Tag Archives: Selfish

How to Shelf the Selfishness in Your Marriage

Everyone is selfish when they get married. In the beginning, it’s all about “I’m in love,” “I’m getting married,” “Something wonderful is happening to me,” and “I love the way this person makes me feel.”  And although this me-centered narcissism is normal, if you fail to transition out of it, your marriage is sure to fail within three to seven years, especially if you have kids.

I can’t tell you how many callers I get on my program wanting to know, “How can I make my spouse ______?” The blank could be “do chores the way I want,” “spend less money,” or “change their attitude.”  However, the bottom line is you can’t make anyone do anything. That’s why I say to choose wisely before you get married in the first place.  If you’re the only one in the relationship ever being selfless, you’ve made a mistake.

Marriage is about giving more than you have to, not constantly wanting more.  Your spouse is not your slave or fairy godmother.  It’s not always about your needs, your hurts, your feelings, your time, and your schedule.  Marriage takes compromise and a willingness to lose fights and arguments. It’s the acts of sacrifice sprinkled throughout a marriage that make love deep.

The best time to put yourself out for your spouse is when he or she is not at their best.  Have you ever been in a pissy mood and someone acted sweetly? I bet you snapped out of it almost instantly.  Listen to your spouse, hug them, give them a back rub or a gift, or plop them in the tub with you. Do whatever it takes despite how you feel.  Selflessness costs you something, but it protects the relationship.

Your job when you get married is not to sit there with a scorecard of all the things you’re getting.  It’s to throw away all scorecards and figure out each day how you can make your spouse feel happy that they’re alive and married to you.

For further discussion of this topic, read my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage.

Video: I’m Busy. I’m Tired. I Can’t Get in the Mood.

Women today seem to believe that work, the kids, the house, their friends, etc. are more important than their husbands, and that somehow a sexless marriage is perfectly acceptable.  Unfortunately, this attitude eventually leads their men to look elsewhere to fulfill their needs.  But there is a different perspective a wife can adopt…  Watch:

Read the transcript.

How to Say ‘No’

Are you scared of saying “no” to people?  Are you worried that you’ll look bad, not be liked, or come across as rude or selfish if you do? 

Sometimes we don’t want to say “no” because we think we’ll lose a friend or we want to help everybody.  But saying “no” doesn’t mean you’re rude or disagreeable.  It also doesn’t necessarily mean that there are going to be fights or burned bridges.  These are false beliefs we concoct in our minds.  It really all depends on how we say “no”.     

There are good ways and bad ways to say “no”.  The first thing you ought to do, if it’s at all reasonable, is to ask the person to let you think about their request.  You may not have the time or the wherewithal to handle what they’ve asked you to do because of some other responsibility or commitment you have.  Ask them to give you a night to think on it.  That way, it’s a “maybe”, not a “no”, and they at least feel like you have considered it.  If you realize that you really can’t do it, you need to tell them “no” but also say something positive.  The best way to say “no” is to a) say something positive and b) promise something else.  For example, say, “I really wish I could do ___ for you.”  (That’s positive).  Then follow it up with, “Although I can’t do ___, I can do ___.” 

This concept applies to all your relationships from work to your clubs and organizations.  Simply say, “Even though I really wanted to find a way to make ___ happen, I couldn’t.  However, I can do ___. 

Another tip: Give them a good reason why you can’t do something, not a list of excuses.  “I sprained my ankle, my kid’s off from school at that time, etc.” may all be legitimate reasons why you can’t do something for someone, but you should only give one.  You may think giving more excuses makes you look better, but in fact, it makes you look worse.  If you start giving multiple excuses, it looks like you really don’t want to do it.  If you tell the other person in one sentence, “I’m sorry, I would really like to do ___ for you, but my mother and father are coming to town and I haven’t seen them in quite a while,” it seems more like you give a darn.

Sometimes you may not be the best person for the job.  Tell them that.  Say, “I’d really like to do that, but I don’t think I’m the best person because I’m not good at ‘X’, ‘Y’ or ‘Z’.  But Bill or Mary is.” 

Somebody recently contacted me online at my Dr. Laura Designs store asking me if I could do a particular project for an event.  I told them that I would look into it.  I didn’t want to say “yes” because I didn’t know anything about how to do the particular craft, and I didn’t want to promise anything I couldn’t do.  I did some research and realized that the learning curve for me to figure out how to do it would probably be a month, and the project was due in a week.  So I responded back I would have loved to be able to do it but I couldn’t because I didn’t know how and couldn’t figure it out in time for the event.  I felt bad.  I don’t like to disappoint people and I really do like a challenge, but time constraints and my lack of expertise made it difficult for me to follow through. 

Finally, if you don’t want to help someone because you think they’re using you or they’re just a crummy person, you don’t need to say so.  Even though you may be thinking, “I hate your guts and I’d rather eat frogs than help you,” that’s not the kind of thing you should say to anybody unless you really want to get them out of your life for good.  It’s always nicer to tell a truth that isn’t so ugly.  Simply say, “I regret that I’m not able to do this for you.  I hope you can find somebody else to help you,” as opposed to, “Drop dead!” or, “Go to hell!”   

Learning to say “no” is important because many of you let other people devour your lives out of a false sense of obligation.  You end up having too much on your plate, which means you won’t do any of it very well, and that’s not morally right.  Sometimes you have to disappoint people in order to maintain healthy follow-through on the obligations you already have. 

 

Why Bad Decisions Are Made

If I had to pick one phrase I’ve heard more than any other over the years (other than “I don’t know”), it’d be some variation of “I didn’t make a good decision.”  If I could charge everyone a dollar each time they said that, I would have zillions by now.  And although people admit to making a bad decision after the fact, I am convinced that most of them know the decision was not a good one at the time, but did it anyway.
 
I don’t think people who tend to make bad decisions are really stupid or uninformed.  Usually if they say they were uninformed, it’s just denial. Bad decision-makers typically know they’re making poor choices, and they make them because they want something in the moment.  They don’t project into the future or think, “When I look back on what I’m about to do, will I be proud of it.”

About 25 years ago when I was on the radio at night, I remember a young man in his 20s calling in to my show.  His parents had just died in a car crash, and he was left to take care of his little sister.  He told me, “I’m in my mid-to-late 20s and it’s time I started my life, but on the other hand, I feel guilty [that's the way people phrase it] about not taking care of my little sister.  There are no other relatives to do it.”  After listening to him, I responded by saying, “OK, by the power vested in me, I am projecting you 20 years into the future.  You are now looking back at yourself right now.  What would you like to see yourself doing that would make you proud?” 

The guy instantly started tearing up.  “Taking care of my sister,” he said.  And that was the end of that.
 
A lot bad decisions usually come from wanting to feel good at that particular moment, and it all goes downhill from there (e.g. “I know he/she is not really for me, but I’m lonely”).  However, a lot of times people end up making poor choices because they’re overly self-critical.  Negative self-talk – “I’m useless,”  “I’m a loser,” “I’m a failure”) – results in people feeling like there’s no point in even trying to behave positively or solve problems because if they’re already “a loser” and “a failure,” how can they possibly be successful? Self-criticism and ruminating on the negative are things people just tend to do.  They go on and on and on about the negative, and it strips them of all their motivation to take any positive steps forward.  For example, if you’ve just spent an hour in therapy bitching about your life, your parents, your brother/sister, or your husband/wife, do you really think at the end of the hour you’re going to feel motivated to do anything positive about it?  No.  That’s why I ask people to be careful about how much time they spend “feeding the angry monster.”

Another reason a lot of you end up feeling sorry for yourselves is that you say “yes” to things you should say “no” to.  You spend time with people you don’t want to spend time with so they’ll be happy with you, allow others to treat you poorly, and live the life that others want you to live.  All of these are part and parcel of bad decisions, and they have to do with being cowardly.

Usually when I tell people that they are going to have to talk to the person they’re trying to please, they say, “Oh no!  I’d do anything to avoid that.”  However, unless the person has got a sawed-off shotgun or some other equally lethal weapon, you’re going to have to face your fearsTake responsibility for your decisions.  They are your decisions.  It does no good to make excuses or rationalize or pretend that you aren’t to blame.  If you want to move forward, you have to take responsibility for your choices, your actions, and the consequences of those actions. 

In addition, some people tend to get stuck in making bad choices simply because they want to stay stuck.  It gets them off the hook from having to take risks and working hard to apply themselves.  I’ve had a lot of people call my program over the years about their weight.  They always have a million excuses, or want to look back and see how their childhood has affected their eating habits.  But it’s today and tomorrow they should be looking at.  It doesn’t matter how they got there.  We can’t fix yesterday.  (F.Y.I., when I ask things about people’s childhoods, it’s to find out information and understand, not to blame.) 

So, now that you know why people make bad decisions, how can you ensure that you don’t make them yourself?

Whether it’s deciding on who you want to be in a relationship with or simply where you want to go to lunch, make it mechanical.  “Life is the sum of your choices” (remember your Camus from college?)  There could be times in your life where you make about 10 really bad choices in one week and then sit there thinking that there’s no way out.  However, what you need to do instead is say, “Oops!  I guess those were bad choices.  How do I find a way out of this?”  Frankly, there’s not always a way out.  Some things, unfortunately, can never be fixed.  Yet, even if your situation seems finite to two options, there’s probably some alternatives you’re overlooking.  If you’re thinking you can only decide between “A” and “B,” that’s wrong.  It may seem like only “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” and “E” are available, but you’re probably not considering “F” and “G.”  Brainstorm and make a list of your possible options, put down crazy ideas, and ask other people for suggestions.  No matter how dumb you think some of them sound, write them down anyway.

Now here’s the tough part.  For each one of those situations, think about whether the best possible outcome of making a particular decision outweighs the risk of the worst possible outcome?  When coming to a decision, go through the following steps: What’s the best possible outcome?  What’s the worst possible outcome?  Is the best outcome so valuable and so likely that it’s worth risking the worst outcome?  For example, “The best thing that can come out of this is I make a million dollars, and the worst thing that can come out of this is I damage my entire family for life.”  Of course I’m just making up a silly example, but it clearly illustrates the process.  Is the million dollars worth the possibility of damaging your whole family for life?  It’s a decision you have to make.  Be honest – is the answer “yes” or “no”?  Most of you would say “no,” moan and groan a little bit over what you could have done with the million dollars, and then move on.  Some of you would say “yes.”  Nevertheless, that’s how you make a decision, and then, you have to be willing to live with the outcome. 

Recently, a man called into my show with a situation that you’ve all heard many times before: he’d knocked up a girl he wasn’t married to.  They had the kid, and while he was off in the military she found another guy and got knocked up again, except this time, this guy married her.  Our original guy got all angry and upset that some other guy was going to be Daddy.  Do you want to know what my answer was?  “I hope the new guy is cool, nice, loving, and a good dad.  I really don’t care about your feelings.  Sorry.”  He didn’t care about the risk of bringing a new person into the world that he wasn’t going to take care of.  He was willing to risk the life and well-being of a child for instant gratification and sex.  It was a poor decision and there were consequences.  He needed to just accept responsibility for his misbehavior and not be angry with this woman and the other guy.  He was the one who caused the problem. 
  
Everyone needs to think through their decisions because down the line, there are huge prices to pay.  Be prepared to accept responsibility for every outcome of your decisions.  And when you do make a bad decision, don’t just sit there feeling sorry for yourself.

Don’t Make These Marriage Mistakes

A marriage is a terrible thing to waste, especially when there are children involved.  People enter into marriages all the time with such optimism, but realize that perhaps they were overly optimistic.  Maybe you barely even knew the person, but you said you did because you had passion for them.  However, marriage is not about passion – that’s just part of it.  Marriage is about two healthy people learning to live together and take on struggles together.  They don’t turn on each other – they turn to each other. 

I want to talk about some of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to marriage:

1. Before you get married, the various things that make you “you” get exercised with a number of different people in your life.  For example, you’ve got a friend you play golf with, somebody else you go beading with, somebody you talk to about politics, and somebody you share your religion with.  Well, do you know what happens when you get married?  You have the expectation that your spouse is now supposed to be the whole package, having all the accessories in life.  Your spouse should definitely be your best friend – no question about that – but not your only friend.  Some other people might be better mentors, workout partners, antiquing buddies, etc.

2. Sabotaging trust.  Love brought you together, but lack of trust will terminate everything.  Trust is all about the small things – hiding store receipts, telling small lies, and casual flirting.  If your spouse sees that you’re dishonest with the small things, they make the assumption you’re a big risk for the big things.  Be open and honest about the small things, and that way, you won’t be doubted.

3. Breaching privacy.  How many times have you heard me yelling at people on my show because they told their mother/father/sister/uncle/cousin/friend or posted on Facebook about what their husband or wife did?  They humiliated their spouse in public, made others think less of them, and now they’re wondering why their relationship stinks.  Don’t put your spouse in the position of feeling exposed and betrayed.  Don’t talk to friends and family about private things.  Just don’t.

4. Throwing around the “divorce” word every time you get pissy.  In the beginning of people’s marriages, even little disappointments and slights can turn into big arguments.  It’s no wonder why so many people call my show saying, “We’ve only been married a short amount of time and we’re fighting all the time.”  It’s because they went into the marriage with certain expectations, and then reality hit.  Their illusions about “he’s perfect…she’s perfect…it’s perfect” get dented and bruised, and they become angry about feeling let down, trapped, frustrated, and betrayed.  However, you have to see this as just “real people time.”  Don’t be throwing around “divorce” every time you have a disagreement.  Emotions can run high if you’re not good at resolving conflicts together.  In your minds, you should both be saying, “Divorce is not an option.  We must work to find a way to work through this.”

5. Insisting on being right.  Some of you folks do this like you’re arguing about what’s the best Italian restaurant in town. Constantly insisting that you’re right, that your opinion is the correct one, or that your way is the best way is a quickie way to make your spouse feel undervalued and underestimated. If you find yourself in this situation, whether it’s during a heated argument or just a friendly debate, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right or happy?”

6. You don’t spend enough time slurping each other.  When I talk to people on the radio, I don’t ask them if they are their spouse’s husband or wife – I ask them if they are their “husband’s girlfriend” or their “wife’s boyfriend.”  What I’m implying is whether or not they do all the flirting, slurping, complementing touching, cuddling, tickling, and smiling people do when they’re somebody’s girlfriend or boyfriend.  These are things that people tend not to do with their wife or husband.  It’s probably the biggest thing people admit to after going through a divorce: they know they weren’t slurpy enough.

If you’re thinking about getting married or contemplating why the hell your marriage isn’t going well, read my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage, in addition to these tips.  Trust me, it’s really worth it.