Are You Pushing or Encouraging Your Mate Spiritually?

Most of you know that I’m a pastor’s wife, but that doesn’t mean I’m not guilty of pushing my hubby spiritually when it seems like he’s not pursuing God with the same intensity as I am. Of course, sometimes he feels that way about me too. 😉

We all go through seasons when our spiritual lives are not as vibrant or a priority as they should be.


When my husband has struggled spiritually, I can easily flip into pushing him rather than encouraging him in his faith. The same dynamic is true only to a heightened degree in marriages where one spouse is a believer and the other is definitely not.

Often this tension leads to a “tug-of-war” that only worsens the divide. I see this problem a LOT with the spouses (especially wives) that I coach and mentor.

So today I’m going to share some insights I’ve learned and steps I’ve taken to approach this problem in my own marriage whenever it emerges.

[Tweet “Learn the difference between pushing and encouragement. #deceptivelysimilar”]

Here are several signs that you might be pushing . . .

1. You continue to say the same things over and over to your mate.
If your mate already knows your concerns and beliefs, then leave it at that while praying continually for God to do the rest of the work. To do otherwise is meddling in God’s business and acting like the Holy Spirit in your mate’s life.

Be aware that “pushing” includes leaving subtle (or not so subtle) hints like putting Christian books on your mate’s nightstand or continually asking your spouse to come to church with you.

Naturally, if there’s a special event at church or you’ve not made this an annoying habit, then invitations to go with you can be fine. Just be sure not to cross the line from occasionally inviting to “pestering.”

2. Your spouse responds with defensiveness or arguing.
The good news is that this might indicate that your spouse is resisting God’s heavy conviction, so you shouldn’t take it personally. But it could also be a sign that you’re coming on too strong.

At that point, be sure to switch from “telling your spouse” what he/she should do or believe to asking your mate questions. When you ask open-ended and non-combative questions, you put the ball in your spouse’s court.

[Tweet “Then your mate will “grapple with” the truths rather than being spoon-fed the answers by you.”]

3. Your spouse views you as holier-than-thou.
This is a major telltale sign that you’ve probably got a prideful and self-righteous attitude in the mix. Whenever I approach my husband with humbleness, admitting my own failures, he’s always much quicker to drop his defenses and see my concerns.

Another way a holier-than-thou attitude comes across is in Scripture being quoted to your mate. You may feel like speaking God’s word will convict him/her, but approaching your mate in this way comes across as condescending. Use those verses as prayers you pray for your mate in your own private times with God instead.

Additionally, it’s easy to feel frustration over a mate’s resistance—especially when resistance has continued over the years. If that’s the case for you, then a “holier-than-thou” attitude can get projected. So be sure to turn any frustration over to the Lord—never draining it at your mate’s feet.  

So what are some ways I’ve learned to encourage my mate spiritually?

  • I avoid “pushing” as outlined above.
  • I pray for my mate’s spiritual health and passion for God daily—whether he’s struggling or not.
  • I make a point to be patient with him when he chooses “unspiritual” attitudes or actions.
  • I build up other parts of my relationship with him. This includes being affectionate, going on dates, listening attentively to his concerns, affirming him in the areas where he’s doing well, etc.
  • Above all, I seek love and comfort from the Lord rather than putting that heavy weight on my husband’s “weak” (compared to God) shoulders.


[Tweet “Christian bloggers, join us for another From Messes to Messages Linkup! #MessyMarriage”]


What are some additional ways we might “push” rather than encourage our mates spiritually?


Can you add some other ways to my list for encouraging our mates spiritually?


Also, since many of the respondents to my sexual hangups and hurdles questions have asked about remaining anonymous, I’ve created a survey that will allow that anonymity. So if you’re interested in taking this four question survey and letting me use your anonymous answers in my once-a-month series, you can access the survey here.

And I’ve got a bad case of shingles and would really appreciate your prayers for me in this. Thanks so much!

Joining with my friends at Giving Up on Perfect, Christian Blogger Community, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and LifeGivingLinkup.

Messy Marriage






  • bluecottonmemory

    Oh, Yes! I’ve been there – and sometimes find myself stepping there. I understand more now that I have to trust that he is pursuing God in his way – which sometimes looks different than how I do. Like you said, when I go in prayer for him – that really makes all the difference! Our culture today so undermines the wife’s trust of her husband that I think it is harder for women to trust their husband’s are working in their faith garden, too.

    • I agree, Maryleigh. There’s a lot of confusion on how we, as wives, should respond to our husbands when we see their feet slipping. Our culture often reflects the idea that pushing is our right and duty. But God wants us to learn to trust Him with the men in our lives. Thanks for being so honest and encouraging me in this space. I appreciate it and would also love your prayers for my shingles. I’m beginning to do okay throughout the day but the evenings and especially at night I’m in excruciating pain. For some reason it really ramps up then and it’s “pushing” me over the edge at times. 🙁

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    First, prayers are being said for you, that the shingles may subside quickly. I know it’s painful, and I am so sorry you have to suffer this.

    This is a great post, and I think a lot of folks, both men and women, see themselves reflected here.

    In a way I’m lucky, because my wife is always faintly surprised that I can carry on a discussion about Christianity. Right now, as it happens, she needs a bit of spiritual leadership because of some really nasty goings-on in her original family, and the astonishment that I can actually give her some Biblical examples of comfort and strength – along with a daily prayer that I email to her when she gets to work – may make the message easier to accept than if she thought of me as a strong Christian.

    • Thank you so much for your prayers, Andrew. I really need them. This pain is so unrelenting–especially during the night when I’m also so very tired. I feel a much greater appreciation for what you’ve continued to go through as well as for my late father’s bout with shingles that turned into post-herpatic neuralgia for years. I always knew he was a strong man, but now have an even greater idea of how strong he was.

      I’m glad that you appreciated this post and that your wife is more accepting of your Christian status than she was before. And sometimes when we’re driven to our knees by pain, we open up in all sorts of new ways. I’m praying that this new openness to you continues and that she is encouraged as you both work through your individual and couple struggles. You’re both in my prayers for sure!

  • pioneerpat1

    Hope your shingles go away soon.

    I think that we all worship different and should be able to. I think when a mate pushes you to worship like them is a problem.

    Each of has personal relationship with God. My relationship, maybe different than yours even though we believe in the same thing.

    • Thank you, Patrick. So do I!

      Yes, there are so many varieties of ways to worship because we are all so different and come from different backgrounds. For me it really hasn’t been about how my husband was “different” from me as much as it was my own fears rearing up when I think there might be a problem. My weakness and, ironically, my strength are my helping skills. At my worst, I’m driven to “fix” while when I’m at my best, I’m motivated to care and assist. It’s a tough balance that gets out of balance every now and then. Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend! Blessings to you!

  • good post and great reminders. last sunday in church we sang to God “You are perfect in all of Your ways…” and it hit me that the job of perfection’s been taken so once again don’t expect my man to be perfect. (:

    • Thanks so much, Sue. I love your thought! We should never strive to be perfectionists, since that job is already taken by the Perfect One. 😉

  • Just spot on! You know sometimes we are doing the right thing but the wrong way!
    No. 1 is enough to drive anyone crazy….I realise one too many times hammering on one matter builds resistance instead of change😅😏
    Thank you Beth.
    God bless

    • Thank you, Ifeoma. That’s so true–doing the right thing the wrong way. And yes, that one can be so annoying unbeknownst to those of us who keep singing the same tune. It speaks of a lack of trust in our mates–a message we surely shouldn’t send! Thanks for joining the linkup and conversation, my friend!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    This is great advice, whether for a spouse or a child or a family member! Asking vs. telling…I needed this reminder. I’m so quick to tell it like it is vs. asking questions to get at the heart of the matter. I just have this vision of me trying to push the stubborn mule from behind (often futile) vs. leading him lovingly forward as i stand beside him. Great reminders!! Love the Truth I always find here!

    • What a great metaphor, Bev. Yes, that’s exactly what this is like. And you know what happens when you get behind a mule?! You get a good swift kick in the kisser! Yikes! That’s something I surely want to avoid! Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend. Hugs to you!

  • Beauty in Christ

    This is convicting even as someone who isn’t married yet; because I tend to be such an impatient ‘pusher’ on my siblings. I don’t want to be that anymore, and by God’s grace, I want to be gentle and patient and loving and not ‘holier than thou because that only communicates a lack of love and not a depth of love for them. Thank you sister.

    • You are so right, my friend. Sadly, it does communicate the last thing we want our loved ones to feel. We must check our egos at the door and come to our friends, loved ones and even enemies with the love of Christ that was demonstrated, first and foremost, by yieldedness and humility. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  • I have a husband who is especially sensitive to the “pushing” voice, and I’ve noticed that one of my boys responds in the same way, so your words give a double whallop to me. When I “talk to myself” about this, I remind myself that I am not the CEO of this house.

    • Yes, my husband is especially sensitive to it too, Michele. I’m working on it just like you are, my friend. We are all works-in-progress, but thankfully we are not beyond the Lord’s beautiful remaking and renewing! Thanks so much for encouraging me!

  • Oh girl, I hope you feel better soon. And I dig what you are saying. These are all things I’m guilty of myself from time to time, but if you were to ask me that in the moment, I’d totally deny it. Because I’m perfect! 😉

    • Thank, Nicki. I’m doing better during the day, but oh, those night times are the worst! For some reason the pain just really ramps up and is unrelenting. But I keep hoping that this next day/night are going to be better. It’s got to ease at some point, right? So keep up those prayers, my friend!

      Thanks for the encouragement too. And you bring up a good point. It’s easy for us not to see it at all in the moment. It actually feels like we’re doing our spouses a favor. Glad to have you back in the lineup as well!

  • Julie Loos

    Great tips! I have to remember this as I have more time to grow in faith than my husband has during this season. I don’t want to come across as holier-than-thou.
    #CoffeeforyourHeart neighbor,

    • Thank you, Julie. Yes, there are seasons when we do gain a foothold while our spouse’s are too busy or weighed down by other issues in their lives. That simply means we come alongside to help and not get behind them to push! Thanks for adding to the discussion, my friend!

  • This is so excellent, Beth. When did we all start thinking we had to play the role of the Holy Spirit? And the damage we have left behind when all is said and done is untold.

    Your emphasis on daily prayer, even and especially before crisis of any kind hits is a powerful take-away for me. And building those other areas of the relationship even when the spiritual aspect is waning is so important.

    No one wants to feel like someone else’s project.

    I’m so grateful for your wisdom, friend … praying for you often, too.

    • Yeah, I know, Linda. It’s an awfully attractive part to play–at least feels tempting from time to time. But yes, there’s so much damage we leave in our wake when we go there. Prayer for my marriage and with my husband has become so foundational for me, Linda. I’m encouraged by it so much–when I keep my eyes on eternal things rather than any given moment in time. Thanks for adding some of your wise takeaways, my friend. It seems we always see eye-to-eye on these kinds of matters. Thank you also for the prayers and I’m still praying for your recovery as well. I hope you’re doing much better by this point.

  • These are great tips! For me I realized early on in marriage I could be come a nagging wife just because our time difference in mental processing and taking action. I naturally work faster than my husband. So I have started to learn the balance of reminders and nagging. Often times this includes asking my husband to set himself a due date and asking him if he would like a reminder. Also, we have figured out email reminders do better for him than verbal after work reminders. It is still something I get to work on when I am overwhelmed or working on projects. I get into the “get stuff done” mindset!

    • That’s an important point to make, Cassie. Sometimes our spouse’s simply process things slower or differently than we do. And communicating more in those challenging situations is always a great strategy. So many headaches would be averted if we simply checked the pulse of our relationship or our spouse’s “health” before attempting “CPR!” ha! I’m working on it too, my friend. But finally making a bit of progress in this one area. 🙂

  • JosephPote

    Sherri and I often see spiritual things quite differently, and I have had to learn to give her space for her own perspective and her own relationship with God. The good news is she does the same for me. 🙂

    It hasn’t always been that way. Early in our marriage I tried to talk spiritual things thru, almost as though biblical perspective were a mutual decision on which we needed to agree. I soon realized this was extremely frustrating for Sherri, who often felt I was trying to force my view on her.

    Now, it’s more like we pray for each other (either together or individually), encourage each other, and share things with each other, but avoid pressuring for agreement on perspective.

    Thank you for the good post, Beth!

    • Yes, there needs to be some leeway in our spiritual differences. I see that Jesus led so perfectly in that way with His disciples. I’m so glad that you realized how you could strike that balance with your wife, Joe. It sounds like what initially created a wedge has turned into something that’s brought you both closer together than before. Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend! Always great to have you in the discussion and in the linkup.

  • Susan

    “That” ship sailed many years ago. His relationship with the Lord? It’s between him and God – I will stand before Jesus on my own. I won’t be judged for him and he won’t be judged for me. We stand on the last day alone. What did YOU do with Jesus?

    • I’m glad you came to that conclusion, Susan. Yes, so true. God won’t judge us as couples but as individuals. Hopefully we both can answer that question well some day. Thanks for joining the conversation, dear friend!

  • Beth, the principles you’re talking about here are so important and can go a long way toward drawing couples closer together instead of driving wedges. I can easily find myself pushing too much because I don’t think my husband is doing something as quickly as I think he should or in the same way and it’s so easy to come across critical or thinking my way is the right way. Thanks for some great reminders! Hope you’re having a great week!

    • Yes, I think those who are gifted as teachers or counselors are often the pushiest of all spouses, because we feel so much passion for what we believe and do in our lives. I think we have that in common, Donna. And yes, it does end up coming across as critical even when our heart’s motivation is to help. Thanks so much for joining the conversation and for your friendship and support as well!

  • Mary Flaherty

    Oh my, I could’ve been the poster child for this with my first husband. I remember inviting the pastor and his wife over for dinner and hoping that they would “save” him by the end of the night. We had a nice dinner, but those poor people must have felt a lot of my pressure. I always hoped that someone else would just get him saved and then all would be wonderful. It never happened (by that’s not why we divorced).My last husband (the one I’m married to now) is a believer, but not as forthcoming in prayer, or perhaps not as “spiritual” as I would like. As I read your list of don’ts, I realized that I left a devotional that our church handed out last week on the counter, instead of where I usually put my devos. Not-so-subtle subtlety? Hmmm…good stuff, Beth.

    • I see the humor in that situation, Mary, even though I’m sure it was much more painful and destructive than it ever was funny. I do hope you keep that spiritual enthusiasm in check. It’s something I constantly have to watch for in my own life. Passion is all well and good when it comes to our own spiritual pursuits but is often “off-putting” when we try to insert it into our spouse’s faces. I want to inspire my mate, not irritate him! Thanks, as always, for your brutal honesty and humor. I do wish we could meet every now and then over a cup of coffee. I think we’d have an awful lot in common, girlfriend!

  • These two:
    1- I make a point to be patient with him when he chooses “unspiritual” attitudes or actions.
    2- Above all, I seek love and comfort from the Lord rather than putting that heavy weight on my husband’s “weak” (compared to God) shoulders.

    Soooooo good! Ones that I have struggled with over the years, yet seen such an incredible strengthening of our marriage as I improved!

    Thanks, Beth!!!!

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