It’s humbling to recognize your selfishness when you thought you were doing something good. I knew I had some selfish tendencies that I needed to guard against. But this one act of selfishness caught me by surprise. In fact, up until two years ago, Janet and I both thought of this story in a completely different way.
Then two years ago I was reading What Did You Expect, by Paul David Tripp. One of my all time favorite marriage books. We were using his material for our Marriage Builders class and I was reviewing our next lesson. Then something he said in the book took me back to one weekend when our marriage was in crisis.
It was during our last marriage crisis. When we went through a year and a half of not knowing from one minute to the next if we were breaking up or staying together. We were about four months into the crisis when I talked Janet into giving us another chance. It took a lot more time for her to make up her mind completely. But that first yes was what I was looking for.
A romantic getaway
I wanted to surprise her, so I booked a room for a romantic getaway in Gatlinburg Tennessee. I wasn’t able to keep the whole thing secret. But I did hide a few things in my luggage to make our romantic getaway something to remember. We had not been to Gatlinburg for a few years and she seemed pleased with the way I pulled the surprise off. Once we were there I did everything exactly the way I had planned it. We walked around town, I bought her gifts, and we had a romantic dinner at a nice restaurant.
When we got back to our room I wanted to cap the night off in a romantic way. I asked her to go to the bathroom and change into the nightgown I had packed for her. While she did, I took care of a few things in the room. She then came out to a candle-lit room decorated with rose petals, and the sound of Kenny G playing from the CD player. It was a beautiful setting and it seemed to touch her that I went through so much to put it all together. She accepted my invitation to dance for a few minutes until her tired legs could not keep going.
She did have enough strength to make love before she crashed for the night. But it felt like she was struggling with more than tired legs. As we went through our remaining time trying to enjoy ourselves we both knew what was wrong. We knew the weekend didn’t go as planned because she didn’t feel the connection with me that I wanted her to. We knew the reason was because of what she was still feeling for the other guy.
A time to regret
Of course, our story didn’t end there. We did survive those ups and downs of trying to connect with each other. And she did let go of her feelings for the other guy. But that romantic getaway turned out to be a time to regret more than a time to remember, especially for Janet. For years she looked back to that weekend and wished she could have responded to me the way I wanted her to. The way she would if that opportunity ever came again. And for years I let her look at that memory with regret. Until two years ago.
Maybe you have already seen my selfishness in this story. I’m sure many do without me explaining it. Then again, maybe you don’t. If you’re like I was and you think I did everything right and it was Janet who missed it, then let me explain.
Sure, there was nothing wrong with me planning a surprise romantic getaway. Janet has said many times she hopes I will do it again sometime. In fact, I’m way overdue for something like that. But timing is everything. Our marriage restoration was fourteen years ago. So anytime over the last fourteen years would have been a great time for a romantic getaway. But not when I did it.
It was selfishness
- It was selfishness because it was all about what I wanted. I didn’t take her on that trip because she was longing for some time with me. I wanted that time with her and I wanted her to give back to me as much as I was giving to her. So, I felt disappointed when I didn’t get what I wanted.
- It was selfishness because it was not loving her in a way she needed me to love her. I was trying to love her with my idea of sweeping her off her feet. Again, that would have been great if the timing would have been right. But I was trying to push her feelings toward me, instead of being patient with her.
- It was selfishness because I had no empathy for what she was dealing with. She had a lot of pain and confusion. She could no more give me what I wanted than she could if she had been laying in a hospital bed. My wife needed healing. She needed to recover. And I should have been okay with being her friend and doing anything I could to help.
More harm than good
We have no way of knowing what could have happened. We only have what happened. But I’m aware that my efforts to quick fix our marriage could have actually delayed our healing. If I had been more selfless. My wife could have had nothing but positive things to think toward me. It might have made me more attractive to her. And it could have helped her see me as the guy she wouldn’t want to live without.
But instead, I believe my selfish act of trying to push her too far did nothing but remind her of what she didn’t feel. It was a constant reminder of how she couldn’t give me what I was needing from her. I was communicating to her that she was the one with the problem, not me.
Why have I told you this story?
Bottom line here is my approach to that weekend was about filling my love tank and not my wife’s. The book, The 5 Love Languages, tells us we should fill each other’s love tank. And we each have our own unique way of communicating love. So we must pay attention to how we communicate love to our spouse and do what it takes to fill our spouse’s love tank.
If you get nothing else from this story I want you to get this one thing. Selfishness can come in many shapes and sizes. It is up to us to listen to the Lord and allow Him to show us what the motivation of our heart is. When love motivates us with the desire to minister to the needs of our spouse, then we are on the right track. But if our motivation is for selfish reasons. We will in one way or another follow a path of manipulation trying to get our spouse to do what we want them to do.
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