.
“I don’t love Mike anymore. I want to have a nice home and pretty things. I want our children to be in good schools and have expensive clothes and cars. All Mike cares about is working at the shop. He will never make enough there to give us what we want. I just can’t stay any longer. The feelings are gone.”
“That really is not the issue here.”
“Wh-what do you mean?”
I looked into her dark eyes. “Jennifer, do you know Jesus?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “I was raised in a Christian home with wonderful Christian parents, and I was saved as a child.”
“Do you want God’s best for your life, and that of your family?”
I shall never forget the look she gave me as she struggled with that question. I continued, “If you do, there is reason to expect God to work supernaturally in your relationship with your husband. I can tell you from experience that if you are willing to sacrifice and commit to working through some hard issues, God will do a work in your marriage. God can restore your love for your husband—more love than you had before. I know because, that’s how he worked in our marriage. (Tweet this!) Your marriage can be more exciting and stronger than ever, but it will take commitment, and it will take some time.”
“How much time?”
“I don’t know. I can’t say. It may take years, but God is faithful.” And I repeated the question, “Do you truly want God’s best?”
A long pause followed. “I-I’m not sure I would like God’s best. No, I guess I can’t say that I truly want God’s best.”
I wanted to say, “Well, there’s the door. Go ahead and try it your way, but you are headed down a dead-end street.” Instead, I simply shook my head.
“Jennifer, you profess to know Jesus as your Savior and God as your Father. You claim to be one of his children. You have a free will, and he will allow you to live whatever lifestyle you choose. He will allow you to take your inheritance and leave home, as he did the prodigal son in Scripture. But you need to know that for a daughter of the heavenly Father to choose to live outside of his will—his best—is foolish in the least and possibly even risky and dangerous. Your heavenly Father loves you too much to allow you to sin successfully. He is full of mercy and compassion and will welcome you with open arms when and if you decide to return home.”
She listened intently. We prayed together and she left. My husband and I visited with them as a couple a few more times with little progress. Eventually, Jennifer took their children, left Mike and moved away. He was devastated. We have not seen Jennifer in several years. I understand she is living with a well-to-do man and has her children in a private school. Selfishness destroyed this marriage.
We heard a Bible teacher describe selfishness this way: “Get all you can. Can all you get. Sit on the lid. And poison the rest.” (Tweet this!) We want all the goodies the world has to offer, and we go after them to satisfy our selfish desires, trying at the same time to maintain a Christian lifestyle. The two diametrically opposed value systems—self vs others—will eventually collide, and lives and marriages will be shattered in the process. We feel we know what is best for our own lives, regardless of what God says is best.
WHAT GOD SAYS: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Ph. 2:3-4) Therefore, if you want to avoid the first of ’31 Ways to Mess Up Your Marriage’ simply listen to the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to help you obey, one day at a time.
When have you seen your own selfishness negatively affect your marriage? What are some ways the Lord has taught you to be less selfish and express interest, kindness, and generosity to the one you love, even when you don’t feel like it?
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