August 15, 2015

Are You Married to a Selfish Spouse?

Gary Thomas — 

Are You Married to a Selfish Spouse Final

Victoria (not her real name) is married to a selfish spouse. She prays for him. She encourages him. She seeks ways to serve him. Her husband soaks it up but hasn’t learned to give half as much in return. If I give examples I may blow her cover, but most of you know marriages like this.

Maybe you’re in one.

Somewhat understandably, Victoria struggles with bitterness. If her husband only knew how much just a small bit of giving back in return would mean. If for only one hour a weekend he could make it about her instead of about him. The relief she would feel would be enormous, but her husband’s selfishness seems to run through his core.

They have talked about it with a counselor, but the thing about selfishness is that the more selfish you are the less you realize it. Her husband thinks he’s doing “better,” but not by much, and usually only when Victoria brings it up, which ushers in a new kind of pain.

Victoria’s husband tries to be a little less selfish so that he doesn’t have to listen to his wife complain about it. So he’s fighting his selfishness with, yes, selfishness.

Victoria has prayed. She has gone to a counselor. She even brought her husband with her to the counselor—everything advice-oriented people tell her to do. But the situation hasn’t changed much, and doesn’t appear likely to. In that light she asked me, how do you maintain a godly attitude?

Keep in mind—I wasn’t talking to the couple. I was talking to Victoria, and about her spiritual attitude not resolving the situation (that’s a different discussion). What I’m about to say may make some of you married to selfish spouses angry, but I believe this advice is rooted in spiritual reality.

“Victoria,” I said, “you need to start thinking of yourself as the postal worker not the store. You see all this good stuff that you do for your husband in reality, it’s coming from God. Your graceful attitude, your servant’s heart, your inspiration and motivation are all evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in your life. At root though, you’re just the postal worker delivering God’s package to your husband. A postal worker doesn’t expect a thank you letter when she delivers the gift.”

I said this because I didn’t want Victoria to let her husband’s selfishness engender poisonous pride in her own heart. This wasn’t to chastise her but to protect her on her journey toward God.

“Second,” I said, “and here’s the hope—if God is the owner of the store, and we’re just the postal workers, God can use any number of postal workers to deliver what we need. You’re acting like what you need can only come from your spouse, and since he refuses to deliver it you’re stuck. With some things, that’s true. There are certain things only a spouse can provide. But God can deliver a fulfilling, meaningful life through any number of channels.Personal Mail boxes

“If I keep waiting for a package from the U.S. Postal Service that has been sent and resent a dozen times and is always lost, eventually I’m going to ask God to send something via U.P.S. or Fed Ex. Maybe you can buy your own flowers, and thank God that your husband earns enough, together with you, for you to enjoy the weekly luxury of fresh flowers in your house. No, your husband didn’t think to buy them, but in a way God used your husband to make their presence in your home a reality. And no, your husband might not think to send you to the spa, but if you need a ‘pampering day,’ perhaps you’ll have to set up the appointment. Yes, it would be much more delightful if it came through your husband as that would show his care for you, but think of it in this light: there are a lot of wives who could never afford to have a day like that even though, their husbands would be inclined to provide it if they could.”

Every particular application is going to be different, so I won’t go on any further with Victoria’s story. But if you’re married to a particularly selfish spouse, hold on to these two points:

  1. Fight pride by remembering you’re just the postal delivery person. Everything God gives to your spouse through you comes from God. Your desire to serve, your creativity in serving, your commitment to serve, your conviction to love—that’s God’s work, not your own heart. You are choosing to be faithful in delivering those blessings, but without God you wouldn’t have the blessings to give nor likely even the inclination.
  1. God can deliver life’s blessings through many channels. We’d all like them to come in a certain way, but wouldn’t it be rather ungrateful of you to complain about a pair of diamond stud earrings if they came in yellow wrapping paper instead of red? Ask God to bring what you legitimately need as He wills, in His timing, and in His way. It may not be your ideal, but even in this your spouse’s selfishness is simply helping you to press deeper into God. That, in itself, is a gift when you think about it.

I write this because some of you may live the rest of your lives still married to a selfish spouse, and the last thing I want to see is your spouse’s selfishness affecting your spirit with resentment, bitterness, and eventually your own selfish demands. Nobody gave to Jesus a tenth of what He gave to them, yet He lived a supremely glorious, powerful, faithful, and joyous life.

In other words, don’t allow what your spouse isn’t to define what you become. 



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54 responses to Are You Married to a Selfish Spouse?

  1. Let them say what they will Gary. I love this post and believed every word before I read it. It’s so true that God uses any avenue to deliver what you need. I google’d “I must be married to the most selfish man” today – because I’m on the verge – and yours was the first hit. I needed him to watch the kids cause I have work to do, which is so seldom the case, but off he is AGAIN to visit a friend. Yet he’s the one who insisted I take on the work ’cause he can’t bear the financial load on his own’. But here I am, working and surfing the net because one child fell asleep and my neighbour’s kids took my other child out. So what am I so angry for? And it happens this way ALL THE TIME, for real. Truly “all of my help comes from the Lord”. Thanks for the concise reminder Gary.

  2. What a refreshing and divinely authorized commentary on the selfish spouse. What resonated
    so beautifully is the emphasis guiding one FROM the “self” TO our spiritual sense that knows
    no strife between us, but sees only the opportunity to radiate and express the Love that
    our God bestows upon us as Children of God.

    I really appreciate such a focused thought and concise explanation of your reminder to
    all to keep our thoughts so centered on the Spirit, so as to transcend the mortal
    experience of selfishness by countering it with the love of the Christ within us!

    Blessings with every good wish and thanks.

  3. WOW… i needed to read this so badly and today if all days because its been on my heart all week. I just thanked GOD for showing it to me and THANK YOU for being a faithful postal worker. This is my conformation at a time not knowing what to do next, now i know for certain I’m doing what it right.

  4. WOW! Divinely said! This inspired me beyond what words can truly explain! I’ve been married for 6 years, about 4 of those years my husband & I been living pretty separate lives due to him wanting it that way. His choice to separate our finances (so I have to buy my own groceries, pay him for rent, take care of my car maintenance that I know almost nothing about), 🙁 just so many selfish acts he commits and continues to unapologetically commit. Sometimes I’m left with my jaw dropped and how he justifies all of this. I’ve thought countless times about divorcing him but even at that he’s so selfish that he doesn’t divorce himself yet he’s the one who has detracted himself from this marriage. His reason is because he doesn’t want to feel bad and humility over being the one to divorce. Selfish yet again. I don’t know what to do but I do sprak to my Heavenly Father and I know he’s ever present no matter what! Your article placed a beautiful reminder back into my heart! THANK YOU for being a vessel and allowing yourself to be used for this article!

    • We have very similar stories. However he has made it so that I work full time and take care of my self, care, debt, child, house, everything I even buy groceries. I don’t not pay for my home though. He said he will only provide my daughter and I with a roof over our heads and good on the table. He does pay a very small portion to my daughter’s school I pay the majority of it. Her clothes her extra activities everything, I clean I cook I jugggle everything and have a full time job. I’ve given my all to him. Our lives are to separate everything is different since my daughter was born. He dotes on her and treats her like a princess he fights me on having her sleep in our bed. I’m fighting to sleep with my own husband and get quality time. He is almost debt free and because I pay for so much he has plenty to spend. My car is breaking down and he just bought a brand new motorcycle with out me knowing. I feel he is making a big picture because he needs to be single. I would make anyone happy but not him. I’m lobley and getting bitter. I need prayers

  5. Selfishness is toxic to marriage and too often it destroys intimacy between husband and wife. It shows up in parenting issues, money issues, sex and just about every area of the relationship. I have seen this first hand too often recently in attempting to work with couples. I shared some of my own thoughts concerning selfishness in marriage this week in my blog

  6. I have a very selfish husband. everything revolves around him and his passed successes. before marrying him he proved a wonderful man who had been taken for everything he had by an unfaithful wife. no doubt from what I have heard – he was a very faithful husband, but he now dwells on the past victories of Gods Blessings on him as he was very blessed with wealth ect. he cannot move on but boast about his past as though he did it. He is very angry because he was bankrupted by his ex-wife and expects his children to give him extreme attention. well that’s impossible in this day and age!!! He is a good father. I have given my all and all to him but he feels he has his way of life and I must not get in the way. He will not try to compromise.he takes alot with very little give and is arrogant/rude. To me… he is not the man I saw before I was married. everything revolves around him and only him, if it doesn’t go his way then it is wrong. I am a strong believer in God and took my vows seriously I included scriptures relating to marriage, but I think he has failed to remember them. I give more than I get, this does not bother me but the anger and un-appreciation is very hurtful, he always says, you do things volantary, I never ask you to do anything – yet he doesn’t realise that If I am not doing these things they will never get done, he has been alone for 10+ years and the house and garden is in need of alot attention – I have been dealing with this, all he does is spend time mowing the lawn and washing and polishing his cars. I paid off his debt which (I knew nothing about until) after we married but he foolishly went into debt again – in Gods eyes this is not good. I now won’t give him a cent. he says he loves me and needs me… I know real love from my previous marriage (my husband passed due to aggressive cancer) he was a gift from God!!!) my present husband wants everything his way. If it doesn’t go his way, I am the one who gets the raw deal, his anger etc!! He lives life as though he is still living on his own, he has breakfast without me and doesn’t care to include me where as I include him in everything. I give give give –he takes takes takes, never says thank you or please at all. Sometimes I really feel like leaving, but I am serious about my vows FOR BETTER FOR WORSE – God help me to hang in there.

  7. No matter what one beliefs about God or marriage, I’m not sure how long a fairly adult person can be married to a child. Selfishness shows the inability to adapt to life on its own terms. My husband has a lot of good qualities about him, but empathy is not one of them. I blame myself for marrying him… I knew. But being a postal service from God? He doesn’t need me to run his errands. He can directly do his work. Me? I have to take care of myself. Unless God has a letter for me. I could use one about now.

  8. Let me say I’m not really a “good Christian”. I wasn’t raised in the church nor do I attend. That does not mean I don’t not believe in God, I do, but I suppose my beliefs would not be considered ” Christian”. Anyhow….. I do think this is a good article. My husband can be selfish and he can act like a teenage boy some days but I also know he loves me. After 13 years I love him just as much, if not more then I did 10 years ago. I want our relationship to work and so does he, I just want him to “man up” about certain things like being responsible with $. I definitely think that there are many women and I’m sure men who are in relationships where they do not feel loved or feel trapped or hopeless. That is so sad to me. I absolutely believe that there are justifications for divorce and that you should get divorced if you’re that unhappy but I also think that you should try to make it work first. This specific blog is way too generic of a situation to touch on every senerio or level of selfishness out there. I think this article touches more on finding your own peace in God’s with love, peace and appreciation. . Be grateful for whatever you do have regardless. I’ve only lived 33 years of life but everybody that I have met who appreciates what they have (regardless of how much or how little) are the happiest people that I know.

  9. You are correct, hopeless! And victim-blaming fools like Gary Thomas just compound the problem and help create the next generation of Godless men.

  10. These kind of men are animals and they will suck all the life out of you and have no remorse while your dying. They are not men but selfish spoiled brats, heartless cowards usually filling themselves with pornography. Stop making excuses for them, stop putting so much pressure on women. When will any good godly men rise up and put these men in there place and stop sugar coating everything while these women suffer, you are making it worse instead of showing these men that it will not be tolerated and it is damaging hearts, families, making more bad men from little boys leading by their fathers examples

  11. I came across this blog today and I can totally relate! I have been married for 17 years to an extremely selfish, narcissistic man. I try to model godly, Christian behavior, but after years of getting nowhere it has left me angry, bitter and resentful. However, I continue praying, and doing my best to trust God to restore my marriage. My question is, how do I love my husband when I don’t? I have a hard time even saying the words “I love you” to my husband because the feeling is just gone. I feel like I’m lying if I say it. I pray for God to help me love my husband and to help me find ways to show his respect, but there is honestly, nothing that he says or does that is respectful. No one can get through to him. Leading by example hasn’t worked, talking to him doesn’t work, yelling or getting mad doesn’t work. I live with so much pain and heartache that some days I get so overwhelmed that I can’t hold back the tears. Which has no impact on my husband either and he tells me I cry for attention or to try and make him feel sorry for me. We’ve been to 3 different counsleors plus the pastor of our church and they can’t get through to him either. I can’t even imagine inflicting this sort of pain and suffering on anyone, let alone my spouse or children! I tell myself that I stay in the marriage because God can change my husband’s heart and restore our marriage. But doesn’t my husband have to be willing to change? What if he never does? The thought of living the rest of my life with so much heartache is being discouraging and depressing.

    • Kristin, I am in a very similar situation as you. Married for 18 years to a very selfish, man-child who is 53 years old. He is wonderful and making sure outward appearances of his ‘affection’ toward me look great, but when it comes to providing for our family and actually being a grown up, it’s a lost cause. Nothing gets through, so I’m done trying to get through. I’ve spent the last 10 years in emotional and financial hell with this man. It’s only been in the last 6 months I finally woke up and realized that my joy comes from Christ and He is my ultimate provider. Marriage is supposed to be each person bringing 100% to the relationship. Can God restore his heart? Yes, if the spouse is actually willing. I personally do not believe we are to stay in a relationship such as this. Yes, I took a vow, so did the other person, that doesn’t mean I have to stay if it’s a lost cause.

    • 30YrsMarriedAndHere’sHow June 29, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      And I’m sorry that the Church has so betrayed its women, where depression and heartache and an erosion of self-worth are all considered far worse than “deadly pride.” That indeed, even God’s Love must take second place to enforced humility, particularly for Christian women. Even if we focus on the man as head of the family and on our need to be constantly servile, we must then examine how much harm this causes the man, too. Is not HIS “deadly pride” also a problem here?

  12. So, if you are in a one way relationship (which is what this is) and there is no ‘life’ from the partner who is selfish, does not give only takes, does not grow the relationship only strips it down, does not support only demands, has obviously a ton of entlitlements, probably quite controlling with it, perhaps manipulative, perhaps withdrawn, who knows…but if this is it, is this a marriage? Is the selfish partner being faithful to their spouse? God hates divorce but I mean does he choose this type of existience over a divorce from a person who has no life, no heart, no service in the marriage? Is this what churches would say is your duty to spend the rest of their life in a lifeless marriage this way? Is this the model for the kids too? To watch one parent live their own life and get their needs met in other ways while remaning married to the partner that gives nothing? Is this all we got to offer as the Christian model? Just curious…

    You are right, the ‘victim’ needs to be careful that they don’t get self righteous about all their giving, it can be just as destructive as being with the one who does all the taking.

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