Before considering how selfishness may be showing up in your marriage, let me first share a quick disclaimer about the title.
Honestly, I was pretty proud of myself for making 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 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, a mutually satisfying sexual relationship still plays an important part! 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, can improve sleep, and more.
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’re allowing sexual selfishness to sabotage your marriage?
Sexual Selfishness Quiz
- Do you only consent to sex when you are in the mood?
- Do you insist upon sex when your spouse isn’t in the mood?
- Do you genuinely care about your spouse’s sexual satisfaction?
- Do you place this bonding marital act low on your to-do list?
The sexual relationship can 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.
Money issues can cause stress in many marriages. Let’s face it, life can be expensive! Lots of articles talks about how financial stress can harm your marriage (see this NY Times article as an example).
Sadly, too many of the “money issues” couples deal with are self-inflicted.
As you take this quiz, honestly check yourself. Is financial selfishness is an issue in your marriage?
Financial Selfishness Quiz
- Do you often find yourself thinking more about buying what you want rather than what your spouse would prefer?
- Do you thing about whether or not your purchases fit within your family’s / couple’s budget?
- Do you purchase things without your spouse’s consent (or against his/her will)?
- Are you sneaky with your spending (like hiding some of your purchases from your spouse)?
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that selfish financial behavior is pretty common. If you struggle with this, please recognize that these habits could really hurt your marriage.
There’s one more area of selfishness that’s 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. And 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 ask yourself, are there “pity parties” that are hurting your relationship?
Self-loathing selfishness Quiz
- Do you often find it hard to love and serve your spouse because of how you feel about yourself?
- Do you allow negative thoughts about your body or your appearance to impact your physical relationship?
- 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, and passion if they are going to thrive. Since we all have a limited amount of time and energy, if we choose to focus inwardly we won’t be able to give the time or energy needed to have a great marriage!
I have yet to see a marriage that hasn’t encountered selfishness at some point. But how we respond to our own “humanness” (as well as the “humanness” of our spouse) makes all the difference.
If you’re guilty of any of these forms of selfishness, for the sake of your marriage, work at it! We all have 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.
We’ve all had those friends who are stuck in miserable marriages. Maybe we’re even stuck in one ourselves! But are we really stuck? Except for cases of tremendous trauma (such as abuse, infidelity, and neglect), the way out is not as hard as it may seem. We actually get to decide how happy we want our marriages to be.
Don’t believe me? Well, read on!
We Decide if We Give our Spouse the Benefit of the Doubt
In happier marriages, couples seem to have a positive filter that influences the way they respond to each other – even during times where offense, frustration, disappointment, or anger would be natural responses. Dr. John Gottman refers to this as positive sentiment override.
In other words, so much positivity builds up in the marriage that it’s easier to overlook little frustrations. The overall positive balance counteracts the negative. Or, as a wise friend said, when we don’t know one’s motives, we default to an assumption of goodwill (see this previous article for more additional information).
Happiness Tip #1 – Remember, giving the benefit of the doubt is our choice. Though this may be difficult at times, as we consistently make this choice, we choose a happier marriage!
We Decide if We will Forgive our Spouse
You’ve probably heard this quote from 18th-century English poet Alexander Pope: “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
While this principle is true in so many aspects of life, constant and complete forgiveness is a critical component for anyone choosing to create a happy marriage.
Too often, the inability to forgive slowly destroys relationships that could otherwise be happy. Because we all marry imperfect people and we all continue to make mistakes, forgiveness is necessary for every marriage!
Happiness Tip #2 – Forgiveness, while not always easy, is always a choice. If we really want an amazing marriage, holding onto grudges can’t be part of our relationship. Remember, to choose to forgive really is divine!
We Decide If We Will Be Resilient or if We Will Give Up Easily
Have you ever experienced disappointments in your marriage? Have you dealt with unexpected financial or health challenges? Are you facing difficulties in your marriage right now?
You probably answered “yes” to at least one of these questions.
While we each face different struggles, research suggests that it’s not necessarily the stressor itself (unemployment, illness, etc.) but rather how we respond that has the largest influence on our marital satisfaction.
For instance, research shows how some couples coping with a husband’s cancer still improved their marital happiness, even during such a hard time. Other research demonstrates how some couples were able to maintain their marital satisfaction even through the heart-wrenching trial of the death of their child.
Why were some couples in these studies able to thrive in spite of their difficult challenges while other couples struggled? The answer, at least in part, is resilience.
Happiness Tip #3 – We choose how we will respond to adverse situations (including tough times during marriage); in other words, we can choose resilience! Remember, strong marriages are formed, in part, by their ability to weather the storms of life. Trials and challenges will come to every marriage. But, how we respond to the “bad weather” will greatly influence our ability to achieve marital bliss.
By applying these three tips, you can choose to be happily married. So give the benefit of the doubt, forgive, and don’t give up. Choose happiness today!
Some of you won’t like what I have to say here. In fact, if you consider yourself “a romantic,” this article might initially anger you. But please read the entire article prior to chiding me with your remarks in the comment section! Honestly, understanding this concept can save marriages!
The Myth of the Soulmate
The idea of soulmates is a well beloved myth indeed. Those that hold this expectation generally believe that there is one, and only one, right person to marry – their soulmate.
The idea of a soulmate is quite a romantic notion and has been the plot of countless cherished books and movies. But, please pay attention – this myth is incredibly dangerous. Let me explain!
Dangers Caused by the Soulmate Myth
There is one major hazard for those who prescribe to this myth. Those who assume that marital bliss is a result of finding their one soulmate dangerously shift responsibility away from improving themselves or nurturing their marriage.
In other words, rather than working hard on our own individual improvement and working equally hard at nurturing our marriage, we can be tempted to assign all the blame to the spouse.
A 2014 study noted that couples either view their marriages as destiny or growth. Couples that view their marriage as destiny generally believe that their spouse is their soulmate. One of these researchers, Dr. Spike W. S. Lee, noted the following during a recent interview:
“If we are soulmates, then nothing will go wrong in our relationship, and it will be easy. A conflict makes a destiny-believer question whether the current partner is actually their soulmate, and then they give up on working it out.”
Too often, “destiny” couples who are not happily married (though they had ironically once believed that their spouse was their soulmate), simply believe they were duped and that they didn’t marry their soulmate after all. Somewhere, their soulmate must still surely exist.
Can you see the danger here? Not only are we less likely to work at a marriage if we assume it will come easily to the two of us (due to the belief that we found our “one and only”), but couples are also more likely to sever such a union when times get tough.
There is, of course, a need for certain marriages to end in divorce. But I suspect the number of actual divorces would be much lower if we realized how poisonous this soulmate myth actually is to the marriage relationship.
Lest you feel sorry for my wife for my utter insensitivity to this well-beloved myth, might I suggest a more romantic solution?
Each of us should spend our best efforts in becoming one another’s soulmates. Now that really is romantic! See, I told you I’d make it right!
Becoming each other’s soulmate is a worthy goal for every couple. So, while my wife could have found marital happiness with other guys and I surely could have married other women, today neither of us could imagine life without each other.
Become Your Spouse’s Density (I mean destiny)
Becoming each other’s soulmates doesn’t just happen accidentally. Rather, it is the result of intentional effort, love, forgiveness, and a reduction in our selfish tendencies. Unlike the dangerous soulmate myth, actually striving to become one another’s soulmate would be a fantastic (and realistic) goal for any couple striving towards a ridiculously happy marriage!