Prior to Dday, for our entire relationship, I would say that my H's defining characteristic as a husband and father was selfishness. Actually I did say it. Selfishness and entitlement (which I guess go together). It didn't stand out to me as much as it should have before we got married and had children, but he was all about him and what he wanted or didn't want.
I took care of almost everything around the house, including bills, car maintenance, child care, shopping, etc, etc, even hired out the lawn and snow plowing because he just didn't do it. Plus I worked full time and contributed as much or more the the family finances. He had two chores, the weekly garbage and emptying the dishwasher, and he complained about doing those. He spent weekends watching tv and playing video games while I hustled around. He participated with the kids when it was something he was interested in (yes he would go see a Disney movie with us, but I schlepped alone to Pokeman.) He was mostly a selfish lover. He was all about "I don't want to, or "I wanted to". He wanted the most expensive entree on the menu, regardless of our budget, but always wanted to eat some of mine first. He wanted the extra glass of (the most expensive) wine, even though he was driving. He wanted to text and drive. He never appeared to deny himself any impulse or push himself to think of others.
You get the picture. I did, obviously, notice this and did try a few times to address it with him. He would agree that he was selfish and kind of shrug and never change in any way. The kids as they got older were more vocal ("Oh my God, Dad, you are so selfish!). They, unfortunately, learned lessons about being a man that they have had to unlearn as they have grown and developed relationships of their own. I would bitch to my friends, who had similar stories, and talk to my therapist. I decided that it wasn't worth divorce and just made the best of it. I asked him to do as little as possible since it just led to resentment on his part, and tried to make our life as interesting as possible so that he chose to participate.
I did wonder where this behavior originated. He was basically ignored as a child by a cold and unloving mother, and had no father figure. So the entitlement wasn't from being spoiled, but perhaps the selfishness was a defense mechanism. I did not learn of his CSA until after Dday.
Now you would think a person thinking always and only of their own selfish needs would be happy, right? Wrong. He suffered from intermittent depression. Although he would acknowledge that he had an amazing wife and family and considered himself "happily married" he did not appreciate his good fortune.
And then, of course, the ultimate selfish act, the A. He wasn't "in love", wasn't "carried away"; she was just available and he "wanted to". Kind of a shrug. Without a thought to me, his children, or the life he was risking. His issues allowed him to compartmentalize, and really, it was only about him. (Fortunately he was, if possible, even more selfish with her.)
And now. So different. As I have watched him over the last year and a half I have been amazed. I didn't know he had it in him. I literally have no complaints in this area anymore. He is a full partner, not just "helping" but owning chores and responsibilities, no longer just to be "on his best behavior" but because it's fair and right. He thinks of things to make me happy and is all about giving. He is careful not to overindulge and has given up his bad habits without my nagging.
And he is happy. Content.
I suspect that part of selfishness is lack of attachment; not caring enough about anyone outside of yourself because you don't have that connection. And that that is lonely and isolating. But I also suspect that giving to others has it's own intrinsic rewards. Rewards that he just never experienced before.
Tough, tough road to get here, but I am so happy to get to finally see this growth in the man I love.