Christian Marriage Counseling – Stop Being Selfish

John 13:14, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” – Jesus.

When asking questions to prepare for marriage we could ask what a marriage is, who participates in marriage, how it works and what you need to know and do. All of these are good topics and questions. But they don’t get to the heart of marriage, the heart of your marriage. To do that, we need to start with a different question. “Why?” – why marriage, why get married? This question gets at the motivation for being married, it also critically provides the motivation for staying married.

The frank truth is that the vast majority of marriages fail because of moral failure. We lie and we cheat, despite knowing that is never okay. We neglect, we give up and we quit, despite knowing we haven’t really given it our all.

Because we get frustrated, we get lazy, we get entitled and we say “I can’t” when the reality is “I won’t”. All because our motivation meter hits zero due to the wrong answer to the question, why get married? How do you answer that question and what is the “right” answer? If you are anything like me your answer was something like, “because I love them” , “because we are so good together”, “because they make me happy”, or “because I want to spend the rest of my life with them”. Or maybe your personality or culture is more pragmatic, so you answer with, “because it works”, “because it’s good financially” or “because it was the next logical step”. Maybe your motivations were more anxious, “because it’s expected of me”, “because pregnancy”, “because I don’t want to be alone”.

Whatever the answer, you’ll notice that they can all be reduced to this, “I want to marry because it works for me,”. It doesn’t really matter if it works for you practically, financially, emotionally, socially or any other way – your motivation for marriage is that it meets your needs. So what happens when your marriage stops working for you? Your spouse doesn’t seem to love you anymore. The money dries up. Society no longer cares. All you do is fight. Or you just never have fun anymore. You get tired, you get bored and the kids will be okay. And despite being married, you only feel alone, so, so alone. What then? Maybe you won’t be able to afford to divorce, whether because of guilt, kids, money or whatever. In which case you’ll feel stuck, and endure a miserable existence.

Lame. I would suggest a different tac. Instead of making our marriages all about personal fulfillment and then wondering where it all went wrong when our spouse falls short, we establish a secure foundation for marriage this is immune to the storms of life.

Your marriage needs to be based on something that can never be taken away or fallen out of. Might I suggest a threefold approach?


  1. Start with a servant heart to bless

When your motivation to spend the rest of your life with someone is to bless them, you will always have fuel in the tank, for both better and worse. In fact, when your spouse gets sick, or obnoxious, or depressed, or whatever – your opportunity to serve only increases! And what could motivate a desire to bless and serve another? Love! But not the human kind of love, not the marriage bank, quid pro quo, scratch my back I’ll scratch yours transaction kind of love. No, instead we’re talking about agape, godly, unearned, non-performance oriented recognition of intrinsic worth and eternal unchanging value as a child of God kind of love. When you love someone the way God does, than you serve them the way God does. Doing what is best for them, when they’ve earned it and when they haven’t, when it works well for you and when it doesn’t.

  1. Add in some personal growth to become

Whether you’re pursuing a “Sacred Marriage” as Gary Thomas pens it, embracing God’s design of marriage to make us holy or you just remember your pastor telling you something like, “Marriage is your last, best hope, to finally grow up” at your wedding like mine said – the reality is marriage can serve as the most powerful crucible of personal growth and development imaginable. Break out of the make me feel good marriage box & enter into the make me like Jesus marriage mold.

  1. Finish with a worshiper’s life to transcend

And when I say transcend, I mean rise above and become untouchable. If you base your motivation for marriage upon God’s worthiness for worship and make your marriage a living act of praise a la Romans 12:1, your motivation for marriage will be literally invincible. Because while your spouse may not always motivate your love, and you may stop caring about personal improvement, God will never fail to be worthy of praise. When God is your inspiration for living, you will never feel more alive, no matter the circumstances in your marriage. Which is not to say it will feel pleasant, but there will be an intimacy with God and likely with your spouse like none other. And you will not fail.

Base your marriage on love that looks like Jesus. Love that is for your spouse, for yourself and ultimately for your Savior and Father in Heaven, rather than a benefits package, and your heart will stay faithful to the end. And a faithful heart is the prerequisite to successfully applying marriage skills (that comes next!) with your hands and head.

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