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?
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