Tonight I talked to my Mom about a wedding/marriage situation that had me a little disappointed and really confused.
The situation itself is not a big deal (like really, it’s barely a “situation”). I have some unmet expectations in my head that are showing up as disappointment in my attitude. Anyone else ever dream up the way something will be then feel all the emotions when it doesn’t work out the way you hoped it would?
I was asking my Mom for her advice about what was going on (because Mom gives the best advice – always). When I stopped getting defensive long enough to listen to her wisdom, she told me this:
“Caitlyn, if you want a good marriage, you have to be more concerned about your partner’s happiness than your own happiness. If you are both more concerned about giving instead of taking, then you will find much more joy together.”
This really hit home for me. I’ve heard tons of marriage advice during this season of engagement: letting the little things go, carrying each other through hard times, loving through all seasons, etc. but I haven’t heard a simple message of selflessness delivered in this way. It is exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it (thank you, Mom).
Here’s the thing: beyond marriage or relationships with a significant other, I can promise you that most of the time when I am unhappy in life, it is because I am not getting my way. That may sound childish (I’m a little embarrassed to admit it), but it’s true. When I am more focused on what will make ME happy or what matters to ME or how something makes ME feel, then I become self-absorbed in my thoughts and selfish in my actions. In a world that is screaming self-improvement, self-care, and self-love, I think it’s super important that I remind myself that I AM NOT ON THIS WORLD FOR ME.
Don’t get me wrong, I love growth and I love taking care of myself – these are fantastic concepts. But if at any point making my own self happy becomes more important than my loving God or others as a disciple of Jesus, then there is a serious problem. God did not create me to be the center of my own universe. He created me to first love HIM then to love OTHERS. Yes, I believe that loving and appreciating myself is important, but being completely consumed with myself is extremely dangerous and unfulfilling.
Marriage is going to be one of the most difficult journeys of my life. I don’t say that to be pessimistic, I say that to be real. I know because I have seen how hard, awesome, low, and high a marriage can be. I’ve seen marriages fall apart and I’ve seen marriages grow strong. If I go into marriage with a closed, my-way-or-the-highway mindset, then I will be setting Travis and I up for failure. That mindset has never served me in any other aspect of my life, and it certainly has no place in my marriage.
I’m writing this tonight because it is such a simple concept that is so easy to forget. I know, as a Christ-follower, that selfishness is hurtful. It doesn’t make me feel good and it doesn’t make me act the way I desire to act. When I choose to focus my energy on others, though – on how I can help others, how I can cheer others on, how I can help encourage those around me – that is when I begin to feel purpose and joy. When I focus on my sweet fiance and what I can do to help him and make his life a little easier, that is when I begin to feel happier in our relationship. Instead of being so wrapped up in what he should be doing for me, I need to think about what I could be doing differently for him. The only person I can control is ME. The only person you can control is YOU.
I so needed my Mom’s gentle reminder tonight. I needed a reminder to fix my focus on Jesus and choose to lay my desires aside in order to look out for the interests of my future husband. Jesus was never selfish. He always looked out for others above himself.
May we show that same selflessness in our most important relationships today. It’s not easy, but the joy on the other side (even if it takes a lifetime to feel) is worth it.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” – Philippians 2:3-4