Living with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse
A friend of mine stumbled on a blog post series entitled Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse, and after reading it, I was absolutely floored. While I’ve read many books about destructive relationships, I have never seen a blog post series that so concisely explains the problem, the reasons, and the solutions from a Biblical standpoint.
- It’s a fabulous resource for pastors and lay counselors who have little understanding of the complications of these types of marriages. It gives them a quick education in a nutshell so they can go into a counseling session more fully aware of what might be going on.
- It’s terrific for women (and men) who are in the middle of a destructive marriage and are totally confused and, yes, angry because nobody seems to really hear or understand what they are going through.
I want to link to it and PRAY that anyone who has been begging God for help and direction will find this. It’s a great starting point to figuring out what is going on in your life and what you can do about it.
I know many women who have been in abusive marriages for decades – and are just waking up to the reality of their situation. When that happens, there is a whole slew of despair to slog through in the journey up and out. A whole lot of waking up. A whole lot of grieving. A whole lot of picking up the broken pieces and starting over with a whole new paradigm. It’s exhausting. It’s painful. But ultimately, it’s freeing.
Brad Hambrick starts his series with this:
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.
The first two posts are case studies. As with any case study, they are specific, and don’t necessarily apply to any one person’s exact situation. I didn’t find either study to be all that relate-able to any of the women I know in destructive relationships, but they did illustrate two main examples of self-centeredness: aggressive self-centeredness and passive self-centeredness.
In part two of this series, Hambrick uses Scripture to define the differences between average marital struggles and severe ones. He makes the point that Scripture speaks to both types of marriages, and instructions are different for each type.
He gives very specific criteria for determining whether or not a relationship is destructive, and shows what’s really going on in the conflicts that take place in a destructive relationship and why they can’t be resolved.
Part three of his series is extremely helpful in clearly illustrating four different types of chronically self-centered people. They are as follows:
Hambrick introduces part four of his series this way:
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.
There are so many helpful truths in this section. If a spouse has a problem they are unwilling to fix, that isn’t a marriage problem. That’s a personal problem. You can refuse to fall apart when that kind of person disapproves of you. Confrontation doesn’t always work well, but if there is a receivable moment, it is important to focus on the right things.
The book of Proverbs provides excellent guidance for these lose-lose moments in life, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes (26:4-5).” We learn from this passage that there is no one right way to respond to someone who isn’t humble or self-aware enough to receive the truth.
He goes on to give some “guiding principles for when we should speak.”
His last section deals with how to determine whether or not real change is taking place. The main markers to look for would be a spouse who truly listens, is patient in the healing process for the abused spouse, welcomes accountability, and doesn’t see humility as “groveling.”
Book mark his website for future reference. Even if this series doesn’t pertain to you personally, God may use you to introduce it to someone who desperately needs a starting point in the recovery process.