Morning friend,

We’ve been having a good discussion on last week’s topic about boundaries and being accused of being controlling. 

One of our readers posted this additional question to last week’s topic:

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Question: Leslie, you say “A destructive individual believes many lies. One is that their needs/feelings are always more important than yours. For example, his need to rage with his angry feelings is more important than your need for a good night’s sleep. His need/desire to dance with you at your son’s wedding is more important than your need/desire for peace or safety.”

But when I set boundaries, my husband says that I am saying that my needs are more important than his, therefore I am being selfish. He says his needs are just as important as mine. How do I answer this? I don’t think it’s true, but I’m confused.

Answer: Your husband’s needs are every bit as important (at least to him) as your needs are. From what you wrote, he’s not telling you that his needs are MORE important than yours are, but they are valid and equally important. Here’s where it gets confusing. Are you being selfish if you don’t or won’t meet his stated “needs”?

You aren’t specific in what boundaries you are setting or why. Nor do we know what needs he says he has that are not being met by your boundaries. Therefore, I’m going to give you some general principles so that you stay clear-headed on all of this, even if he continues to accuse you of being selfish.

For example, let’s say after dinner he tells you he needs you to do his wash because he has no clean clothes for work tomorrow. Your boundary has been that if he doesn’t get his dirty clothes into the hamper, you won’t be collecting his scattered clothes to do his wash. Earlier in the day, you did the laundry. Now, if he wants his dirty clothes cleaned, he can wash them himself tonight, or put them into the hamper and you will wash them tomorrow. He doesn’t like your boundary and tells you you’re being selfish. Are you? Your boundary was clear. He knew what he needed to do to make sure you washed his clothes (met his need for clean clothes) yet he didn’t do it. 

Or perhaps he’s angry and feels a need to rant and rage about something. Your boundary is that you are unwilling to listen to that kind of talk anymore. Your boundary is you will listen to him if he can calm down and put into words what’s bothering him without verbally attacking or berating you. He calls you selfish because you don’t give him a green card to vomit all over you when he’s upset. You have a boundary so you take care of yourself especially when he’s upset and can’t control himself.

Or perhaps your boundary is you are not going to allow your body to be used as an object for his sexual pleasure because the two of you have no other connection emotionally, spiritually, or mentally. He says he needs sex and your refusal means you’re selfish because his needs are valid. They are valid but so are your needs/feelings for connection. Whose are more important? 

I don’t know that you will ever change his thinking. He may always believe that his wife is to meet his needs regardless of her feelings or own needs and if she refuses, she is selfish. However, the person who must think clearly to stay healthy is you.

Let’s say that you were going to bed because your boundary is that you need 8 hours of sleep to function well the next day. You know that about your body, you’ve told him that and he doesn’t like it. He wants you to stay up with him and watch a movie and you say no, your boundary for yourself is you need to go to bed. He calls this selfish.

On the other hand, if instead, he told you he was having chest pains and needed to go to the ER because he thought he was having a heart attack, I believe you would sacrifice your sleep because his need for urgent medical care IS more important right now than your need for 8 hours of sleep. 

[Tweet “All of his needs are real and important to him, but that does not mean all needs are urgent or must be met like he wants.”] And most times our stated needs are not needs at all but rather, they are wants, and desires, and if we don’t get what we want or desire, we will not die.

Every day we all have to make judgment calls on whose needs are most important. Is it most important that we drop everything and bring a forgotten lunch to school, when our child has been in the habit of sleeping late and forgetting important things for school? Is it always the right thing that we sacrifice our own needs or wants or boundaries so that we can meet the stated need of someone else? Jesus didn’t do that, nor do I think he asks that of his followers.

Jesus does tell us to love and care for others, even to sacrifice ourselves for a clear purpose such as the other’s long-term well-being, but not simply their temporal pleasure or happiness (See Proverbs 6 for a clear example of God warning us not to meet someone’s need for a co-signer for a loan.) [Tweet “Loving someone does not mean we cater to everything the other person wants or needs with no thought for our own welfare or well-being.”]

In Mark 3, we see some of Jesus’ family believed that he was crazy and religious leaders said he was demon-possessed. Jesus spent no time arguing with them that it wasn’t true. He accepted that people are going to think what they want to think. [Tweet “Your job is not to try to convince your husband that taking care of you is not selfish.”] Your work right now is to be focused on God’s opinion, not man’s opinion. If He says well done, rest in that.

Friend, when someone accuses you of being selfish and uncaring because you won’t do what they want, how do you shake it off?

9 Comments

  1. Autumn on August 18, 2022 at 5:05 am

    I think if your spouse calls you selfish, it is name calling. Who talks like that to another person? Flip the context, would they tell a colleague or a neighbor they are selfish because they work at their own desk or have a fence around their yard? No.

    Telling you their needs matter is childish. Of course they do. As two adults, you respect each other. However, in the destructive relationship, communication is about manipulation and control. That is why the interaction you are having doesn’t make sense.

    You are not having an honest conversation with a healthy person. You are listening to the manipulative whine or rant of a controller. Learn to sift out the ploys and identify his crazy making.

    • Pam on August 20, 2022 at 11:19 am

      Yes happened last night.

    • Kathleen on August 20, 2022 at 12:33 pm

      Yes, like talking to a two-year-old. Exhausting and usually unproductive. They will keep at it until they get what they want or have a tantrum and resent you.

    • pat on August 20, 2022 at 7:37 pm

      what happens when that person doesn’t think he/she’s crazy or there’s anything wrong. I’ve been advised b/c my husband keeps saying what’s my problem when that’s how i refer to his 5 month long uncharacteristic behavior. he has 5/7 traits for a bipolar diagnosis, could be demetia b/c his hearing was neglected for 7 yrs.and now that he has hearing aids he’s not wearing them when he’s not mowing, showering or sleeping!!! it does affect the brain and his buying of thousands of $ of useless decorations, unwanted and whole house cluttering and not taking my advice to get help as well as other wise Christian friends. our neighbors see that there is something wrong as the clutter of the porch and the furniture in our parking space in the elements for weeks speaks volumes.If he were a rational person,we could sit down and discuss these problems rationally. Proverbs messages about receiving discipline, advice, rebuke and avoiding foolishness and stupidity and destruction has him question: what if the advice is wrong, what is the destruction going to be????? our 55th anniversary is going to be this fri., and as the Lord has blessed me i can’t see living with him this way. He talks of the stealing that the illegals are doing to us at the border, yet he has stolen our house for the clutter b/c IT IS HIS!

      • Autumn on August 21, 2022 at 11:17 am

        Look up Darren F Magee and watch/listen to his YouTube. They will minister to your heart and soul.

  2. Connie on August 20, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    I find that the best thing is to state clearly what I will or will not tolerate, and then ignore. For example, I have a ‘friend’ who is a boundary-buster. She likes to have all the attention. She likes to go out for dinner after church (we pick her up because she is elderly), but the 2 restaurants in our town were closed one Sunday. I invited her for dinner at our house. She came to the kitchen and asked if she could help. I kindly asked her to go to the Living Room and I put a short video on, because I knew she just wanted to talk, and I didn’t need the distraction. So, she turned to the fridge and started asking questions about my grandchildren’s artwork. I said nothing and kept working. She curled up her lip and said, “Well, nya, nya, now she won’t talk to me!” I smiled to myself and she eventually left. You don’t ‘reason’ with these people, they don’t know how to do that. They subscribe to playground mentality, and are stuck there.

    • JoAnn on August 23, 2022 at 4:56 pm

      Connie, forgive me, but based on what you said in this post, I think that your behavior was rude to her. She is elderly, lives alone, and probably this is one time in the week when she has someone to talk to. You didn’t want to talk about the artwork on the fridge? Where’s the love? Where is the compassion? If she were breaking dishes or doing something damaging, yes, you might want to insist that she sit down. but In my mind, this was not a case of needing boundaries. Maybe there’s more to it than I know, so I apologize if I missed something.

      • Pam on September 18, 2022 at 2:04 pm

        Yeah, I was kind-of thinking the same thing……

  3. Judi on August 21, 2022 at 7:17 am

    I sometimes struggle with this too. I have asked myself “Is self-care in the Bible?” And found this as an answer.
    You will not see “take care of yourself”, or “Be good to yourself” written out in scripture. What you do see is self care is ‘understood’ much like when you say “Please shut the door.” I am asking “you” to do that. “You” is the understood subject even though I didn’t say it.
    Scripture says Love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27) It is understood that you love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, then how will you know how to love your neighbor? Would you expect your neighbor or good friend to pick up your clothes if you are capable to do that yourself? Of course you wouldn’t. It’s not showing love or kindness to them to expect them to do that. Your an adult you can do that for yourself. It’s part of taking care of yourself.
    Gal 6:5 says …”each one should carry his own load” we should help others with their load. How can we help others if we haven’t tended to our own needs. Even the airplane attendant explains that to us when giving instructions in case of an emergency. Put your own mask on first, even before your children. It honors God to take care of yourself.
    Several times the Bible states that Jesus left the group that he was healing or teaching to pray, rest , and take care of His own needs.
    Keep praying that God reveals His truth to you. What do you need to do to take care of yourself and how does He desire for you to help others? If you are bitter when meeting a “need” check you heart and ask why? Is your answer is “They should be doing this themselves”, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. Check your heart.

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