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Is Love and Respect Manipulation?

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Q: Isn’t it manipulation if a wife is respecting her husband just so he’ll meet her need for love, or a husband shows love to his wife just to get her to meet his need for respect? Dr. E says:

Is this manipulation? Of course it can be, and we all need to check our hearts before God. This is not a formula or a magic wand we wave to get our spouse to do what we want.

What is your goal?

Is your goal in showing love or respect to change your spouse’s behavior or is it a desire to do something to energize your spouse?

If we are acting out of selfish reasons, our spouse will see right through this. In fact, sometimes a spouse will purposely not respond for a while because they are suspicious of the changes they see. This is especially true if there has been a history of selfish behavior previously, resulting in a spouse getting hurt. The wounded spouse will close off and act out of self-protection for a time.

When this happens, a spouse who is acting out of selfish motives will give up too soon. Their true colors will be revealed when they revert back to their old behavior. The other spouse then thinks, “I knew this change wasn’t real. They will never change. They are right back to their selfish behavior. I can’t trust them.”

A marriage will not flourish when a spouse discovers their partner is selfish and manipulative. This will eventually backfire in a marriage with devastating results. Trust will be broken and a marriage will slide downhill from there. Once trust is broken, it takes time and a lot of hard work to build it back. This is why it is so important to do this for the right reason.

What is the right reason?

For the Christ-follower, the right reason is a desire to honor God because we love Him and believe that He is good and wants what is best for us. Then, our goal comes out of an unselfish desire to unconditionally love and respect our spouse no matter what we receive back, in order to honor God.

The passage in Ephesians 5:33 is God’s Word on marriage: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (NIV).”

There must be an inner heart change that occurs when we desire to obey Christ in our marriage. We are hypocritical if we pretend to obey Christ when our true motive is selfish. We are called to do something deeper in our marriage. And this is not manipulation if we are acting out of reverence for God.

Marriage is not about your spouse meeting your needs.

But how do we do this over the long haul especially when our spouse doesn’t respond?

Consider the husband who loves unconditionally yet his wife doesn’t change and shows him no respect.

What is his alternative? Should he stop loving her unconditionally to teach her a lesson, and end up dishonoring God?

Or consider the woman who shows respect and gets no change in her husband.

What is her alternative? Should she dishonor God and become contemptuous hoping he will respond lovingly?

How’s that working for you?

I am sure the apostle Paul understood that people would twist what he had to say. A wife would say, "My husband isn't loving me" instead of saying, "I must obey God's command to respect." And, a husband would say, "My wife isn't respecting me” instead of saying, "I must obey God's command to love my wife."

Only Christ can fully meet our needs.

So after Paul reveals love and respect as the key to a successful marriage in Ephesians 5:33, he continues by saying, "Whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord."

I challenge you to see the future reward that comes with obedience. If we are doing it for an immediate response, we will not stay the course. We will give up in frustration, because marriage is not about the other person meeting our needs perfectly.

We must never expect a person to meet our needs fully. That is a role only Christ can fulfill.

We don’t give in order to get.

Because your words and acts of love might be going unrewarded in your marriage does not mean those words will go unrewarded by God. Your marriage matters too much to Him for that. Every word you speak to your spouse provides you with the opportunity to show your heart to God.

This requires sacrifice on your part as you put your needs aside and act as the mature one in the relationship, but God will honor you for it.

We do not give in order to get.

This is what the Rewarded Cycle is all about: A husband’s love blesses regardless of a wife’s respect. A wife’s respect blesses regardless of a husband’s love.

The world says this is crazy.

The Lord announces in effect, "Nothing is wasted. This isn't about your spouse but about your trust and obedience toward me. When you do this toward me, I will reward you throughout eternity."

The world says this is crazy!

But for the Christ-follower there are rewards for us both here on earth and in eternity if we do marriage His way!

Bottom line, this isn't about our spouse. God instructs us to love or respect regardless of our spouse’s behavior and He rewards us for this. This is about loving and reverencing Jesus Christ, and we cannot do this without Him!


Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

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