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Understanding Your Motivation in Your Marriage, Part 3: Three Important Areas To Consider

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Part 1 and Part 2 discussed and showed you that:

- A wife must guard against judging her husband because he does not respond like she would respond.

- A husband must guard against judging his wife because she does not respond like he would respond.

So how do you apply this in healing your marriage?

Defensive Reaction

Unless your spouse is continuing to commit a moral transgression, your partner is probably defensively reacting to you – right or wrong.

Though you feel “offended” by their defensive and negative reaction, feeling it as very unloving and disrespectful, your spouse may be miles away from intending for you to feel that way.

She is feeling insecure. He is feeling insignificant.

Both are feeling disapproved and react in ways they ought not to react.

Additionally, we must remind ourselves of three areas: preferences, personality and pressures.


Am I feeling that my spouse is unloving or disrespectful because of clashing preferences?

Your spouse is not always going to agree with you. In fact, as an individual she or he has their own tastes, opinions, and preferences.

Because your wife tells you to wear a different tie and mothers you relentlessly on your clothing tastes, this does not mean she is disrespectful.

Because your husband tells you a better way to manage your money and acts paternalistic, this does not mean he is unloving.

This difference is not a moral issue, but a “gray area conflict.” No pastor or judge would declare that your spouse is morally wrong for differing with you or recommending a different course of action.

Because my spouse differs does not mean she or he is disrespectful or unloving.  She or he can be very loving and respectful, though strongly disagreeing.


Am I claiming that my spouse is unloving or disrespectful because my spouse is not the person I want my spouse to be in personality and appearance?

Well, does the Lord see your spouse as unloving and disrespectful because your spouse is not the type of individual you want?

After all, He created her or him with that specific personality; the same personality and appearance that you found so endearing in the beginning.

Your husband was the quiet, thoughtful type and his personality attracted you to him. Now in conflict he withdraws into silence and you claim he is unloving. But ever since he was 4 years old, his introversion and conflict-avoidance has been seen by everyone who knows him. Are you castigating his personality as unloving when God designed him as an introvert who resolves conflict by dropping it?

Your wife was communicative and engaging and her personality attracted you to her. Now in conflict she comes at you to talk, and talk some more, which drives you crazy and you claim she is disrespectful. But since she was 4 years old, her sanguine temperament has been displayed for all to see. Are you condemning her personality as disrespectful when God designed her as an extrovert who resolves conflict by talking?

May I suggest to you that this is an over-the-top judgment?


When I encounter overwhelming external pressures (i.e. loss of job, a parent, control of a child), do I react in unloving and disrespectful ways, which put us on the Crazy Cycle?

Do I then claim my spouse is unloving and disrespectful when I triggered the whole thing?

Consider this scenario:

You’re coming home from a busy day at work, where you did not receive the expected promotion, but were told that you and everyone else would receive a reduction in pay due to necessary cutbacks.

As you enter the house your spouse asks, “How was your day?” You shoot back with an unloving and disrespectful tone, “I don’t want to talk about!”

Feeling deflated by your cruel tone, your spouse retorts, “I can’t believe you just talked to me that way. Forget you. Fix your own dinner.”

The Crazy Cycle is launched and you blame your spouse instead of owning up to your part and addressing the real culprit of the cutbacks and feeling devalued as a human being.

It is easier to project our own mistakes and failures on our conveniently available spouse, instead of taking responsibility for our own actions.

Your spouse is not the enemy whose sole purpose is to be disrespectful or unloving. The opposite is true. She or he wants a happy marriage as much as you do.

Instead of taking negative snapshots, why not move forward?


Begin by changing what you can control – yourself.

Begin by asking, “Is that which I am about to say going to sound loving or unloving? Respectful or disrespectful?”

When we own up to our side, we empower ourselves. In most cases, the rest will follow.

Please believe this!

Or, will you default to declaring, “No one in this family has any idea how to love and respect me. Dr. E, you have no idea how bad my spouse and children are. I married Beelzebub and all my kids are little demons!”

The choice is yours.

-Dr. E

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

Questions to Consider