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.