7 Signs of Selfishness in Marriage


It’s the greatest enemy of every marriage: selfishness.

And sometimes it tends to sneak up on us. Most couples start out doing all they can to serve and make each other happy. But somewhere along the way, a willingness to go to the end of the world for the other person gets overtaken by a reluctance to even cross the room—to get them something or move towards them.

Selfishness is about more than just refusing to share the last piece of your candy bar, however. It’s an attitude that subtly permeates many of the ways we can think and act. Take a closer look at these seven signs of selfishness and see where they may be becoming an issue in your life and relationship.

1. My needs.

It’s very easy for us to focus more on what we want or think we are due than our spouse’s side of things—whether that’s a desire for more frequent physical intimacy or greater understanding about the challenges I am facing at work. But what about them? It’s important to remember that we are wired differently and have different needs; listen in on this podcast exploring Needs of Women Vs Needs of Men.

2. My expectations.

Many couples each have an unspoken list of how they think life should be, with their quiet resentment building each time things don’t go their way. But if you don’t tell your spouse what your expectations are and discuss together how reasonable they are, you can’t blame them for not meeting them. Maybe once you’ve talked together you’ll realize you need to adjust. Keeping Your Expectations Flexible in Marriage is a must.

3. My feelings.

Hurt and anger cloud our abilities to hear what other people are saying; we tend to get either aggressive or defensive, or sometimes just shut down. Consider, Do You Control Your Emotions or Do Your Emotions Control You? And what about your spouse: how are they feeling about that situation or conversation? If you really want to know, ask them.

4. My opinions.

We don’t have to agree on everything, but agreeing to differ means more than just not thinking alike—it means hearing the other person out and being comfortable with that. Does your spouse feel free to share what they think, even if you disagree, or do you shut them down when they share what they are thinking?

5. My agenda.

We don’t have to do everything I want when I want, and the way I want. It’s amazing how little things—what you want for dinner, the way you load the dishwasher, what temperature to run the AC at—can become big sources of conflict. In Confessions from a Controlling Spouse, I share how I realized that being a take-charge kind of guy could be damaging to my marriage.

6. My career.

It’s easy to hide behind “work demands” to avoid important issues and situations in your marriage. It’s also easy to focus on what we want in our career without really considering what our spouse wants. As I wrote about in this blog, sometimes we need to turn down opportunities for career advancement to protect our most important relationships.

7. My family.

Family dynamics can be challenging. Indeed, in-law issues are one of 5 Big Marital Issues that need to be addressed. Do you get along with each other’s relatives? Is it “my family” and “your family” or “OUR family?”

Selfishness is all about getting. Selflessness is all about giving. Are you giving to and serving your spouse?

Which of these seven selfish traits is your weakest area, and why? What can you do to begin to change and bring more life into your marriage as a result? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.