Marriage: Motivation Matters

Marriage Motivation MattersI recently purchased and read a book on the topic of how to be a good wife.  I have always had an interest in relationships and how they work, but of course as a wife, I can always use some pointers!

The book had some great ideas about what men in general want or need and practical ways to meet their needs.  However, over all I didn’t like the book; in fact, it made me feel a little ill.  The book was filled with statements like, “If you want your husband to be or do x, y and z, then be or do a, b and c.”  Thus the whole reason for me to be a good wife, apparently, is for me to turn my husband into the man I want.  I just want to yell, “FALSE!”  This bothers me to the core, because I am a selfish person.  Selfishness comes naturally.  I don’t need to read a book to tell me how to be more sweetly selfish.  The whole premise, though this is a “Christian” book filled with Bible references, is how to behave to get what I want.  My motivation should be first of all to do what pleases God.

As a Christian wife, my number one need is to glorify my Savior.  That is what I was created for.  I will not find joy in marriage if God is not the center and if my motivation is primarily to get what I want, even though I am doing “good” things.  Being or doing all the things my husband wants so that he will do what I want is just selfishness and will never bring me closer to God, no matter how pretty it looks on the outside.

In the beginning of our marriage I spent several years pursuing this exact mentality.  Guess what?  It didn’t work.  My husband grew up with several women who enjoyed doting on him.  This probably has a lot to do with his mother dying when he was young.  At his grandparents’ house one time, his grandmother asked him if he would like a drink.  He replied in the affirmative and kept doing what he was doing.  I was shocked.  “It’s obvious she is tired.  Why didn’t you offer to get up and get your own drink?” I asked him.

He looked at me kind of surprised, “But she ENJOYS getting things for me,” was his completely honest reply.  And she did enjoy getting and doing things for him. It took me a while to realize that if my husband is happy, he thinks I am happy.  If I am not complaining loudly or pitching a downright fit, and he is content with the way things are, then he just naturally thinks I am as happy as he is!  Believe me, no long list of doing good on my part is going to motivate him do some of the things I wish he would do.  It just wouldn’t occur to him.  I cannot change him!

So what has this taught me?  My motivation in doing good things for my husband needs to be to please and honor God.  If that is my focus, then I am not doing those good things selfishly, and they will have an eternal reward whether or not my husband ever endeavors to do the same for me.  To me that is so exciting because even though I have a husband who is pursuing godliness there will always be times when we disagree or he goes his own way.  I can trust God.  His Words are true.  He does not break His promises.  The books I read need to point me to Him and remind me of those reasons why obeying God is right, obeying God isn’t futile, obeying God brings real joy and eternal reward.  With this perspective, I am refueled to respect and follow my husband for God’s glory!

I need those reminders and exhortations because every day I struggle with selfishness when I am supposed to be putting others first.  I want my way.  I want things done my way.  I think my way is best.  But getting the things I think I want selfishly will never bring the lasting joy that can only be found in honoring and glorifying God.  (Of course I should still tell him my needs and wants.)  This is not only true for women, by the way.  For a man to selfishly pursue changing his wife is equally wrong.  Motivation matters!

(As always, posts about my husband are only published with his permission!)



  1. says

    I understand, and have read similar books. One of the things I’ve learned being married for eight years is that people essentially don’t change. There’s nothing I can do to change my husband…that’s up to him and God!

    It’s right to love, serve, and honor my husband because it’s the right thing to do, not just to reap personal rewards!

  2. says

    Very well put! A lot of so-called “Christian” books do NOT agree with Scripture, sadly enough these days. We have to be wise and remember that the Bible is our ultimate source of wisdom. Thanks for this post, Esther. Blessings!

  3. says

    So true!!! I like to say “Marriage is not a he-said-she-said issue – it’s a GOD SAID issue.” Me being a good wife is first and foremost between me and God, and THEN between me and my husband. It’s the same for husbands – being a good husband is first and foremost between them and God. It’s not my job to try to mold him into what I think he should be. And when we do that, we get in the way of God doing His work in our husbands’ lives.

    And now I’ve just managed to convict MYSELF. Ugh. Guess we could all use a reminder sometimes huh?

  4. says

    There’s a bigger issue here that people don’t realize when they think about changing others: changing yourself is one of things that has the most effect…on the other person.

    I know someone who’s a marriage counselor, and she once related something that happened to a client: a woman came to her very down about her 20 year marriage. At the end of the first visit, she asked her to come again, but to bring pictures of their early days of marriage.

    They spent that second session talking about the past and reminiscing, and the client was truly saddened to see how things had deteriorated in the marriage.She resolved to try one or two small things- to give to her husband even though she felt he didn’t deserve it – to make the marriage better.

    Surprisingly,in the next session she came in beaming, saying how wonderful her husband was? And she proceeded to name several things he had started to do for the better.

    The point is more than simply saying you can’t change the other person: you can change yourself, and that WILL have an effect on others.

    Also, re: reading all of that stuff about serving your husband: remember that he should be reading the same stuff about serving you! It is not, and should not be, a one-way street. You are both learning how to serve the other: you crown your husband king, but he crowns you queen.

    Third point: who says that because you serve someone you are inferior? That is a very “modern” notion that has infiltrated people’s minds.

    It is the woman who is actually the one who holds the family together. I think people underestimate the power of a woman; a woman has tremendous power, as long as she knows how to use it.

    Sorry this comment rambles on so. A post would’ve have been better, but it doesn’t fit my blog :).

  5. says

    Amen! Some marriage books have some great suggestions, but there are so many that are full of bologna! I completely agree with you – we are supposed to serve our spouse, as unto the Lord! If I’m only serving my husband when I feel like it or when I’m happy or when I want something from him, what kind of commitment is that? When I serve my husband because I want to and I do it out of my love for him and the Lord, that’s when it becomes unfailing love. It means that he can make mistakes and I will love and serve him just the same. And when I finally realized that I didn’t have the power to change him, only myself, our marriage became exponentially better!

    Thanks for this post, Esther!

  6. says

    I agree with you! Psychology teaches us how to selfishly manipulate, and none of that is pleasing to God. I try to see the weaknesses of my husband as endearing qualities that I would miss if he were gone. That way I treasure all of who he is and don’t expect to have a different person based on my own efforts.
    The beautiful thing that you mentioned is that when we are married to a believer, we are on the road toward holiness together. My husband is a better man now, not because of any manipulation on my part, but because of God’s grace in his life as he attempts to walk in a way that is pleasing to God (without my interference, might I add!)

  7. Hattie says

    This is a good reminder for me…..selfishness is not a character trait I want to admit I have….poor Jay sometimes gets blamed for my being selfish. I agree with Susan….I have seen Jay change into an incredible husband and father, but that is all due to the Lord working in his life….I can’t take any of the credit!! I have a read a lot of “Christian how to be…” books and I have not gained much insight from them. Rather, God has given me insight as I go through and experience life as it ebbs and flows….

  8. says

    Hi! Not sure which book you read, but one that we really like is Marriage on the Rock. Written by Jimmy and Karen Evans.

    I love seeing other couples work to put their marriages in Godly condition. You guys are blessed just in knowing that!

  9. Frieda says

    Yes, motivation definitely matters. The main thing I got out of some of those books was not how to change my husband (I already know that’s not feasible) but how many women have the very same problems. I think it helps sometimes to know other people deal with the exact same issues. And the Bible still has the right answers.

  10. Cheri Gregory says

    Your point sure hits home with me! I’ve seen more than enough of such books.

    At a recent wedding, the minister told the groom that all it would take to make his wife happy was to buy his wife flowers or a card once a week. Don’t get me wrong — I think flowers and cards are nice. But if this poor man really thinks that ALL it’s going to take to keep his wife happy is flowers and a card, he’s in for a rude awakening!

    Aside from the fact that his new bride may or may not actually be a flowers-and-cards-kinda-gal (she strikes me as more of a acts-of-service receiver), nothing a husband does will MAKE his wife happy. And a mentality that says the purpose of marriage is for one partner to “make” the other partner happy is doomed for pain and failure.

    It’s been about a decade since I woke up to the startling truth that the reason I was so miserable in my marriage was that I expected my husband to rescue me from all my issues. I expected him to “save” me from myself. I expected my husband — a flawed human married to another flawed human — to be my “savior.”

    I didn’t need “in order to get x, y, z from your husband, do a, b, and c” books at that point. I needed spiritual mentoring that focused not on my husband or my marriage, but on my relationship with Christ.

  11. Frieda says

    I read a book a long time ago by Larry Crabb called “The Marriage Builder.” What has stayed with me over the years is the concept that Cheri alluded to: We should not expect our spouse to meet our needs and make us happy. We should try to meet his or her needs in obedience to the Lord and depend on our relationship with the Lord for joy and fulfillment.

    I appreciated this blog and all the responses.

  12. says

    Excellent post! And so true! My friend Lauren is reading and doing a book study on “Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?” I am looking forward to her comments, because I’ve seen the kind of books to which you are referring, too, and something makes me think this isn’t one of them.

  13. Jill says

    I think motivation definitely matters…but that raises many questions…Is it wrong to want holiness for your husband? Aren’t we suppose to, according to God’s Word be helpers (and sisters-in-Christ if our spouse is a believer)? Doesn’t God put us together to “sanctify” us both in a marriage? Is it possible to want change for the right reasons and go about it in a Godly, respectful and loving way? (easier said than done) I would say it is absolutely your God given responsibility to pursue what is best for your husband and help him go in that direction…especially if he is a believer. We have the responsibility to do the same for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Learning how to do it respectfully and lovingly is not easy…but if your desire is for your husband to be more Godly, I can’t find anything wrong with that… And absolutely see that the reason God uniquely designed each of us is not by accident…it is for both of us to sanctify/change eachother into Christlikeness. Him to become more loving of his wife and understanding, and me to become more respectful and submissive, amongst other things. Of course I can’t produce the change, but I am a key player in my husbands holiness. It is messy! And hard! And beautiful! :)

  14. says

    When all is said and done, I want my motivation to be about giving to my husband as unto my Lord, Jesus. That’s truly the bottom line for me as well. I appreciate your admonition here since I struggle with selfishness as well. Thanks for the challenge!

  15. says

    I’d love for you to link this up with Wedded Wed over at my place (Messy Marriage), Esther! I’d love for my readers to have access to it! Great thoughts!

  16. Sarah says

    Your article perfectly correlates to Colossians 3:23-24 – Do everything that I do for the Lord – when that is my motivation then people’s actions/reactions around me become a blessing. No manipulation required:)

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