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Thanks for your prayers for me and balance. I’m working on it, and still need to find the right rhythm between work, rest and play.
Today’s Question: I still feel stuck when it comes to asking my husband for changes in his attitude or behavior. He has asked for specifics so he can see what I am referring to in what he calls a “blind spot.” I sense the need to define it also.
I do not want to manipulate; so how do I ask for action yet not manipulate? If I spend time away or separate in some way to let him know this is serious and I am asking for a response, aren't I forcing my hand? My request?
I think part of it is that I need a plan if he says “no” and sticks to that. He has to have the freedom to say “no”, but that involves consequences and raises the same type of question again: How do I give consequences and not cross the boundary into manipulation or sounding peevish (well, since you won't, then I will…). I feel like if he continues as is, I need time for balance away from the chaos for myself.
I do check myself by asking: Am I handling this biblically? Am I being subject to authorities with respect, gentleness and a quiet spirit (I Peter 2)?. Yet, am I doing well, which I think probably includes more than tolerating and peacekeeping. I don't want to put the tools of boundaries before God's leading.
Answer: I appreciate your question and the heart-felt anguish and thoughtfulness in trying to discern your own heart’s response. Let me make sure I understand what you’re confused or unsure about.
You ask your husband to do something or change something that you would like him to do or change.
You want him to have the freedom to say “no” if he doesn’t want to.
But then, where does that leave you if he doesn’t change? You don’t want to manipulate him into saying “yes” by giving him a consequence. But on the other hand, if you have no consequence, that seems to minimize the seriousness of your request that changes must be made
Without more details on the specifics you want changed, I can’t answer yes or no because I can think of examples where it could be either. Therefore, I will just respond theoretically and give some examples.
First, there are many things that we might like to see our spouse change that have little or nothing to do with our safety (physical, emotional, financial, spiritual or sexual). I might want my husband to be neater with his papers around the house or help more with household chores. These are legitimate requests that might even bring some consequences if he chooses to not change, but they would be mild and they usually do not threaten the stability of the marriage
For example, if he doesn’t want to be neater with his papers, a consequence might be that he can’t find the bills he needs when they are due–especially if I gather them all together and put them in a single box in his office instead of leaving them spread all over the kitchen counter.
If he chooses not to help around the house, a consequence for his decision might be either our house would be messier or there would be less money available to spend for fun things because I had to hire people to help do the things he didn’t want to do.
So, the first principle of consequences is that they should match up with the situation in which you are asking for a change. For example, if your husband drives recklessly or while intoxicated and he refuses to change, a consequence to his refusal might be that you don’t drive with him anymore unless he allows you to drive the car. Manipulation would sound different. It might sound more like a threat, “If you drink at the party tonight, I won’t speak to you” or “I’ll never go anywhere with you again.”
A consequence of infidelity or financial deceit is broken trust. Asking for bank records or passwords to rebuild trust would be reasonable. To refuse would mean continued broken trust and perhaps separation if you did not feel safe. However, adding, “If you don’t give me your passwords, I’m going to call your mother and tell her everything you did to me,” would be crossing the line into manipulation.
Controlling spouses are manipulative and bullying, but often use the term “consequences” to confuse you and make it seem like they are not doing anything abusive. However, there is no genuine choice because if you don’t do what he or she wants, there is a punishment (not a consequence). For example, if you don’t stop arguing or disagreeing and he loses his temper and becomes violent, it’s your fault and a consequence because you would not stop when he said to stop. Or, if he told you he didn’t want you to talk with your friend on the phone but you chose to talk with her and he took your cell phone away or cancelled it as a consequence of you disobeying him, that’s controlling and abusive. That is not implementing appropriate consequences.
Good and bad consequences are a natural result of someone’s decisions and don’t include guilt trips, lying, bullying or threats, badgering, name calling, deceit or emotional tantrums. Manipulation, on the other hand, contains some or all of the above.
The bottom line is that these terms are sometimes inadequate words to flesh out all of the nuanced ways we can be sneaky to push to get our own way. Therefore, make sure your consequence is appropriate to the situation as well as biblically appropriate. To refuse to talk to an adult child for 6 months because they didn’t come home for the holidays is manipulative. To be genuinely disappointed about his or her decision is a natural consequence, and for them to expect otherwise would be unrealistic.
Friends, how have you discerned the seemingly fine line between implementing consequences that serve as a wake-up call to sinful and inappropriate behaviors verses being tempted to manipulate someone to get him or her to change their decisions or do what you want?
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