The Greatest Enemy to the Marriage You Desire

Trish and I had only been dating two months when I told her I loved her.

I loved how she looked. I loved her Chicago accent. I loved her 1993 poofy hair. I loved the way she walked. I loved her smile. I loved the way she took her time in conversations with others. I loved everything about her.

I wouldn’t change anything about her. She was perfect for me.

Then we got married.

It didn’t take long to realize she wasn’t so perfect.

  • She didn’t do laundry when I thought it should be done.
  • We didn’t have sex as often as I thought we should.
  • She didn’t balance the check book in the same way I would balance it.
  • She didn’t give me as much attention as I thought I needed.
  • She didn’t do household chores the way I would do them.
  • She didn’t meet my needs the way I thought they should be met.

So we would argue. She would argue with me, believing that an argument would change me. She could change the way I wanted laundry done. She could change my sex drive to match hers. She could change me.

I would argue believing I could win. I could change her through guilt trips. I could make her feel guilty enough to have sex with me more; to keep the house cleaner; to cook more often; to meet my needs more. She needed to change.

Living to change your spouse is an exhausting way to live.

The thing I’ve learned in 18 years of marriage is that arguments don’t change anyone’s heart. They may change their behavior for a few days, but not their heart.

Guilt trips will never bring lasting change to a marriage. They will change behavior for a few weeks but resentment and bitterness will live in the heart of the person that is made to feel guilty.

Every marriage fights against the same enemy. If you are married you will fight this enemy today. No, this enemy isn’t your spouse…it is you.

Selfishness is the greatest enemy to the marriage you desire.

Your own selfishness can prevent you from having the marriage God has in mind for you.

Marriage isn’t for selfish people.

My ability to put Trish’s needs ahead of my own will always determine the quality of my marriage.

You may be thinking, “Wait a second! I’m not going to be selfless unless my spouse chooses to be selfless”.

That is totally natural to think that. But that is the essence of selfishness…thinking of your own needs, wants and desires first.

Your marriage will never change if you rely on your ability to change your spouse.

But your marriage can be transformed if you put your spouses needs ahead of your own. Your marriage will be different immediately if you will allow God to change you.

It is a risk. There is no guarantee your spouse will reciprocate.

But I can promise you that the climate of your marriage relationship will change when your spouse realizes that you no longer exist to fight with them, you are living to fight for them. That will make all the difference.

Fighting for your spouse will weaken the hold selfishness has in your heart.

The question is will you choose to stop fighting to be right and start fighting to be one?

18 Responses to The Greatest Enemy to the Marriage You Desire

  1. libl

    I tend to agree, but we must be open with our spouses about things. There are times we must lay it on the table. There are times we must risk arguements, though certainly not provoke them.

    My hubby stopped giving me pleasure in bed for nearly 3 years. He became very selfish and only took from me. As a high libido wife, it destroyed me, even though I tried not letting it and worked so hard on meeting his needs. I ran myself to the ground….nervous breakdowns, thoughts of divorce, depression and crying out to d like never before I was numerous times counseled by christians to speak up and lay boundaries. So, I spoke up. WeWe discussed, argued a bit, things changed a little, things changed over time, but it isn’t a heart change, as you said.

  2. John

    Great article, one of the best I’ve seen on a marriage blog in a while. I can attest to the accuracy of it as well. I’d like to take it a step further and share something that I have learned in the last month.

    Selfishness essentially separates us from God. Until I got rid of the things that hindered me (i.e., pornography) and decided that my calling in marriage is to please God, nothing changed. Until I began to trust God, nothing changed. Not long-term. Just like Justin wrote above.

    I’m a lucky one because of how quickly things have now changed for the better in my marriage, oddly enough when I quit trying to make them change. But I do believe it all starts with removing the things that separate us from God.

  3. Suzy

    This has nothing to do with what you’ve written (which I agree with full-heartedly), I’m just commenting to let you know that there is a pornographic image on the side of the screen. Its not your fault and you can’t control it, but under “Like us on Facebook” it has the profile pictures of some of the people who have liked you on Facebook, and one of those people apparently really loves ladies from behind. Or is a woman who really loves showing her behind…doubtful. Anywho, Facebook really needs to get better about deleting those types of pictures when people upload them. Smh. I find the irony amusing but I know some of your readers might be a little more sensitive to such images so I just thought you might like to know.

  4. Chris

    Pride, greed, selfishness, resentment; you pretty much covered the bases with this. Great job!

  5. Smith Esu

    Thanks for the tips on killing the enemy.

  6. John Smith

    It’s a good theory, and for some it may actually work. But when you do all of that, and they don’t reciprocate, then you’re basically living the other persons life. You end up feeling unfulfilled, loss of self, trapped, and sometimes even anger. And when you’re not happy, eventually things will degrade in the relationship and get worse till it ends.

    Like I said, it’s a good theory, and if 2 people genuinely love each other, it’ll work. But if not, it’ll only make your life worse.

    • I have to agree with you. I love my husband to the moon and back but he is very selfish. He has an idealistic view of how life and marriage should go and anything short of that, he is grumpy – which leads to conflict. We have been married for 21 years and I do feel like I have lost my true self trying to be who he wants me to be (in order to “meet his needs”) and I feel caged. He’s very insecure so he does not approve of me having any sort of individuality, he sees us only as a couple. We need to be together every moment that he is not at work.

      Anyway, my point is that I believe I’m responsible for this mess we’re in because I’ve allowed it to happen. My intentions were to meet his needs. I now realize that they are unmeetable and I am burnt out and any needs that I may have, I have learned to meet myself.

    • Justin and Trisha

      I don’t totally disagree with you…because there is an aspect of enabling someone and not standing up for yourself. But the reality is we can’t change a human heart. So demanding our way, pouting and arguing will NEVER change someone. The only thing we are in control of is us. So when we choose to be selfless, if NOTHING else, we are being obedient to God even if our spouse chooses to be selfish.

      • How do I even begin to change the situation I have created? My husband’s behavior is rooted in fear of rejection. In order to prevent experiencing what he would consider rejection, he holds very tightly to controlling everything about our relationship. For example, if I needed a few minutes alone and said “I think I’m going to go for a quick bike ride.” He would say, ‘I’ll come with you.” And if I then said, “I appreciate the offer, but actually I need a few minutes alone to unwind and talk to God.” He would interpret what I said as rejection of him and tell me that I’m not very nice.

        How do I start laying boundaries that I know would be beneficial to my own mental and physical health (I’m exhausted!) and consequently our marriage? Like I mentioned, any perceived rejection turns into conflict – mostly him using whatever means necessary to get me to conform to what he wants. In the bike ride example, if I didn’t agree to having him join me on my bike ride, he would follow me anyway.

        • John Smith

          That’s exactly what I was dealing with, thus why I made my original post. I have many less years invested than you do, but I already had the same issues. I wish you the best and hope your husband learns to appreciate you better.

          • A Christian Counselor

            This is the only comment I will post here:

            This life is all about unconditional love. Giving your best to people when they can give nothing back (James 1:27 – look it up).
            We don’t love them because of who They are, we love them because of who WE are (through our Savior Jesus Christ).
            1. Love God with everything you are.
            2. Love others as we love ourselves.
            (nothing is mentioned of a return, only of our responsibility *before God*)
            Chris, I’m sorry that you are hurting in your marriage. I understand exactly where you are coming from because my parents have been the same way for as long as I can remember. It sounds like things are a bit out of hand though if you can’t have alone time when you need it; as Christians, we all need personal time with God – please talk to your pastor or a biblical counselor or better yet, both.
            Seriously, talk to them, not your friends or your children – a spiritual leader in your life that the Holy Spirit can speak through.
            You and your husband should both go. However, he probably will not consent. So you should go on your own if you must so that you have some accountability for what they will tell you which will be something like. . .
            I Cor 10:31 – do all to the glory of God, no matter what it is. Even if your husband isn’t doing it right, you still can by being obedient to God.
            I Cor 13 as well – even if he isn’t loving the right way, that doesn’t matter. You’ve made a covenant to God your Loving Father when you made your wedding vows to love and cherish your husband, they weren’t just for your husband to hear.
            Please glorify God in this. Doing the right thing is scary bc we sooo want a return for our work, but your labor is not in vain in the Lord, so always do it for Him and your rewards will be heavenly, and I guarantee there will be some earthly ones as well
            I Cor. 15:58
            Be strong and very courageous. . . and love.

          • Bekah

            Wives are to submit to their husband. We’ve all heard that, some of us cringe when we hear it. But there’s more to it. Husbands are to LOVE their wife! It is a give and take. Our job as a wife is to do our best to be the wife God wants us to be. In turn, the husband should be doing his best to be the husband God wants him to be. We’re not supposed to feel squashed by the person we’ve chosen to become one with. That is not God’s plan at all!

            Have you tried, “I’m going to clear my head so that I can be a better wife to you?” I’m betting you have, but I wanted to throw it out there anyways, just in case.

            My suggestion is to find a counselor and to encourage, not nag, your husband to go with you. If he does not, perhaps going alone and coming home with the advice that was given to you will help soften his heart.

            Praying for you.

  7. Jeremy

    Still reading your blogs every chance I get. My wife didn’t want to work on things. She chose to escape reality and run off with an old high school boyfriend, he’s still married. I’ve decided to focus on the things that will make me better, not dwell on what I could have done differently.

    • Justin and Trisha

      So sorry to hear that Jeremy. I will definitely be praying for you.

  8. Powerfully written once again, Justin. When I recognized and admitted my own selfishness, I would daily tell my wife, “I’m fighting for you today.” This certainly softened my heart and strengthened my marriage.

    • Justin and Trisha

      Thanks Chad, for sharing. I love that.