It Works… For Awhile

I see couples doing all manner of wrong things to each other in their marriages – stonewalling, yelling, manipulating, and so on. No one would say these are a kind or loving way to treat a spouse, and yet they happen in many marriages. Why?


It Works... For Awhile

They happen because they work. Do these wrong things long enough and you will probably get what you want – or at the very least you can get out of something you don’t want to do. It’s not right, but it works, which makes it tempting. It’s especially tempting when we’re tired or stressed.

There are several problems with doing these things. Aside from the issues of sin and being unloving, these tactics don’t work forever. Sooner or later the other person gets tired of it and does something about it. This could be withdrawing emotionally, looking for emotional support elsewhere, or walking away “without warning”. 

Take the long term approach to your marriage and avoid things that get you what you want at the cost of your relationship.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I only manipulate my wife with my hands!

Links may be monetised
Image Credit: © Sergey Nivens |

Shop Amazon ♦ Shop to give links page
We’re donation supported Thanks for your help!

12 Comments on “It Works… For Awhile

  1. There are so many times in my parenting journey that I want to go old school on my kids. Instead of taking the time and effort to understand them, love them, teach them, guide them, pray over them, I want to heavily discipline them and make them walk a straight line military style. Why? Because it “worked” 30-40 years ago. Children behaved themselves because they knew they’d get their butts beat if they didn’t.

    However, they also learned to not speak up, to supress their needs, to quietly go without. They learned to cope and compensate, but not in good, healthy ways.

    For example, a local radio host’s son was acting out in school and getting poor grades. 40 years ago, dad would have punished him until he shaped up. Today, dad and mom took him to the doctor and discovered he had a medical need. Once the need was addressed, his behavior and grades took a 180 for the better.

    My husband and I both grew up in the old school and we still find ourselves just wanting to manipulate our children into instant obedience through harsh discipline or barking/yelling just to get our kids to shape up, knock it off, and leave us alone. After all, like Archie Bunker or Homer Simpson, what’s on the screen and our own comfort is more important than why our children are acting out or how and why they picked up bad habits.

    • It’s hard to resist that impulse, especially when that was how you were raised. But you’re doing the right thing by resisting it! My own father was a strict disciplinarian, and that second paragraph you wrote basically sums up my childhood pretty neatly. I am still dealing with the effects his borderline abusive discipline techniques has had on my mind and heart. It’s getting better, I’m getting better, but it is no thanks to him. He never respected me as a person, then or now.

      Now, we don’t really speak much anymore. He got what he wanted, which was a quiet child who doesn’t argue with him, but he lost everything else in the process. He lost my respect, he lost my love, he lost any chance of having any kind of real relationship or emotional connection with me or any of his other children. Was what he got in exchange for that worth it?

      Keep on trying to be better than your parents. Keep on fighting those impulses. Don’t give up! You don’t want the alternative.

    • @libl – Yeah that kind of parenting “worked” for a while. Some kids towed the line till the left the house, some blew up in their teens. Few look back and feel good about being raised that way, and I don’t think any escaped without deep wounds.

      All in all, it’s way better, but there are those who have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, leading to kids who become adults with a whole different set or problems.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Relationship Distress ToleranceMy Profile

  2. Good words, Paul. We do have to think long-term. Manipulating our spouse’s behavior may get a change in actions, but does it get a change in our spouse’s heart? A heart change really comes from both sides. It take letting go of the ‘parenting method’ of being a spouse (treating our spouse like a child), trying to set aside our selfish nature to see from our spouse’s viewpoint on things and believing what they see is true for them. Neither happen overnight if you’ve been using bad tactics. But, they can happen one baby step at a time. Thanks for this!
    Bonny recently posted…Virgin Bride Asks How to Avoid PainMy Profile

  3. Paul, do you think this can take a seemingly more benign form…’encouraging’ a spouse to be more like one’s own father or mother?

    It was something I saw in the early days of my marriage…my baggy and well-used cargo shorts started disappearing and were replaced with dressier shorts, and the beer-ad t-shirts gave way to collared polyester.

    I appreciated what she was trying to do, but it made me extremely uncomfortable, and contributed to the divorce-and-remarriage.

    And when we remarried I wore nicer clothes, and she occasionally bought me the rattiest OP shorts she could find, and t-shirts promoting metal bands and Bud.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 335 – Run For Your LifeMy Profile

    • @Andrew – Interesting thoughts. Very few people are okay with the kinds of imposed changes you described. It feels sneaky and not at all respectful. Barb’s methods were fairly evident – often it’s much more subtle. Either way, it doesn’t feel good or loving.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Relationship Distress ToleranceMy Profile

  4. I think we lose respect for those who manipulate us. They imply we are incapable of making our own decisions and recovering from our own mistakes.

    However, when our spouse’s behavior affects the well being of the household, it is difficult to refrain from manipulating them into behaving differently.

    • That reminds me of how I felt when I first read Boundaries in Marriage. Setting boundaries felt like manipulation. It felt like, “if you don’t do x, I won’t do z.” It felt like instead of working towards a true heart change, it is just a technique of survival and manipulation to protect oneself from destructive behavior.

      Maybe in some ways it is. I would appreciate a more clear view on it.

      • @libl – One of the most misunderstood books out there. A lot of people who have never read it think they know what it says.
        I do see a fine line here, and it’s easy to cross that line. It’s really about saying what is and is not okay, and how you are going to react to what is not okay. An easy example is “If you hit me, I will call the police and have you put in jail”.
        Paul Byerly recently posted…Do You Treat Your Wife Like You Rent Her?My Profile

      • @ libl I had the same reaction when I read the book. It seemed to conflict with the lessons I was learning in Al-anon. It helped to think of boundaries as healthy decisions about taking care of and respecting myself. The boundaries apply to my behavior and actions.

        For example, if hubby is habitually late for dinner, a healthy boundary says I will eat on time and not waste energy being upset about his tardiness. I’m not trying to manipulate or control his behavior. I am managing MY behavior.

        This is similar, if not synonymous, with what is known in Al-anon circles as “loving detachment.” We show grace and kindness without being dependent on another’s response to make us feel valued. If something triggers our anxiety and we realize we are not able to interact in a healthy way, our boundary gives us the permission to step away.

        Hope this helps some.

        • @StandingTall – Excellent explanation, thanks.

          Of course part of the problem is a lot of folks have tried to make the book into a way to control and manipulate one’s spouse. I find a lot of men who have not read it think that is what it was intended to be.
          Paul Byerly recently posted…Friday Flashback: Have An Abundant MarriageMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

%d bloggers like this: