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lori & steven mcclure

helping you write a better love story

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October 2015

Is Selfishness Creeping into Your Relationship?

The Greed of SelfishnessIn a world where entitlement rages, it’s no wonder selfishness creeps into many areas of our lives. While we’ve all heard stories of entitlement in the workplace, we do well to remember that our personal lives are no less exempt from the struggle of serving self. If we’re assuming life should be easy all the time, rainbows greeting us at every turn, we’re sure to be disappointed. Relationships require work — work our selfish selves may be less than excited to do.

Selfishness at its core is the antithesis of generosity — a cornerstone component of any healthy relationship. Unselfish people look for ways to make other’s lives better, richer, and fuller — not smaller. Unselfish people seek to share life with their partners instead of forcing their relationships to suit personal desires alone.

What are Some Examples of Selfish Behavior in Relationships?

  1. Do you exclude your partner from decision-making? If so, explore the reason behind your unwillingness to share in life decisions. As uncomfortable as it is to admit, control could be the cause. Once you choose to enter a partnership with another person, you give up the right to act independently of one another. You’re free to let the world revolve around you, but don’t be surprised if you end up alone by refusing to let your partner share in decision-making that affects both of your lives.
  2. Do you consistently make plans that cater to your own wants and desires? When is the last time you planned a night specifically for your partner? A healthy relationship is one that allows for both of you to explore common and uncommon tastes and interests. Open your mind, and embrace change. You might even have fun along the way.
  3. Do you constantly seek to mold your relationship in your own image, or are you open to changing and learning from your spouse? Thriving relationships require give and take from both partners. If you find yourself continually seeking to change the behavior of those in your life, there’s a good chance you’re frustrating everyone around you — including your spouse. Take an honest look at your actions. Do you always push change on others while you stay the same?
  4. Do you keep secrets? Secrets big and small can damage a relationship. Secrets about spending, plans, emails, mistakes, etc., will eventually bleed a relationship of all health. One secret is too many. Tell it all. If you’re harboring secrets it’s time to do some serious searching within yourself. What are you afraid to tell? Why are you hiding?

A healthy relationship is a generous relationship, which includes:

  • Giving
  • Sharing
  • Compromise
  • Flexibility
  • Selflessness (Hint: birthdays and Christmas are only a start)

Where do you go from here? It’s time to talk about it, and here’s some inspiration to get you started.

Conversation Starters for Problem Areas:

  1. When you make decisions without consulting me, I feel devalued and unimportant. I need to feel like my voice is heard in our relationship, and when you don’t talk to me before making decisions, I feel powerless and frustrated. I don’t want to feel like I’m being controlled. I want to feel like I’m in a partnership.
  2. When you make plans without considering my interests and desires, I feel unimportant to you. I need to feel valued, seen, and heard in our relationship. I would love to share some of my favorite places and interests with you, so we can be more connected.
  3. When you try to change who I am, it makes me feel like you don’t love me for who I am. I believe it’s important to grow and change for both of us — not just me. I’d love to learn how to grow and change together instead of feeling like I’m your side project.
  4. When you keep secrets from me, it makes me feel unsafe. I have a hard time trusting you when you keep even small secrets from me. Why do you feel like you can’t share your life with me? How can we stop this behavior from damaging our relationship? Are you willing to stop keeping secrets?

Relationships built on selfishness may not be doomed to fail, but neither are they destined to flourish. Do the hard work of truly sharing your lives together. Is it easy? No. All the best parts of our lives require work — no matter what the internet says.

But is it worth it? Yes.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

When Life is Stuck in the Valley and Your Relationship Feels Distant

Life is a mix of valleys and mountaintops.

Life is gut-wrenching one minute and exhilarating the next.

You’re on top of it all — unstoppable and unbreakable, and suddenly, you’re on a merry-go-round that won’t stop, holding on for dear life as the winds of life push faster and faster.

Life is hard — even cruel — sometimes.

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Since 2012, we’ve experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows as a family. Both of our children have experienced serious struggles both physically and emotionally since our move to the Cincinnati area. Every parent knows the sting of helplessness, watching a child struggle with no ability to make it better. It’s awful.

We’ve sat and cried with our children over long-term illness and emotional stress that’s taken its toll physically as well. We’ve prayed and talked and gone to the appropriate professionals as needed, but the truth is the road for both of my children has been long and winding and a little dark at times with no quick fixes to be found.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know we’re not the only ones who’ve experienced hardship. We’ve watched friends and family experience loss in many forms: death, divorce, unemployment, etc.

Life is a mix of valleys and mountaintops, and the whiplash of disparate experiences can take a toll on your relationship.

When your personal merry-go-round spins faster and won’t let you off, one of two things can happen to your relationships:

  1. You and your partner grow closer together.
  2. You and your partner grow farther apart.

Steven and I have been really tired at times throughout our family struggles. We haven’t always agreed on the proper course of action to take with our children. We’ve had some hard conversations, and it’s tempting to pull away when we’re scared and hurt and tired.

But we have also done the hard work of not giving up — which is sometimes a daily choice — of reaching for one another in the darkness.

Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a walk together when we’d rather zone out in front of the TV. Other times, it means we binge-watch to give ourselves a break from the stress of life.

Sometimes it’s speaking truth to the other’s fears, so we can snap ourselves out of the haze of deception. Other times, it’s watching Brian Reagan with the whole family to remind ourselves that fear is a bully and laughter can exist even when we’re walking through the valleys.

Maybe it means listening to the advice of friends and family or completely ignoring it.

When the storms come, fight to stay present. Don’t check out. Remember feelings can’t be trusted.

The same choppy waters you’re navigating will turn placid again, but if you jump out of the boat? You’ll be alone with nothing but a lonely swim to shore waiting.

Fight through the fear. Reach for your loved one when they disappear into the darkness. Reach with love and understanding instead of judgment and criticism. Put yourself in each other’s shoes and empathize.

The storms never last forever. Do everything you can to hold on to each while the thunder claps and the lightning flashes because it will pass, and you don’t want to be standing alone when the sun shines again.

What to Do:

The darkness of life won't last forever.When you’re afraid and defensive, take a deep breath before you speak. You might find that a hug accomplishes far more than a speech about your feelings. A simple I love you might accomplish more than another worn out diatribe.  

Listen and keep connecting even in small ways. Take a walk. Watch the sunset or sunrise, and remember that every season passes. Even droughts come to an eventual end.

Isaiah 43: 1-4 (MSG)

But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.

Cheering for the One You Love

This is me.

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This is also me.

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This post is kind of about me, but it’s also about you and the one you love.

This childhood picture of me tells a story. The details behind that story aren’t essential, but their significance matters to me, and Steven knows it. He has listened to me talk about what this picture means, what it used to mean, and what it means for me now.

One thing I love most about Steven is that he never dismisses me. Ever. So when I show him childhood pictures of me and tell him what I believe God is showing me about myself both then and now, he gets excited with me instead of assuming I’m one small step away from traveling the world with this guy. (No offense, Jesus Man.)

 A Smily Guy Cheering for Jesus

In short, he cheers me on, and here’s an example of how he cheers me on.

Not long ago, he surprised me with a gift that signified all I’d been telling him about myself — about how I needed to shed parts of me that were broken and afraid and holding me back.

We’d been having conversations about how I let life change who I was in that childhood picture — a girl unafraid and barefoot who embraced life and loved every minute of it. The girl in that picture was full of excitement for each new day. She couldn’t wait to get outside and climb a tree or scale a jungle gym. She caught caterpillars and fireflies and roller-skated down neighborhood streets.

That was me.

I once lived to discover the possibility hiding in each day with a passion I’d since lost.

Maybe you can relate.

As life happened, I experienced tough times, and a heaviness crept close that I couldn’t shake. My heaviness became a dysfunctional best friend with whom it was time to part ways. I could feel God leading me back to my true self, back to that unafraid girl who was ready to take on the next challenge.

So, Steven came home from work one day, and he gave me this.

Sometimes cheering looks like this.

And, I cried.

I cried because he took all my words and listened to them. He heard me, and he took the time show me that he heard me. He found someone (Thank you, Chase Velarde!) capable of creating a visual inspiration to cheer me on my journey toward wholeness.

What did this picture say to me?

  • “I hear you.”
  • “I believe in you.”
  • “I’m cheering for you.”

So, while my husband IS amazing, and I don’t mind shouting about his amazingness to the world, I am sharing this with the hope of inspiring you to be amazing to the one you love, too.

  • We CAN create these moments for each other.
  • We CAN listen to each other.
  • We CAN inspire hope and cheer each other on as we journey through life together.

SO, What Now? 

Start here:

Listen to the one you walk through life with. Find ways to express your attention. Show your excitement. Believe in each other. Cheer for each other. Love each other.

And do it well.

Reflection:

Think about conversations you’ve had with your spouse.

  • What has he or she been saying?
  • What has he or she been feeling?
  • What does he or she need?
  • How can you support him or her?

Now do something.

Anything.

The important thing is to impart empathy and affection and connection. The goal is to express:

  • You are present.
  • You are listening.
  • You care.

Ready? Go, and try it out!

*Be sure to come back and share how you found a way to cheer your partner on. We’d love to hear all about it.

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