How Selfish Is Your Marriage?

Real Marriage ConferenceLast weekend my husband and I attended Pastor Mark Driscoll’s “Real Marriage” conference. If you’re not familiar with him, he is a pastor of a “megachurch” in Seattle and recently released a best-selling book called “Real Marriage”. The conference was basically four mini-sermons over the course of Friday night and Saturday morning on key points from the book.
The sessions weren’t interactive except for Pastor Mark’s challenge to score ourselves in two areas and talk about it later. On Friday night, we were asked to each score how good our friendship is. We had written the exact same high score. Check! We gave ourselves a mutual pat on the back for having a great marriage and retired for the night.
The next morning, one of the two sessions was on what it means to have a servant heart within a marriage – where you put aside your own interests to prioritize your spouse over yourself.  In this context, we were asked to each rate how selfish we are and how selfish we think our spouse is.
On selfishness, I had given us the same bad score. Truth be told, I was thinking that Bryan is actually one point more selfish than I am (to be precise), but I decided to be nice. As it turned out, Bryan gave us the same bad score too. After a pause, however, he said he had to admit that he actually thinks I am one point more selfish than him! Awesome. Of course, I wasted no seconds in saying that I really wanted to score him a point worse but that I was just being nice.
Thanks to the fact we truly are great friends, we were able to discuss this playfully. But at the same time, it begged the question of how two people who love each other so much and can genuinely call each other best friends can be . . . by mutual admission . . . so selfish at the same time.
After discussing further, we concluded that most of our selfishness issues arise around how to spend free time. We give so much of our energy to our kids that when we finally land on free time together, we each want to hoard it for our own preferred activities. Bryan would love to just sit and watch a movie with me. I really don’t like movies and rarely agree to it. I would love to just have a game night with Bryan. He doesn’t like games so we never do that either.
We typically compromise with an activity that maximizes our combined enjoyment rather than our individual enjoyment. Before going to this conference, I would have said compromise is best so everyone is at least marginally happy. I had never really considered what it would mean to have a servant’s heart for one’s spouse. Ephesians 5:21-33 specifically addresses the servant-like heart that spouses should have for each other:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
Now, I realize that when Paul wrote this he wasn’t specifically thinking about whether or not I need to watch a movie with my husband. But he was speaking of a whole way of life, which absolutely encompasses our mundane daily activities. It’s a way of viewing your marriage such that you prioritize your spouse and your spouse prioritizes you.
Consider how I would feel if Bryan said the following one Friday night: “Honey, I know you’ve been wanting to have a game night together. I’d love to do that tonight because I realize it would make you happy and I’ll have fun too. I’ll get the Trivia Pursuit.” (Rather than, “Nooooo. I just need to relax.”)
Or if I said, “Let’s relax and share a movie together. I’ll make some popcorn and we’ll have fun watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” (Rather than, “I will stab my eyes out if I even have to be in the room while you watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”)
This doesn’t mean compromise is bad. It’s regularly needed in marriage. But we agreed to work on growing more servant-like hearts toward each other so we can experience the joy of selflessness rather than the barrier of selfishness. I now realize that I don’t need to find joy in a movie, I just need to find joy in putting my husband first. That shift in attitude makes all the difference in the world.


Do you agree spouses should submit to one another? Why or why not?

3 thoughts on “How Selfish Is Your Marriage?”

  1. Love this post! Raymond is better than I am at being selfless, I think. I think we may have it easier than you guys though because we like to do the same things, or if we don’t, one of the kids is always game to do something with us (they like everything!).

    1. Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts

      Jenn – You’ll have to ask Raymond to score you guys and see if he agrees. :)We do have a lot of common interests, but there are a lot of random things we never do because only one of us would like it – I would love to go bowling, play our wii, go ice skating, etc. Basically, I enjoy spontaneous things out of the norm and Bryan doesn’t at all. He recently actually said (and I quote): “I derive zero pleasure from spontaneity.” ha! Isn’t that an awesome quote?

  2. Hubby and I are both selfish; it just manifests itself in different ways. I end up doing things I don’t really care do a lot, but he makes real sacrifices because he always chooses what’s better for our family. For me, serving means if we can’t afford something he wants and something I want, I’ll go without. If he wants to watch TV, I will, even though I hate TV. And he makes it really easy to give in like that when he does things like selling his car and buying a motorcycle, because we can’t afford 2 cars right now. And he won’t let me give him a break and get up with the kids at 7:00 am on Saturday mornings.

    OTOH, I can insist on ignoring him for a good book, and he can leave me to the wolves (our children, lol) while he plays a video game. We cut each other a little slack. I will, however, bring this up over dinner tonight. We’ll see what he thinks.

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