The Right and Wrong Way to Motivate Your Spouse to Love You Better
If you feel stuck or your relationship is not growing, you may be missing one of the 6 components of relationship growth
On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.
In today’s podcast, Coach Jack teaches you how not to get your spouse to change and 6 steps you can take to increase your spouse’s desire for you while also improving your spouse’s behavior toward you.
After listening to today’s podcast, you may want to:
The Right and Wrong Way to Motivate Your Spouse to Love You Better
[Introduction to the podcast]
Announcer: On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.
Coach Jack: One of the most common reasons for marriage dissatisfaction is the difference between how spouses used to treat us and how they treat us now. If you married Prince Charming, he may have become Average Joe. If you married Average Joe, he may have become Pesty Pete. If you married Cinderella, she may have become more like one of the nasty step sisters. If this has happened in your relationship, you may be making a lot of effort to get your spouse to be even a little more like the person you fell in love with.
The more forceful you are in trying to get your spouse to become the way he or she used to be, the more angry and frustrated you will become. And, the more angry and frustrated you become, the worse your spouse will become. This creates a downward spiral which can end a relationship quickly.
For 28 years now, I’ve been helping people to motivate their spouses in ways that lead to ever increasing improvement rather than rapid decline. Because my specialty is reconciling relationship when one spouse is often preparing for divorce, I need to help people to learn how to turn things around in a relatively short period of time.
The goals of my coaching for reconciliation is to help people to motivate their spouses to do three types of things: 1) to motivate their spouses to continue their marriages, 2) to help people to motivate their spouse to increase the amount of emotional and physical intimacy in their marriage, and 3) to help people to motivate their spouses to stop damaging behaviors such as verbal abuse, addictions, affairs, and disrespect.
Knowing how to do this is no more technical than knowing how to do a business start up, to learn to play a sport, or how to speak another language. However, just like learning those things, the right skills and practice make the difference between being very successful, somewhat successful, or not successful at all. I always tell my clients that the ability to improve their relationship and reconcile depends almost entirely on what they do and not on what their spouse does.
People who insist that they are not the ones who need to make changes are resistant to learning new skills and do not practice ones they learn. They most often have the mistaken notion that the best way to get a spouse to change is to send them to counseling or to take them to couples counseling to be changed by the therapist. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Counselors can’t help people to change in ways that they don’t already want to change. If you take a reluctant spouse to counseling to be changed, your relationship will become more divided. The same is true for coaching. If you get your spouse to get coaching, they will not be motivated to have the outcome my skills will provide, such as more intimacy in their relationship. They won’t listen well and won’t practice skills. They will then use their lack of success as evidence that coaching will not work.
People sometimes attend counseling for years, enjoying the support they get in counseling, but never once making any of the changes suggested by the counselor for improving their life. If I have a client who insists they do not need to change, I refer them to counseling, where they can be validated for the victim status without having any pressure to do anything about it.
Besides sending spouses to get help, another common attempt people make to change their spouse is to use coercive behaviors such as criticizing, arguing, and nagging. Coercion can result in short term compliance. If you can badger your spouse enough, then your spouse will make just enough change to get you off of his or her back. However, that temporary and partial change comes at the cost of creating more distance in your relationship.
When that happens, you will have to criticize, argue, or nag even more to get the same level of compliance–further damaging your relationship. The end result of badgering your spouse into making these partial and temporary changes is to severely damage your relationship. If you are have become like this, the only thing that may motivate you to stop is when your spouse decides to leave you.
Many of the people I work with get such a surprising wakeup call after years of neglecting and damaging their relationship. Preventing such marriage destruction is the main reason I wrote my book, Overcome Neediness and Get the Love You Want. Damaging behaviors and needy behaviors are one in the same because they are motivated by fear and selfishness rather than by love.
You might be surprised to find that two other approaches to marriage building are also very damaging. These are: 1) being nice, and 2) being submissive. If we have a loving and caring spouse, then these are great ways to behave. But, in that situation, behaving this way is not an attempt to get your spouse to improve. If your marriage does not need improvement, then certainly be nice to each other and submit to each other. That is a good Christian marriage.
As methods of creating improvement however, these two methods—being nice, and being submissive will work in only one situation. That is when your spouse also wants to improve your relationship. Coaches who advocate the submission approach are not going to be very helpful in reconciling situations where a spouse will no longer respond positively to such behavior.
If your spouse is not motivated to reconcile or change any of their negative behaviors, being nice or submitting to them does nothing to motivate them either to reconcile or to change their behavior. They will simply enjoy your nice behaviors and your submission, while continuing to leave you or continuing their damaging behaviors. They will become used to that. Then, if you stop being nice or stop being submissive, they will become very upset and blame and all relationship problems on your no longer being nice or submissive.
Just like giving handouts to people without jobs does not motivate them to work, giving relationship handouts to people who do not work on their relationship does not motivate them to work on them. Just as a welfare society leads to increasing unemployment, unconditional love leads to spoiled brat behavior from our spouses. And, if you are thinking that unconditional love is a biblical concept, you need to read your Bible more often. It turns out that love without boundaries is not loving at all.
What can people do to have good relationships? The very best ways to have good relationship is to choose your friends and spouse carefully from the beginning, to make sure you are well matched, to make sure you are not doing any damaging behavior, to continue to be an attractive friend and spouse, to use good connection skills, and to have good boundaries from the beginning of your relationship. These behaviors foster loving and respectful relationships that endure. Your Prince Charming will stay charming, your princess will remain your prize.
Unfortunately, most people get married before they know better about relationships and by the time they learn, the damage has already been done.Those are the people I work with and we do improve their relationships. If you are having problems with your spouse, you are in the same situation and can benefit from the same skills.
To motivate your spouse will require that you work on putting into your relationship what you should have put there and maintained from the beginning. This means working on what YOU do rather than sending your spouse somewhere to be changed.
Your spouse will only be motivated to be with you and to work on maintaining your relationship if:
1. Your spouse is relaxed with you.
2. Your spouse feels desired by you.
3. You are not creating distance with needy behaviors.
4. You are continuing to be an attractive spouse, in the full sense of the word “attractive.”
5. You are using good connection skills to help your spouse enjoy seeing you, talking with you, and interacting with you. And,
6. You are using good boundaries that earn your spouse’s respect and stop his or her damaging behavior toward you.
Let me help you to adjust your mindset a little. Let’s imagine for a moment, that your spouse was wanting to motivate YOU to behave better toward him or her. That is, your spouse was wanting to get more love and attention from you. Have you got that image in your mind—imagine your spouse was wanting to get more love and attention from you. Okay, now do you think your spouse sending you to therapy to be fixed would do the trick. Or how about your spouse criticizing, complaining, and arguing with you about how bad you are as a spouse. Would that really create in you feelings of love for your spouse and the desire to give your spouse more attention? Or, do you think it more likely that it would make you more resentful toward your spouse, make your relationship more of a job, and make you want to spend even less time interacting with your spouse?
How about, if instead, your spouse consistently behaved in a relaxed and friendly way with you, behaves like the attractive person that you first married, made you feel desirable and attractive, used good connection skills with you, and used good boundaries with you to earn your respect? Although you might not like the boundaries, I bet you would desire your spouse much more and want to spend more time together. The boundaries would help to make sure that you didn’t mistreat your spouse, but you really wouldn’t mind them so much because you would once again have a wonderful spouse.
People don’t really want a spouse who just lets them do whatever. That would make them feel like their spouse just doesn’t care anymore. It would be like parents who just let their kids do whatever, no matter how bad it was. That might make them feel free, but it sure wouldn’t make them feel loved. At the same time, people don’t want a spouse who is critical and controlling. Micromanaging your spouse, like micromanaging your kids, will result in relationship avoidance rather than relationship improvement. The keys to relationship improvement are: 1) getting back to being the person your spouse fell in love with, and 2) building respect through boundaries rather than critical or controlling behavior. Remember, a boundary is NOT what you tell your spouse to do or not do. A boundary is what you do or don’t do in response to your spouse, or anyone else.
What is the skill, that if you had it, would make the biggest difference in your relationship? Is it consistently being relaxed and friendly? It is being an attractive spouse? Is it using good connection skills? Or is it using good boundaries? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Your relationship will also tend to break at your weakest link. Identify which of these skills is your weakest and work on it until you do that well. Working on that weakest link may be enough for you to never have to be concerned about your marriage. Or, you may have another skill that also needs strengthening. If so, work on that next. You will make more progress working on your weakest link only, rather than trying to improve everything at once. Also, if you try to improve everything at once, it will seem too odd for your spouse and be less effective in building your relationship.
It is possible to achieve your ideal relationship, without the help of your spouse, by learning the right skills, in the right order, and one at a time. It will be easier that way, and your relationship will improve faster. Stop falling for the myth that it takes two to improve a relationship. That will only make you feel stuck if your spouse is not motivated to improve your relationship now. Just as a single person can attract and connect with another person who is not interested in them, you can do the same with your spouse, in much the same way.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack. Visit coachjackito.com to learn more skills for reconnecting with your spouse and restoring your marriage.