How to Motivate Your Spouse

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from God through the years, He loves paradoxes.

He is strong in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). To the wise, His ways are foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18).  

But God’s love of paradox is never more obvious than in the way He wants us to love. You know …

Final Destination“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25 (NIV)

I must admit that sometimes I forget one of the golden rules of a counselor—you can’t and shouldn’t try to change another person. When I forget this principle, I end up trying to hold on to my life by “playing God” in the life of my spouse.

Here’s how it usually goes …

He does something that I perceive to be hurtful. (Sometimes I’m right about how hurtful it is, and sometimes I’m wrong, and sometimes it’s a mixture of both! Often, very confusing!)

I feel hurt and want to withdraw. 

Sometimes this withdrawal can be good, if I use it to pray and get my heart right and my mind aligned with God’s perspective. But there are times when I use it to lick my wounds—or even worse, lick my perceived wounds.

Now, let me be clear. I’m not talking about major boundary violations here. If my husband were abusing me, then I would need to take steps to protect myself by removing myself from the situation, setting boundaries and seeking guidance and help.

But when it’s a minor infraction, where he’s being critical or giving me the dreaded “tone,” then I need to choose a different “tack.”

Because, honestly, what I’m doing when I withdraw out of anger is punishing my husband for not giving me the respect or whatever I want from him. (To be clear, I don’t consider it punishing in the moment—more like teaching. But who am I kidding?)

It’s my skewed attempt to show him that his behavior is not acceptable. When I’m really on a roll, I try to justify my actions, believing that he needs to feel my pain. Basically, I’m letting my hurt determine the way I relate to him so that he won’t want to hurt me like.this.ever.again.sigh!

As Dr. Phil might say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

The truth is it’s doing the very opposite of motivating him!

This is where the paradox of God comes in. God commands us to  

“… always protect, always trust, always hope …”* in the ones we LOVE.

Therefore, I must hope for the best in my husband, instead of believing the worst about him—even when he seems to be acting in the worst possible way! 

I die to my self-protective and self-righteous maneuvering and sacrifice control of my husband to God. When I do that very paradoxical yielding by placing my faith in my God and my husband, I find exactly what I desire growing in my husband’s heart, attitude and life.

So my day to day challenge is to

Die to the desire to control.

Die to the belief that I can teach my husband how to love me.

Die to the fear and false belief that I can protect myself. 
Surrender in the glorious truth that God’s got this!
* 1 Cor. 13:7 (NIV)

photo credit by F0t0Synth (Flickr

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  • Krista

    Wow. Needed that. Thanks for posting!

  • Krista

    Wow. Needed that. Thanks for posting!

  • Donna Bragdon

    Outstanding, Beth. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your God-given wisdom with the rest of us!

  • Donna Bragdon

    Outstanding, Beth. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your God-given wisdom with the rest of us!

  • Love how you make me laugh out loud through your parables: (To be clear, I don’t consider it punishing in the moment—more like teaching. But who am I kidding?)

    That sentence was priceless.

    However, I always come away with a nugget, both for myself and to share at a later time. Thanks so much for that!

    • And you make me smile, Kim! 🙂 I really appreciate your encouragement too!

  • Kim Hall

    Love how you make me laugh out loud through your parables: (To be clear, I don’t consider it punishing in the moment—more like teaching. But who am I kidding?)

    That sentence was priceless.

    However, I always come away with a nugget, both for myself and to share at a later time. Thanks so much for that!

  • ouch… needed this one today. thanks!

    • I’m going to assume that the “ouch” is a good thing! haha! I guess we all can relate, that’s for sure! 😉

  • ouch… needed this one today. thanks!

  • messymarriage

    So glad that it was helpful for you, Krista! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Thanks, as always, for your encouragement, Donna! Hugs*

  • messymarriage

    And you make me smile, Kim! 🙂 I really appreciate your encouragement too!

  • messymarriage

    I’m going to assume that the “ouch” is a good thing! haha! I guess we all can relate, that’s for sure! 😉

  • great words here…ones every woman needs to be reminder of…Oh, not to micromanage life…mine…husband…children…a long journey here for me…
    blessings~

    • Yeah, you’d think those of us who’ve been on this journey for so long would know better, but then I suppose, we wouldn’t be human! haha! Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, Ro!

  • Ro elliott

    great words here…ones every woman needs to be reminder of…Oh, not to micromanage life…mine…husband…children…a long journey here for me…
    blessings~

  • messymarriage

    Yeah, you’d think those of us who’ve been on this journey for so long would know better, but then I suppose, we wouldn’t be human! haha! Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, Ro!

  • Jennifer

    Yes. A God of paradoxes. He likes to put us into situations where He can prove His strength and we can only make it by His power.

    Thank you for your encouraging words over at my blog. Time management is such a huge part of our lives, yet we forget sometimes how important it is.

  • Jennifer

    Yes. A God of paradoxes. He likes to put us into situations where He can prove His strength and we can only make it by His power.

    Thank you for your encouraging words over at my blog. Time management is such a huge part of our lives, yet we forget sometimes how important it is.

  • momto8blog

    yes…I give my husband complete control over decisions…but really…we make all the decisions together..

  • momto8blog

    yes…I give my husband complete control over decisions…but really…we make all the decisions together..

  • messymarriage

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Amy Thornton

    Wow. You are speaking truth right into the middle of my mess! Hoping for the best instead of believing the worst, die to self, sacrifice control . . . I struggle with these things all the time. But, at the same time, I really want to be a good wife and partner for my husband. And I know that I fell in love with and married the man he is, not the one I think I can change him into. Still, it’s so hard. Thank you for the insight you offer here. And for linking up with NOBH! Smiles –

    • I’m so glad you found my own struggles helpful to yours, Amy. Isn’t it great how God redeems not only the messes in our marriages but also pays it forward in the lives and marriages of others! Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me! 🙂

  • Amy Thornton

    Wow. You are speaking truth right into the middle of my mess! Hoping for the best instead of believing the worst, die to self, sacrifice control . . . I struggle with these things all the time. But, at the same time, I really want to be a good wife and partner for my husband. And I know that I fell in love with and married the man he is, not the one I think I can change him into. Still, it’s so hard. Thank you for the insight you offer here. And for linking up with NOBH! Smiles –

  • Oh my… it has taken me a long 14 years to learn the lessons hear… and Yes, I am still learning…

    You posted great words of wisdom here… and even though it hurts and it is hard to follow this way at times… it really is the best way…

    Thanks for this… Blessings to you…

    • Here’s to “still learning”–an attitude I want to always have in my life on this side of heaven! Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, Michele-Lyn!

  • Oh my… it has taken me a long 14 years to learn the lessons hear… and Yes, I am still learning…

    You posted great words of wisdom here… and even though it hurts and it is hard to follow this way at times… it really is the best way…

    Thanks for this… Blessings to you…

  • rboerner

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Unfortunately I think I need this plastered on the inside of my eyeballs and brain so I can be reminded daily. When you are right in the heat of a debate, these truths are sometimes forgotten and the fight/argument/drive to control my hubby takes over. At that time when I take “the wheel” is when life TRULY spins out of control. I believe I’ve learned a lot in this area but God continues to allow me to experience this on a regular basis so I can learn some more. HA HA! THANKS BETH!

    • The problem is, if we could get it “plastered on the inside of our eyeballs,” we probably wouldn’t close our eyes long enough to see the message! haha! Yeah, it’s a life-long struggle, but thankfully God never grows tired of teaching us in the middle of our messes! Thanks, as always, Becky for coming by and encouraging me! You’re the best! Hugs*

  • rboerner

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Unfortunately I think I need this plastered on the inside of my eyeballs and brain so I can be reminded daily. When you are right in the heat of a debate, these truths are sometimes forgotten and the fight/argument/drive to control my hubby takes over. At that time when I take “the wheel” is when life TRULY spins out of control. I believe I’ve learned a lot in this area but God continues to allow me to experience this on a regular basis so I can learn some more. HA HA! THANKS BETH!

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad you found my own struggles helpful to yours, Amy. Isn’t it great how God redeems not only the messes in our marriages but also pays it forward in the lives and marriages of others! Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Here’s to “still learning”–an attitude I want to always have in my life on this side of heaven! Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, Michele-Lyn!

  • messymarriage

    The problem is, if we could get it “plastered on the inside of our eyeballs,” we probably wouldn’t close our eyes long enough to see the message! haha! Yeah, it’s a life-long struggle, but thankfully God never grows tired of teaching us in the middle of our messes! Thanks, as always, Becky for coming by and encouraging me! You’re the best! Hugs*

  • Shara Anderson

    Thank-you for being real. That’s where real ministry is and where the real opportunity for healing begins! There is so much good stuff here, and I don’t say that about many sites!
    Thanks for stopping by my site! To God be the glory!!

    • I consider your kind words as high praise, Shara. Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me! 🙂

  • Shara Anderson

    Thank-you for being real. That’s where real ministry is and where the real opportunity for healing begins! There is so much good stuff here, and I don’t say that about many sites!
    Thanks for stopping by my site! To God be the glory!!

  • messymarriage

    I consider your kind words as high praise, Shara. Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me! 🙂

  • libertybain

    wow! LOVE THIS!!! My habitual pattern is ALWAYS to withdraw – I’ve always looked at it as a form of self-protection, but in my heart I know it’s a relationship defeating behaviour….asking for grace to make a new habit.

  • libertybain

    wow! LOVE THIS!!! My habitual pattern is ALWAYS to withdraw – I’ve always looked at it as a form of self-protection, but in my heart I know it’s a relationship defeating behaviour….asking for grace to make a new habit.