Are you as good of a spouse as you think you are?
How do you know?
A student in one of my classes at Western Seminary (Portland, OR), was challenged when we talked through this in class. He later shared his story (in written form allowing me to share it with others):
Sacred Marriage served as a mirror for me as a husband. Emily and I have been married for eight years. We have three children. Since the birth of our baby girl 6 months ago, I have constantly found ways to protect my precious “cave time” where I can be alone by myself and do the stuff I want. I was fully aware of the fact that cave time is expensive (I love the way you put this!) especially for my wife. Having my cave time means she would have to care for three kids all by herself. But it was so necessary for me to wind down from the daily craziness I didn’t know of any other way to relax at the end of the day.
Having read Sacred Marriage and learned about the importance of sacrificial thinking, I tried letting go of my “right” to cave time. The reward is amazing! It is all about the change of attitude and perspective. I started to help with the children even when I was tired. All along I thought I was a pretty hands-on dad. I was so wrong. It was not until I decided to help when I didn’t feel like helping that I realized I actually didn’t do that much because I felt like I deserved a break. After a couple weeks of stepping up more, I realized that taking care of my children and giving Emily some time off is one of the best ways to love her at this phase of our lives. Time is so precious for her; she could hardly take a breath from being a mom. So when I offered to watch the kids so she could hang out with her friends, it meant a lot to her.
Notice, this young husband had to come to grips with the gap between the husband he thought he was, and the husband his actions were revealing him to be. He had been caught in the thicket of his sin masking what was really happening in his house; once truth pierced his perception, he could repent and the sin was broken.
Sin skews our perceptions—of others and ourselves. The more that selfishness takes hold of our hearts, the less aware we become of how selfish we are. We under-estimate how much we always put our own interests first, and we tend to under-estimate how much our spouse does on our behalf.
A husband with a bad temper mentally resets the “bar” of what defines a temper tantrum downward so that he doesn’t realize how out of whack he’s acting. He starts to think that screaming so loudly that the neighbors can hear him is “normal” for a guy. A wife who grows cold to her husband loses track of how cold she can seem because, after a while, “cold” feels normal. “Freezing” gets redefined as “a slight chill.”
We don’t like to think of ourselves as mean, selfish, or cruel, but if that’s what our actions reveal, we need to come to grips with the truth in order to begin the process of repentance and transformation.
Are you truly as generous in your marriage as you think you are? Is there something you’re withholding from your spouse that feels to you like a “little” withholding but to your spouse it feels like a “lot” of withholding? (affection, time, conversation, etc.) We can go for months, even years, thinking we’re something in our marriages that we’re truly not. The longer and farther we travel with sin, the less aware we become that our sin is, in fact, sin.
Let’s open our hearts up to appropriate conviction and think it through: just what am I really like in my marriage? Am I really as helpful as I think I am? Am I really as pleasant as I’d like to be? Am I really as mature and grace-centered as I imagine?