Six Ways to Divorce Selfishness from Marriage

Marriage is meant to be the beginning of great blessing for two people in love, but two anonymous quotes present the perspective of many marriages today. (1) "I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life." (2) "Marriage changes passion; suddenly you’re in bed with a relative!"

In reality, marriage becomes a disappointment when the foundations crumble, or the perspective is wrong. A godly marriage is a selfless expression of one person to another according to the plan of God (expressed in Ephesians 5:25-33 and I Peter 3:1-7). Is there hope for a lasting, happy, successful marriage today? Oh yes. My children have several good examples in their parents, grandparents, and other relatives who have all followed hard after God’s plan.

But the world, in general, does not have this confidence. The overwhelmingly large percent of college students (96%, according to a Louis Harris survey titled "Generation 2001") say they want a warm secure intimate relationship in marriage; but divorce statistics are scary, and even betrothed couples express fear and apprehension. As one new bride said, "I had watched my parents’ marriage fall apart, and I didn’t know if I could keep one together" (Newsweek, "Down the Aisle," July 20, 1998, p. 54). Many churches have stopped teaching about biblical marriage, and Hollywood encourages matrimonial instability through unrealistic scenarios. No wonder an increasing number of couples decide that marriage is just too much trouble.

Perhaps one of the most powerful films to address the inherent selfishness in so many marriages was the recent surprising movie, Fireproof. The script hit the number one cause of divorce squarely—selfishness. As long as emotions are warm and cozy, selfishness isn’t as obvious; but let those emotions cool a bit, and a partner’s annoying habits, lack of communication, or independent goals suddenly whittle the relationship down to the imperfect basics. Soon, a partner expresses selfishness through defensiveness, bitter words, or hurtful behaviors.

The ultimate selfishness is God-ward. When we become independent from God’s purposes in our marriage, independence and even alienation from each other in the home cannot be far behind. A godly marriage is based on following God’s outline for the home (I Corinthians 11:3, 9-11), teamwork for His purposes, and loving self-sacrifice.

Here are some practical, positive ways to divorce selfishness in marriage:
(1) Communicate clearly out of respect, and listen to your partner (Proverbs 12:18; 24:26; 28:11) (2) Don’t take your partner for granted. Express your love and encouragement every day and try to carry each other’s burdens (I John 4:7-8; Hebrews 10:24-25; I Thessalonians 5:11; Galatians 6:2). (3) Submit to one another out of reverence for the Lord (Ephesians 5:21). (4) Solve conflicts from a base of love, not retaliation. Speak the truth in love; don’t use silence as a weapon (Ephesians 4:15, 32). (5) Take responsibility for your own problems—don’t selfishly shift blame, but care for one another (I Corinthians 12:25; 13:5). (6) Develop the habit of praying with your partner every day, remembering that the Lord knows your hearts (James 5:16). When we divorce selfishness from our marriages, we can develop healthy, Godly homes.

What practical things do you do to get rid of selfishness in your relationship?

For additional help, see "Romance in Marriage" and "Intentional Ministry in Marriage".

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