We are all married to a self-centered spouse. That is what it means for us to be fallen people who are bound to experience life from within our bodies. But there are cases where this “general self-centeredness” becomes chronic — severe to a point that it either results in a marital environment of abuse or neglect.
Scripture speaks to both “garden variety” marriage struggles and chronic self-centered marriage struggles, but it speaks to these varying degrees of struggles in different ways. This is no different from saying that Scripture speaks to both impulse control and addiction, but speaks to them differently.
However, Christians have not always done a good job of assessing the differences in these marriage situations and defining the approaches that need to be taken. Working from Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1-6 (utilizing his instruction in verse 6 as applying to cases of chronic relational offense) we will examine the subject of “Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse” in 17 posts following the outline below.
Part One: Two Case Studies
The series begins with two case studies to illustrate the severity of marital strain involved in chronic cases of self-centeredness. Hopefully many readers who are discouraged in their marriage will realize this is not what their marriage is facing. Others will read things that echo their life story.
1. “Jim” the Passively Self-Centered Spouse
2. “Eddie” The Aggressively Self-Centered Spouse
Part Two: Assessing the Problem
The danger of a series like this is that “to a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail.” There is a reason Scripture majors on “garden variety” relational issues and minors on chronic cases — that ratio represents the general public. In these three posts we examine the criteria and categories Scripture uses to define a severe case.
3. The Three Levels of Relational Strain in Matthew 7:1-6
4. Determining Who is the Relational Tone Setter
5. How Self-Centeredness Reframes Conflict
Part Three: Types of Self-Centered Spouses
Being self-centered is not a “one size fits all” category. Even the three broad categories developed below are a truncated assessment grid, but they illustrate the aggressively destructive person and passively destructive person Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:6.
6. The Low Emotional Intelligence Self-Centered Spouse
7. The Lazy or Apathetic Self-Centered Spouse
8. The Situationally Explosive Self-Centered Spouse
9. The Intentionally Manipulative Self-Centered Spouse
Part Four: Strategies of Interaction
The cliche definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Those married to a chronically self-centered spouse begin to feel crazy for just this reason. In these four posts, I provide guidelines for how to live at peace with a self-centered spouse “as far as it depends on you ” (Rom. 12:18). These are not prescriptions with the promise of a better marriage, but wisdom principles that will allow you to inject as much peace into a situation as your spouse will allow. Resting in the limits of these guidelines is a key to not feeling hopeless, defeated, and crazy.
10. Starting Point: Abuse and Neglect are a Personal Problem not a Marital Problem
11. Learning Not to Whither at Your Spouse’s Displeasure
12. Focusing on the Main Thing
13. How to Effectively Talk about Past Hurts / Offenses
Part Five: Evidences of Genuine Change
Sometimes the only thing that hurts worse than the chaos of home is getting your hopes up that things will be different “this time” and being crushed with disappointment again. This final section looks at four key markers of genuine change and in the process discusses who should be involved in the helping relationships that surround this type of marital restoration work.
14. Humility Expressed through Listening
15. Patience with the Impact of Sin
16. Willingness to Involve External Accountability
17. Not Reframing Needed Change as “Groveling”
Post-Script: Letter to the Chronically Self-Centered Spouse
If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Abusive Relationships” or “Favorite Posts on Marriage” post which address other facets of these subjects.