I held him against me in the doorway of our bedroom, and we hugged each other. There was a slight stiffness about him, but as we held one another, flesh against flesh, though separated by cotton and denim, I felt his unease slip away as our bodies become one. At my whispered confession his muscles softened even more, and after I had spoken it was as if I could sense the last, lingering drop of his anger dissipate and drift away. Our argument was over. Finished. Forgotten. As if it never was.
I had been mad at him most of the night. Sometimes that man could be so exasperating to me. For someone so kind and thoughtful, on rare occasion, he stunned me with his apparent disdain. Were men really that clueless?!
He had just made me so mad, you see?! All I could think about was how he obviously wasn’t considering my feelings. I mean, why else would he make decisions that went against what I wanted?! Am I right?
As we had ridden along together in silence in the truck, actually going forward with the things I wanted, I wondered why he even came along if he was going to give me the silent treatment. I briefly considered giving him the silent treatment back. I could win that race! I had offered my hand earlier as a kind of peace offering, and he had taken it easily enough, but I felt the space between us despite our fingers intertwined. It was that invisible void that exists in a marriage status post argument. Those weren’t as easy to close as, say, a kitchen cabinet. We rode in silence.
But at that moment I had heard the voice of God within my heart, piercing me with its directness and clarity.
You’re being selfish. You’re only seeing how this affects you.
And at that very clear and matter-of-fact observation, I realized the truth of it. Immediately I began to see clearly. I saw how my husband was affected by my decisions, and I understood how he must feel about the situation. In a sympathetic viewpoint, I was more able to see his heart and to place myself in his shoes. No longer blinded simply by what I wanted, I was able to see why he desired the things he did. I was crushed by my prior selfishness and aloof behavior. How could I have been so flippant and self-absorbed?!
When I had later called him to our bedroom to talk, it had been to apologize. And as I held him against me I told him I was sorry for being selfish. Of course, he tried to deny my self-accusation, but I could tell by the way his countenance changed that my confession meant a lot to him. I shared how I felt he must personally be affected by the decision we had made (the cause for the argument), and I could tell from his accepting eyes that my empathy meant much to him. Sometimes all we humans really want deep down is for the people who love us to really see us. Most of the time everyone is too self-absorbed to see beyond their own nose.
I think the number one cause for most marital discord is selfishness. The human tendency to see only self is the main reason for a breakdown in relationships. What about cheating, you may ask. Well, isn’t a cheater only looking at what they want? Isn’t a lie simply a way to cover one’s tracks or reputation? Isn’t ignoring the needs [of] your spouse an exercise in selfishness? The truth is that the human tendency is to mainly look at self.
How does this affect me?
Look how she’s hurting me!
Look how he’s ignoring me!
Why doesn’t he care about my feelings?
Why doesn’t she listen?
Me, me, me.
Almost any argument can be prevented by looking less at what we need and looking more at what the other person needs. Most fights can be solved by looking more at how we hurt the other person and less at how they hurt us. Most disagreements are smoothed over, forgiven, and forgotten by taking a selfless approach and walking in that.
When we can serve our partner in selflessness we make our marriages bloom, lessen discord, and grow our relationship. It’s a reciprocal relationship, where your servant attitude manifests the same in your spouse. When you look after the feelings and needs of your spouse first, they’ll look after your needs in return. It might take a little work, but it leads to a longer, happier life together. Certainly more than one where you just worry about yourself.