Your spouse is completely exasperating you, and you can’t put up with it any longer. Perhaps if you punish your wife or husband long enough they’ll get the message and shape up. What can you do to get them to change? (We’re not talking physical violence; that could get you thrown in jail, and you don’t want that!) You could nag and complain, or give them the silent treatment, or stop doing what you usually do for the family, or withhold money or information, or refuse sex, or talk bad about them to your friends. Eventually you can force him or her to do what you need and want, right?
I received a note a few days ago from a desperate wife. “Would it be alright if I stopped cooking dinner for my husband? It’s become obvious to me that he is no longer interested in even trying to find a solution for our relationship.” She went on to describe what she had tried in the past to get him to change – to no avail. Something had to change.
If you’ve been trying to punish your wife or husband for some time, let me ask you Dr Phil’s question: “How’s that working out for you?” Totally aside from the Biblical directive to love your spouse, perhaps by now you’ve discovered that punishing them only serves to make your life worse. They either don’t understand and start punishing you in return, or they dig in, become defensive, and create an even thicker wall between you.
After a while you wake up and think, If they are the one who’s doing everything wrong, why am I the one who is miserable?
It’s enough to make any husband or wife want to throw in the towel. And that’s a good thing.
So does that mean you are doomed to either continue to live in misery – or leave?
Not at all. There is another way.
3 Steps to Getting What You Need and Want
You can think of these steps as punishing your wife or husband the right way, the way that will get your needs and wants met. So here we go.
- Assess who your spouse is. Is your husband or wife meticulous and careful? They may never sweep you off your feet for a romantic weekend, ever. Do they have low emotional intelligence, and don’t pay attention to other people’s feelings? Don’t expect a sensitive listening ear. Are they laid back and happy with a “small” life? Stop wishing they would develop a desire for more money or travel or excitement. Are they an addict, abusive, or mentally ill? Quit being surprised when they behave erratically, irresponsibly, and destructively.
- Stop trying to wring water from a turnip. Stop it already! If your silent treatment or nagging or withholding sex hasn’t changed them by now, doing more of the same won’t get you different results. There are some things you just won’t get from them regardless of how hard you try. So let them off the hook. Or more accurately, let yourself off the hook. Save your energy. Simply sit back and observe your spouse without expecting either good or bad. They are who they are. God can change them, but you can’t.
- Get your needs met somewhere else. That does NOT mean you have a license to engage in pornography or begin an affair; sex is only for marriage. But there are a lot of other ways to get your needs met than from your spouse. There are work colleagues or neighborhood moms or fishing buddies or Bible study friends to connect with and do things with. There are books to read and classes to attend and hobbies or business to engage in that will nurture your need for accomplishment and stimulation. There is a God to pray to and worship Who will fill the places of your heart that no human being can.
The point is to stop trying to get from your spouse what they cannot give. It’s really not punishing at all, but it’s the only way to get what you need.
Several things happen when you let your husband or wife off the hook. It gives God a chance to do something in their life that they were resisting because they were always resisting you. It makes you a more desirable person to be around. It allows you to see and love them for who they are because you’re not taking things personally any longer. And it most certainly helps you feel happier and less stressed.
And best of all, this type of “punishment” may actually save your marriage. You may find that your relationship can be salvaged, and that God can recreate what you thought was lost forever.
I encourage you to give it a try today.
What have you been trying to get your spouse to do – unsuccessfully? Where is a healthier place you can go to get that need met? Leave a comment below.
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