Two weeks ago, I wrote about how June could be called “the love month,” relationships between men and women, marriage and “surviving the self-fulfillment ethic, part 1.”
There are everyday issues we all face and take for granted. We are so guided by our habits that we feel perfectly normal because dysfunctional becomes normal. But most find in relationships that selfishness is difficult to control and can cause damage in what we thought was “just fine.”
Let’s think about some effects of selfishness that might occur in relationships or that you may see happening so much that you might consider them normal:
Commitment phobia — It seems that since the 1970s, there has been a cohabitation explosion in society. Some studies show that today, more than 60 percent of couples live together before getting married and more than 40 percent of men and women between the ages of 25 and 40 are living with a partner. After 40, the numbers rise dramatically. We accept it. It becomes the norm. But why? One reason given is that they didn’t want to get married until they had some assurance that it would work out — you know, “the perfect soul mate” who would really “fit into their life.” That can mean “someone who would accept them as they are and not curtail their freedom.” And that brings us to …
Soul-mate syndrome — Most men feel they couldn’t commit to marriage because they were “searching for someone who was really compatible.” However, an addition to that response was “compatibility to them meant someone who showed a willingness to take them as they are, and many added that their relationship should also not curtail their freedom.” Ladies, how many of you feel the same way? And for many, too much emphasis is placed upon physical attractiveness and sexual chemistry. Maybe we should instead consider not settling for anything less than solid, proven core values of lasting relationships sustained by Christian guidelines and values.
In many of my counseling experiences with couples, the husband gives the picture of a selfish, ungrateful wife. Then the wife speaks, and the perspective changes. This guy is a jerk and can’t see it. The reality is that most of the time, they are both at fault and blind to their own dysfunction. Selfishness blinds you to your self-centeredness while making you hypersensitive, offended and angered by that of others.
Unreasonable expectations — Today, too many of us are looking for someone who accepts us as we are, fulfills our every desire and creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrate both the searchers and searched for. This leads to broken relationships and marriages that could have been helped with proper counseling. Never before in history has there been such a liberal society filled with so many people who are so idealistic in what they expect from a spouse, friend or family member.
Dissatisfaction and pessimism — Too many men and women see marriage not as a way of creating character and developing solid values and growth in their relationship, but as a way to “reach personal life goals.” They are looking for a partner who will “fulfill their emotional, career, sexual and idealistic life goals” and don’t realize the effects of those dysfunctional objectives lead to deep pessimism, dissatisfaction, detachment, hopelessness and failure. It’s ironic that older views of marriage — with their success record and Scriptural values — are considered by many to be too traditional, while “me, marriage and relationship” seems so liberating. Yet, there has been such an increase in failure based upon selfish reasoning. Selfishness usually elicits a reciprocal response of the same resentment in the other person. Ask yourself: When your needs are not being met, do you enjoy meeting the needs of the other person? For many people, the answer is no. And let’s not forget the baggage from previous experiences in our lives.
There is so much to consider in making healthy, happy marriages and relationships. The Stephen Ministry team knows there are answers in God’s word for surviving self-fulfillment issues. We can help make a difference in your life at no cost in a confidential, gender-sensitive, faith-based environment. Call 320-7840 for a confidential appointment. You can also go to stephenministry.org.
Scherer is a crisis intervention minister and the leader of the local Stephen Ministry.