Everybody has selfish tendencies now and again. Everybody.
Maybe you want to spend money on something you want, but don’t need.
Maybe you want to spend a little bit of time by yourself, not with your spouse.
Maybe you work hard, so you just want some time to sit and do a whole lot of nothing.
As for me (Justin), there are moment when I want to sit and read mindless news on the ipad. But at the same time, Megan may want to talk about something important, like parenting. And then there are moments when Megan may want to read blogs and I want to do something important, like write one! 🙂
We know we’re not alone. As I wrote above, everybody has selfish tendencies every now and then. However, Megan and I do know one thing – we know our primary desire is to be committed to one another. We know we’ll screw up every once in a while, but in the end, our desire is to have a We-Marriage, not a Me-Marriage.
What’s a “Me-Marriage” you may ask? Well, a Me-Marriage is a marriage with YOU at the center.
Not your spouse.
Not you AND your spouse.
Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, “Well, I don’t have a Me-Marriage”, consider this: the following is a short list of ‘symptoms’ to look out for in a Me-Marriage. As you read through these, please don’t think to yourself, “My spouse suffers from all of those symptoms!” Instead, pay attention to this list yourself. How do you spend your time? Where do your obligations truly lie? If we’re all honest with ourselves, each of these symptoms will creep up every now and then. But when these symptoms aren’t just symptoms, but a way of life, that’s when it becomes a full-fledged Me-Marriage. So read through it, and then take the challenge at the end of the post. With that said, here are 3 common symptoms to a Me-Marriage:
Symptom #1: Personal Fulfillment over Family Obligation
This is a symptom I suffer from often. Really often. There are times when I have obligations I wish I didn’t have. Sometimes it’s helping the kids with homework, brushing their teeth, or even reading them a story. Tonight it was watching the newest Tinkerbell movie. I mean, seriously, what’s wrong with me – a 35 year old man that doesn’t want to watch Tinkerbell!
Laugh all you want, but I know I’m not the only one. You’ve been there, too. You. Me. Everybody. There are moments when we simply want to do whatever it is we want to do. However, the question becomes, how often do you choose personal fulfillment over family obligation?
Family obligation means there are priorities for our family that come before our own personal desires. Whether it’s house chores, time with the kids, or some other family obligation, the family must come first.
The primary obligation for a husband a wife is to show how a good marriage operates. For those who have children, you must understand that your children are constantly learning – from you! Some things you will teach them directly. Other things they will pick up on their own. Therefore, you have a significant obligation to show them what a great marriage looks like. When we (myself included) make decisions to focus on our own personal interests first, we’re missing an opportunity to show others what real marriage and real family life is like.
Symptom #2: Personal Satisfaction over Relational Interaction
This is similar to #1, but is just different enough that I made it a separate symptom.
Relational interaction with your spouse is absolutely vital to a healthy marriage. What I mean by relational interaction is real, honest, open, discussion. It doesn’t mean, “Look out babe, I ate a bean burrito for lunch today.” Nor does it mean, “Our child received an A on their math test.” It means actual interaction and discussion, with a friend.
We’ve written about this before, but the importance of your spouse being your best friend is vital to a healthy marriage. When this friendship is firing on all cylinders, you will desire to have more relational interactions with one another. You look forward to seeing one another every evening. Sex is different, because it’s with your friend. It’s more than physical. All in all, this kind of relational interaction will provide MORE personal satisfaction than just doing whatever it is you wanted to do to begin with. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Symptom #3: Personal Desire over Desire for Marital Unity
This one, is really the heart attack of all symptoms. At one time or another, we all will experience the first 2 symptoms listed above. We all will experience moments when we’re going to want to do whatever it is we want to do. And to be honest, everybody needs a little bit of quiet time to themselves every once in a while. So, don’t feel tremendous guilt by having the occasional desire to do something yourself.
That said, there is a tremendous amount of danger in having a desire for your own self over a desire for marital unity. The bible lists marriage as a one-flesh relationship. One flesh means you’ve got to be united, in everything.
You’re united in parenting.
United in finances.
United in goals.
United in sex.
United in everything.
If, at the core of who you are you’re mostly concerned with yourself and not your marriage, then you are living in a Me-Marriage. If you’re only interested in your career, your side of the finances, or even ‘your’ children, then you may need to take a step back and do a self-check on your priorities.
For example, take the following challenge and see where you stack up. And if you decide you’re living a little bit too much of a Me-Marriage, take the necessary steps to make it a We-Marriage. (We’ll write more about a We-Marriage later this week.)
Over the next 48 hours, pay attention to the following. You will need paper and pen to keep track of everything. Simply live life as you normally would, and then evaluate yourself in a couple of days.
1. How many times did your child(ren) ask you to do something with/for them? As you track this, respond to them as you normally would. Keep track of how many times you joined them, and how many times you continued doing whatever it is you wanted to do.
Also, do the same thing with your spouse. If you want, you can even track your own thoughts. For example, if the thought comes to you, “I really should help out with the dishes” and you choose not to, take note.
2. How much actual relational interaction did you have with your spouse? Also, take note of how many times you chose to do whatever you wanted instead (read blogs, play games, watch tv, etc.)
3. How many situations occurred where you found yourself being more concerned with yourself (career, money, etc.) than with your marriage?
When the 48 hours is up, you’ll likely discover you have a little bit more of a Me-Marriage than you may have originally thought. Don’t beat yourself up, it’ll be the case for most of us! Simply use this as a tool to evaluate some current marriage strengths and some weaknesses. Once the weaknesses are identified, you can then take the appropriate steps to change, and ensure you’re moving closer and closer toward a We-Marriage.