We never recognize our own selfishness; all we recognize is how other people’s selfishness impinges on what we want. A good way to recognize how selfish we are is to think about how much we recognize selfishness in other people and how much it irritates us. The more bothered we are by another person’s selfishness, the more it indicates how selfish we are ourselves. And I don’t know of anyone who isn’t irritated by other people’s selfishness.
All this intrudes on the marriage relationship. Two individual human beings each want to go their own way. For a time, these ways may seem to coincide, or else we would never get married. But eventually, our individual, selfish natures take over. We take the marriage for granted, and we still want what we want. She wants nice clothes, and he wants a new car, so they fight over money. She wants to change him and he resents it. He wants her never to change, and that’s impossible for her. Each one wants to be together when they want it, and alone when they want it, and away from one another with friends when they want it, so both of them feel neglected and stifled by turns. Life forces them to make compromises, to take jobs they don’t want or make sacrifices they don’t want, and they blame one another for their situation. This is the thing behind the thing, the fountain of all the rest of the problems that people have in marriage.The hardest part of dealing with problems in marriage is learning that the main problem is ourselves. I’m not saying that there aren’t abusive situations in which one person is irrationally unreasonable, and the other is truly trying to be the best for the other person that they can. I’m not saying that we can’t learn things about finances and sex and communication that can help us. I am saying that apart from these extreme situations, the problem is almost never just one person’s fault.