Usually by the time we see a couple for marriage counseling and the complaint of selfishness is the issue, the couple has been married a while. This selfishness comes across as being demanding and commanding with their needs, values, and wants. In this episode, Laura and Vincent discuss how selfish demands causes discord in marriage and tips to alleviate it.

048 Marriage: Am I a Selfish Spouse?


“Anger in Marriage” series

This is our 6th and final episode in our series “Anger in Marriage.” In each episode, we talk about unhealthy ways that spouses display anger and ways to correct it.

Over the last few weeks we’ve taken a look at being more responsible in our marriages by stopping “the blame game”, we’ve given tips to overcome magnifying the problems in your marriage, we’ve looked at how damaging name calling is in “What Do You Call Your Spouse?” and what can be done about it, we’ve helped you determine if you “mind-read” your spouse and what to do instead, and we’ve looked at how detrimental complaining can be to a relationship and how to remedy it. 

Now we take on one of the most common complaints we see in marriage counseling:  selfishness.  Usually by the time we see a couple for marriage counseling and the complaint of selfishness is the issue, the couple has been together for a while.  Usually some act of selfishness is the final straw that brings the couple in to counseling.

This selfishness comes across as being demanding or commanding with their needs, wants or values. When the other spouse does not have the same value or need, then they get angry and push their agenda onto the other by being demanding and commanding.

Selfish acts can be obvious such demanding sex at a certain time, but it can be more subtle.  It could be the things that you do out of fear that keep you from having a healthy relationship.  Negative coping mechanisms can be selfish.  Independent behavior can be selfish.

Selfishness Disguised as Selflessness:

As Christian marriage therapists, it’s not unusual for us to see couple’s where the spouses have many commitments to their church.  Sometimes a marriage suffers because of poor boundaries as it relates to the church.  

For example:  Always saying ‘yes’ to requests for volunteers and helping all the time at the expense of sacrificing family time.  Enjoying a little too much the greeting time during service by giving hugs to those of the opposite sex in excess or lingering in these moments.

Say ‘Yes’ To Your Marriage

If you are struggling because you are a “yes man”, otherwise known as a people-pleaser, it is important to understand that this behavior may make you look good to other people (which very well could be stroking your ego and pride), but it does not help your family. What seem to be selfless acts by outsiders could be destroying your marriage. 

For men, this may come in the form of helping repair someone’s car or fixing a plumbing issue at someone’s house when there are needed repairs at your own.

For women, this may be taking care of someone’s child a neighbor’s or family member’s when your children or your husband doesn’t get the proper amount of quality time with you.

It will be important to prioritize your marriage.  You may have to have conversations with those who approach you for commitments and explain that you cannot be involved this time.  Being able to say ‘no’ is a skill. 

The Bible & Husbands

If you are a leader in your church consider 1 Timothy 3: 1-5:  Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.

If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? It is good to take time and self-reflect. Many times, we make ourselves too busy to do this. Are you taking care of your family?

Fiscally Irresponsible

Another subtle form of selfishness in marriage is being irresponsible with money.  It could mean shopping excessively, making expensive purchases without your spouse’s knowledge or turning a blind eye to finances. 

For women, this may come in the form of buying a new outfit every week or having a spa too often. Women, who struggle in this area seem, to buy a lot of small items (less than $200) without telling or consulting their husband.

For men, this could be buying a boat or ATV without discussing it with your wife. Men, who struggle in this area, seem to make big expenditures and tell their wife later. Their attitude is I am going ahead and buy it, and then ask for forgiveness later.

Not taking an active role in your family’s budget and finances places your family’s wellbeing in jeopardy. It is an act of selfishness.

In a healthy marriage, couples decide on a budget together. They discuss income as well as expenditures.

Down Time

Having a girl’s night or going fishing with buddies is not necessarily a bad thing. Many times it is NECESSARY. But when it is done without prior approval of your spouse OR it is done at the sacrifice of time spent with your family or spouse on a consistent basis, this behavior is selfish.  

One of the first things to go when a couple is struggling, is recreational and leisure time.  It is important to consider our spouses when we unwind from the daily grind.

In a healthy marriage, couple discuss how they are going to spend their leisure time. Show your spouse you care about him or her by participating in an activity that they enjoy without sulking and being passive aggressive.

Published by

Vincent & Laura Ketchie

Vincent Ketchie, LPC and Laura Ketchie, LPC are the hosts of Relationship Helpers, a podcast where they discuss family issues and interview relationship experts. Vincent and Laura are licensed marriage counselors.

4 thoughts on “048 Marriage: Am I a Selfish Spouse?”

  1. Great article! I know as a child, my parents were highly involved in our church. I agree, boundaries can be set. While most of the time it was good for us, there were times my sisters and I felt we were not as important.

  2. It is so easy to get caught up in things outside the relationship and home. I think if both husband and wife stay true to their Faith and do “spot checks” on the relationship from time to time, it can be a great way to identify areas that could become a problem. You are right in that we often prioritize everything and everyone else BUT our spouse and children. It isn’t intentional but happens so easily.

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