In 1977, George Lucas introduced the world to one of the great cinematic heroes in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, launching a global phenomenon. Out of the barren deserts of Tatooine and into the hearts of millions world-wide, roars an elderly Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi. Not only does Obi-Wan have mad Jedi skills, he also has his rugged, rebel individuality that draws the admiration of men like dune banthas to an oasis.
In 1981, Harrison Ford steps into the desert sun as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, practically an extension of his rebellious individualist character, Han Solo, in the original Star Wars trilogy. Again, men's imaginations the world over were led into the desert following another great hero of the big screen. With whip in hand, chip on shoulder, and gun in holster, Indiana Jones showed our generation what real men look like.
As much as it pains me to say so, our heroes are merely fictitious.......gasp. In real life, being that rugged individualist won't win you valor. It won't win you admiration. It will win you a solo, one-way trip into a metaphorical desert as you isolate yourself from your family and friends. In real life, we have to work at fostering relationships and get along with the people in our families and beyond.
This real life is not about getting exactly what we want. It's not about being able to go out with the guys as often as possible. It isn't about spending as much time as you can in your man-cave or fishing boat.
Let me shoot straight with you here. If you can't find enjoyable ways to truly share your life with your wife and kids, your marriage and family are screwed.
1 Corinthians 13:5 says, "[Love] does not demand its own way"(NLT). You can look at this as selfishness. I'm going to put into a really practical context. There are certain people out there that demand their own way. They are the unalterable, the rugged. These are the people who only spend time with you on their terms. They are the people that expect a sales pitch in an invitation to your house. I don't know. Maybe that's you, or maybe it's someone you know. Just like most personality traits, we are all somewhere on that spectrum.
Aside from eventually ticking off one's friends, selfishness becomes a real problem when it lives in couples or families. Here are some common warning signs -
- You and your spouse have different spaces to watch television so that each can watch just what he or she wants without sharing.
- You and your spouse have separate bank accounts, so that each of you can have a slice of the "I'm living my own life" pie.
- "Miss Independent" is your chosen battle song (comic relief).
- You AND your wife are "career minded". At some point, your career paths will narrow to leave room for only one person's aspirations. Your family will become inconvenient.
- You and your wife don't go out together, but alternate guy and girl nights, because your child is just too good to be watched by a babysitter, though billions of children have survived this incredibly traumatic experience in all preceding human history.
- You and your wife don't really sleep in the same room very often for a variety of reasons.
- You and your wife maintain completely different schedules for years at a time.
What Others Are Saying
I know saying this may not be very popular. In fact I recently read a disturbing article called, "Want a great marriage? Don't compromise.". Author, Corey Allan, says that the secret to a good marriage is preserving who you are without compromise - that a lot of marriage problems come into play when spouses compromise who they are for the sake of the relationship. I totally disagree.
Your marriage will shape how you talk, think, and how you express yourself. Your marriage will shape your career. Your marriage will shape your relationship with your own parents and siblings. Your marriage will shape your faith. Your marriage will shape the way you eat and the way you exercise. Your marriage will shape your health. Your marriage will shape your kids. Your marriage will shape who your friends are, where you live, and how you spend your time.
Your marriage will shape you. If you expect anything different, you are kidding yourself. If you are trying to prevent that from happening, the only thing you are going to do is prevent your marriage from succeeding. Love does not demand its own way.
Man, that sun is intense.
Ten practical ways to get over yourself:
1. Find a hobby you can do together instead of spending your time doing an old hobby that has nothing to do with your family.
2. Say goodbye to guy night and girl night. Suck it up. Get a babysitter, and go out together, whether that is by yourselves or with a group of friends. Guy night and girl night are not inherently bad, but nights out are scarce. Dates should take priority.
3. Close the second checking account. You know that saying - what's mine is yours and yours is mine? Yeah....that was supposed to refer to marriage. Did you miss that part? Granted there is some stuff that is "his" or "hers". That doesn't mean you should use that phrasing to describe your household's entire economic system.
4. Decide whose career is most important. Listen to me. There will come a time, when you will have to decide. It is not healthy to run a family on fumes. Sometimes people are asked to relocate. Sometimes people are asked to put the company above everything else. Set the boundaries and limits before the desert heat of that moment.
5. Sleep in the same bed. My wife always tells me, "Excuses are like butts. Everyone has one and they all stink." There are about a zillion products on the market to help you or your love one with snoring or easing the annoyance of tossing and turning.
6. Limit your time with selfish people. You will become like the people to whom you give your trust and time. I don't care if it is your best friend. If he is super selfish, it will rub off on you and your family.
7. Have sex once in a while. Your physical relationship takes work and sacrifice just like your emotional relationship.
8. Stop using your kids as an excuse. Set some boundaries for mommy and daddy space and time. Last time I checked, Jr. wasn't in charge, though it certainly can be confusing sometimes. If you use your kids as an excuse to neglect your marriage, you will be using your kids as an excuse for your divorce.
9. Go to a marriage counselor. If you are starting to sense a lot of friction, don't put off going to counseling. My wife and I did, and after we went, we couldn't believe we waited that long.
10. Don't be away from home more than one or two nights a week. I say this with empathy. I used to be away from home three or four nights a week plus occasional travel. Many jobs require traveling or evening engagements. Relationships take time - both structured and unstructured. You have to be around your kids for them to really love you and trust you.
Have any other suggestions? Post them in the comment box below. I'd love to hear from you.