This is final post in my blog series on “Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse.”
Chances are if your spouse or a counselor asked you to read parts of this series it has been a tough pill to swallow. Sure you’ve said and done some of those things, but does that mean you belong in some “special category” of bad spouses? What about your spouse; he/she isn’t perfect, where is the critique of his/her faults?
Maybe your response wasn’t defensive. Maybe it was a deep sense of shame and hopelessness. Reading sections of this material was like looking in an unpleasant mirror you’ve tried hard to ignore. Now that you see it, you just want to shut down or run away so that “everyone can have a better life without you messing it up.”
Neither the aggressive response of defensiveness nor the passive response of self-pity benefits you, your marriage, or your family (if you have children). There is no good response that does not begin with a humble deep breath and a commitment to allow others (pastor, counselor, and trusted Christian friends) to walk with you towards a healthy marriage.
This series has laid out what needs to happen next (to the degree that a short series of posts can). So my goal here is not to add to your “to do” list. My main goal in this final post is to communicate one point – this series is not against you, it is for your marriage.
This series was not written to “beat up” anyone. Believing this will be a major challenge for you in the coming days and weeks. I genuinely wish I could tell you that admitting the struggle was the hardest part. But in this case that is not true. Chances are you have seen it in the past and have chosen to go back to being blind. You have likely even committed to changing in the past and found it too overwhelming.
Changing from being a self-centered person is hard, because being self-centered is not a habit you “do” but a way of approaching life and relationships. Considering other people is likely to feel weak, scary, or just really confusing. The closest comparison to what you will experience is “culture shock” – the experience of being somewhere you don’t know the language, customs, currency, or history.
As you change, initially it will feel like your spouse is always right, winning, or getting his/her way. This is why it is so important to involve other people. Your spouse isn’t perfect and will be facing his/her own journey of change. But you are not the one to tell him/her when that is problematic in a given situation.
Even these statements may not bring the level of encouragement you hoped for (or that I would prefer to give), so let me conclude with two brief messages.
First, there is hope. The road ahead of you can have a happy ending. God will honor humble steps of faith. It may be that you come to understand the good news of the gospel for the first time on this journey, or it may be that you allow your Christian faith to transform parts of your life that have been “off limits” until now. But the pride-laden shame that believes your mess is larger than God can restore is the first thing you need to let go of in order to receive the hope God offers.
Second, it is worth it. You may be wondering if the “cure is worse than the disease” after what you’ve read. The answer is “No.” These posts were based upon the teaching of Scripture, divinely inspired by the God who loved you enough to die in your place. No one that loving and wise would push you “from the frying pan to the fire.”
The next, and absolutely vital step, is that you begin to enlist those who will walk with you on this journey. If you try to do this alone with your spouse, you will relapse and having read this material will only make you more cynical that even God’s way didn’t work. As you finish reading, you need to make a phone call to your pastor or a mutually trusted Christian friend. After explaining what you’re committing to, you then need to find a counselor who is experienced in working with marriages that have experienced the prolonged strain of self-centeredness.
As you prepare to move from reading to confessing to a pastor or friend, hear the words from God that define this moment for you:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19