On this blog, I talk a lot about how to create a dynamic, intimate marriage. We look at how to make your sex life better. We look at parenting, and resolving conflict, and coming to terms with your past.
And I try to offer some practical tips of how to overcome some of the more common problems, because I know many of you are really looking for some help.
For many couples, though, these practical solutions aren’t going to cut it, because the problem is far deeper than that. And that problem is selfishness.
Let me tell you the story of one couple I know:
They married young, very much in love. They were opposites, and opposites can attract very quickly–but often repel just as quickly. And soon after marriage, they both started noticing things that really bugged them about each other. She wanted him to stay home and have a quiet evening with the babies and her. She wanted them to go to the park together. She wanted to eat dinner as a family.
He, on the other hand, wanted to get out and DO something. He could never sit still. He was starting two businesses on the side while holding down a full-time job. He often answered emails until late into the night. He would play with the kids, but it wasn’t his priority because he didn’t know how to engage them.
After a few years they started to drift apart. He felt constant condemnation from her because he wasn’t a good husband or good father, so he just retreated more into work. He stopped going to church. He started having the occasional beer again. Their sex life became shallow and rare.
Whenever she talked about him, she told everyone who would listen how he wasn’t a good husband and a good father. She told people how he wouldn’t play with the kids, and asked for advice on how to make him. She constantly asked about how to get him to go to counseling, or to a marriage conference.
And finally they broke up.
Now here’s the thing: both of them were absolutely certain that the other person was not supporting them. Both of them were sure that the other person was selfish. Both of them were sure that they were in the right.
You can look at this story and say that he was mostly to blame, because he didn’t spend time with the family (and many women would feel that way). Or you could look at it and say she was mostly to blame because she always complained about her husband and talked badly about him and tried to change him.
Here’s the issue: it doesn’t matter who is more to blame. That’s a silly argument anyway. God doesn’t ask us to figure out who is more to blame. Where in the Bible does it say that if the other person is more to blame, we can then justify our selfishness?
Yet I’m not being selfish, you may say. How can I show him affection and accept him when he’s acting so badly towards the family? How can I reach out to him when he doesn’t even show me that he loves me? That’s unfair and unrealistic. God wouldn’t ask me to do something that’s impossible.
Let me submit to you that if there is something that you can do to make your marriage better, and you choose not to do it, then you are being selfish.
God says, in Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV),
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Now why does Jesus stick us with the plank and give our husbands with the speck? Why are we always the one who is more to blame? Does Jesus think that you are worse than your husband?
I don’t think that’s the point. I think it’s that if we examine ourselves, we will always find a plank, because only we and God know our hearts and our motivations. You can always see your sins better than you can see anyone else’s. And it is our selfishness and our sin that we need to be concerned with.
Note that it also doesn’t say that we never deal with our husband’s issues. The key is that once we deal with our selfishness, then we can help our husband deal with his. But the onus is on us to do something first.
So when you are having marriage problems, the route to freedom is not to figure out who is most to blame, so that you can lay the problems at your husband’s feet. The key is to say, “what can I do to improve the marriage? Am I withholding love, or affection, or acceptance, or forgiveness? Am I holding on to bitterness, or expectations, or anger?”
The thing that is holding your marriage back is you.
I am not saying that your husband does not have issues; I am not even saying that your issues are bigger than your husband’s. I am saying that God does not ask us to figure out whose issues are bigger; God asks us to deal with our own selfishness. So go to Him for strength. Ask Him to help you feel loved and accepted by Him first and foremost. Ask Him to give you peace. Ask Him to help you forgive.
Maybe you’re walking through a really difficult time in your marriage. Maybe your husband has completely withdrawn from you. Maybe he’s addicted to porn. Maybe he’s had an affair. I am not saying that you alone can fix the marriage. But God does not ask you to fix the marriage. God asks you to deal with your selfishness and do the right thing regardless. And then, when all is said and done, if the marriage doesn’t survive, it is not because you didn’t try. But you must deal with your own issues, rather than waiting for him to do the right thing.
So let me ask you today: what could you do to make your marriage better that you have been putting off doing? Could you make love more often? Could you stop being angry for him not being home more? Could you stop feeling bitter towards him? Could you finally fully forgive him? Whatever it is, pray that God will help you do it. Because the route to victory in our marriages never goes through the other person; it always goes through our own hearts.
Now, do you have any advice for us today? Or what do you think about how we can encourage each others’ marriages? Just link up a marriage post in the linky tools below! And be sure to link back here so others can read some great marriage advice, too!