How do I get my spouse to do [blank]?

Jay Dee

How do I get my spouse to do [blank]?

Mar 08, 2013

Want to change your spouse? Trying to figure out how to do it? Thinking “how can I get my spouse to do this”? Here’s how you do it.

This must be the most frequent question I get.  Readers always want to know “how do I get my spouse to do …”, whatever.  It’s not always phrased this bluntly, there is a myriad of subtle variations (like this comment on my last post), but at the end of the day the spouse A wants spouse B to do (or not do) something they aren’t (or are) doing.  We want an action plan, and people have made millions creating action plans and selling them to the masses because we all want to believe that if he did A -> B -> C and got to D, we can follow the same steps.

What did you do?

I’ve been pretty clear that my marriage was not always what it is now, that we started off being a “sexless” marriage, but we have, over the years, improved.  I often get asked, “what did you do to fix it?” I know what you want.  You want a turnkey solution to fixing your marriage.

Here’s the problem:  Your marriage is not my marriage.  What I did will not work perfectly in yours.  It didn’t even work perfectly in mine.  It took a lot of heartache, hard discussions, and growing on both sides.  It is not a simple A -> B -> C solution.

That said, I think the Bible has some advice for us that is so generic it will work in any situation.  That’s the easy part.  The hard part is interpreting it for your marriage/life.

What to do when I can’t get my spouse to do what is right

When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment

John 16:8

I have a love/hate relationship with this answer.  I love it because it’s so simplistic, it relieves us of any potential guilt of failing to convert/change our spouse, and it tells us God is in charge.  I hate it because I want to be the saviour, and I want to be able to affect change, and I want to be able to pick when and how it happens, and everything that is selfish within me screams that I must be able to “do” something, anything!  But you can’t.  It is not in our hands.  We don’t get to make decisions about other people’s thoughts and will.  So, is that it?  Well, no, we can do something.

Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives

1 Peter 3:1

Now, this is talking to wives, but I think we can extrapolate to husbands as well, for the purposes of this discussion.  There is great power in being an example to others.  Most often, showing is more powerful than telling someone.  I believe this is the primary reason we are losing so many youths from our churches.  In the last generation or two, there has been a severe decline in Christians being sincere in their beliefs.  We used to get made fun of for being old-fashioned, for having outdated ideals, antiquated traditions.  Now we are scoffed at for being hypocrites, and leading the march against us are our teenagers.  Why?  If you care to know, I’ll indent to explain, if you don’t care, you can skip to the next section.

Brain Development

People’s brains are amazing things, and even more so are the brains of children.  Our brain continues to grow at an astounding rate starting before we’re born until about age 25.  There are some key milestones

  • 7-12 months – basic language skills, plays simple games, looks for lost items
  • 12-24 months – start to like songs, stories, rhymes, understand familiar objects (cup, spoon, etc), start playing make-believe.
  • 2-3 years – sorting objects, solving simple problems, more advanced make-believe
  • 3-4 years – classifying objects by purpose, more complex problem solving, engages in fantasy play
  • 4-5 years – can distinguish between fantasy and reality, wants to experience things they have seen or heard, but not experienced themselves
  • 5-7 years – more complex problem solving, more complex fantasies and wanting to experience riskier scenarios
  • 7-11 years – increased memory, can develop plans to meet goals, start to trace problems back to its origins
  • 11-15 years – this is where it gets scary

Somewhere in the 11-15 year mark (it differs per kid of course), something flips.  It is like there is a single connection that changes things, and as soon as it is made, nothing is ever the same again.  It is the idea of the ideal.  The concept that there is a “perfect”.  A perfect day, a perfect painting, a perfect friend, and yes, a perfect family.  And guess what.  You aren’t the perfect family.  And now they know.  And this is where some of them snap, they believe there is a perfect family out there, and they are stuck in a “flawed” one.  And they are pissed, and the only thing that could make it more catastrophic: if no one acknowledges it.  This is where we lose them.

They start to understand that there is a perfect dad, a perfect mom, a perfect Christian.  Even if none of these things exists, there is a theoretical possibility, and we will fail to match it.  So, what do we do?  Sadly, most of us put up our shiny walls, we hide.  We hide the dirt, the flaws, the problems, we sweep it under the rug, we tell them “don’t go in there”, “don’t talk about that”.  We think “if they don’t see it, they won’t know it’s there”.  Too bad, they already know you’re not perfect.

So, they grow up believing you are even worse than a flawed human: you are a hypocrite.  And if you are a hypocrite, then why would they want to follow some outdated religious views of their hypocritical parents?  And as soon as they can, they leave to find perfection, because instead of dealing with the issue head-on, we stepped around it and pretended it wasn’t there.

Alternatively, we teach our children that we are flawed before they can figure it out for themselves.  We apologize and ask for forgiveness FROM THEM when we hurt them (accidentally, on purpose, physically, emotionally or otherwise).  They will grow up seeing that yes, their parents are flawed, but that’s OK, they are dealing with it and learning to grow, and the child can too.  The world is not that scary, we’re all in it together, and we have a loving God to help us along the way.  Anyways, we should get back to the topic, because I could talk about this other topic for days and completely forget what I was doing in the first place.

Show by example

So, as I was saying.  Be sincere in your faith and life.  Show by example.  Now, this isn’t as simple as “well, if I show I want sex all the time, she’ll want sex all the time”.  Libido is probably not the underlying issue.  There are plenty of spouses with low libido that still have frequent sex.  But, perhaps there is an issue of selfishness.  Perhaps you both are selfish.  In fact, I guarantee you both are in some way with some part of your life, because there are no completely selfless people.  So, show how to be selfless by being more selfless yourself.  If you’re having trouble with this, I highly suggest a DVD and workbook called A Life to Die For.  Our church’s small groups have gone through it twice, and I swear, it changed the entire culture of our church from the inside out. In fact, we intend to do it again, because it was so impacting, and because we’re feeling a little selfish again and need a refresher.

Finally, I’ll leave you with some verses on leading by example:

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity

Titus 2:7

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Ephesians 5:1

Be imitators of me (Paul), as I am of Christ

1 Corinthians 11:1

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

Lastly, and above all.  Don’t forget to pray.  I know we all say that and it’s almost cliché now, but prayer helps.  Sometimes it helps by having the outcome you want.  Sometimes it helps by venting.  Sometimes it helps by showing you what you really need.  Don’t worry about the outcome.  Just pray.

Your Turn

So, how do you change your spouse?  Be an example and pray.  Show Christ to them, and let Him change them.  Best case scenario: you’re spouse recognizes what they are doing and repents.  Worst case scenario: you’re spouse never changes, but your relationship with God improves.  It’s a win-win.

Looking for help?

11 thoughts on “How do I get my spouse to do [blank]?”

  1. Hannah says:

    For a long time I wanted my husband to change and be more of a spiritual leader. Then I came to the realization that I wasn’t making Christ “attractive” to him, I wasn’t praying for him, and worse still, I was neglecting my relationship with God.

    Once I committed to praying regularly for my own life, for my husband, letting God know my desires, searching Scriptures to see if my desires lined up with His plan, praying for the Lord to move in my husband’s heart in His timing and His way, and working regularly on my personal relationship with God, something changed drastically. I noticed a BIG change in my heart, in the way I spoke to my husband, acted around him, acted when he wasn’t around, in the way we had sex, in the way we prioritized our time, and in the way we sought the Lord together and separately. My husband began initiating conversations about the Lord, asking me about my own walk, encouraging me to seek God, sharing with me what God was teaching him, and he initiated a Bible study with me. Now every night before bed we read through Scripture together and discuss it, we pray together every night before bed (which was already in place), and we discuss God in the mornings and he prays over me. And many, many more things are happening too; those are just a few examples.

    When wives set out to “change” their husbands, I believe they need a heart change too. Something in their lives and spiritual walk is off if they feel they deserve a husband that does X, Y, and Z, and they need to get right before God before they can demand something of God and their husbands, especially regarding a spiritual walk. The blessings of going about asking God to work in your husband’s heart and communicating your desires respectfully to your husband in a godly manner are ten-fold. My marriage is living proof.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Thanks for sharing Hannah. What a great example, that’s exactly what I was trying to get across.

  2. Kris says:

    5 years ago my husband expressed that he needed to have sex at least 2 to 3 times a week compared to once a week or him not really knowing for sure when we would have sex. He said this was his greatest need that he had. We read several books about needs and I realized that I needed to do more. He is an amazing husband to me in so many ways.
    Now , I wear more lingerie, try new positions, try to spice things up, ask him his fantasies and try to meet those. I’ve done what I said I would do and I’m still trying to do even better.

    But, I told him my greatest need was for him to be a spiritual leader of our family and pray with us, lead us in devotionals, read the Bible with us and more. He led one devotion and prayed once with me in those 5 years. I’ve reminded him of his promise to me and he says I know I should but it is so hard. Well, guess what it was very hard for me too to make all the sexual changes that I made. How can I get him to step up and do what he should do?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      It’s a hard position to be in. You cannot make people do what you want, even if it’s the right thing, and even if you are suffering because of it.

      Here’s some thoughts that may expand a bit on the post:

      Model the behavior. Maybe he doesn’t know how to be the spiritual leader because no one was a leader to him growing up except pastors. I have the same problem. My dad, while being very involved with the church (treasury, deacon, etc), and while going to church twice every Sunday, never opened his mouth once to tell me about God. My mother spent more time discussing theology, but still, I’m not sure I’d consider her a good example of what to drawn on a spiritual leader of the family. I’m having to learn/make it up as I go along with my family, and it took me 10 years of marriage, and 5 years of being a father, to figure out I needed to.

      Pray for him. Pray for him with him. Let him hear you asking God to empower him, to teach him, to disciple him, to bring role models into his life to teach him this role. Don’t beat him up during prayer, don’t tear him down, but build him up. If you want him to start acting like the spiritual leader of the family, maybe you need to start treating him like it. Perhaps then he’ll step up to plate. Ask his opinion on theological questions. Stop waiting for him to spontaneously start prayer, ask him to pray at that moment. Pick out a devotional and ask him to lead it. You are his wife, don’t be his enemy in this (forcing him to do something he’s not ready for), instead, be his helper, his partner. Support him in this position.

      Be specific about what you want. Don’t say “I want you to be the spiritual leader of the family” and leave it at that. Explain to him what you mean by that specifically, explain what it means to you emotionally (how it impacts you). Explain what the positive outcomes of him taking on this role could be. As I said, if it hasn’t been modeled to him, he may not know what to do, why he should do it, or what benefit there may be to the family.

      1. Kris says:

        Thank you for the advice and compliment. We’ve been married 21 years. This whole new awakening on my part started 5 years ago upon his request, through books and blogs. I grew up that sex was bad and it was never discussed. I was content with once a week in the missionary position. I was the LD spouse and he the HD spouse. He wanted more frequency and to spice things up. Just always had a lack of desire to get the ball rolling, but have always been able to orgasm in every session.
        What I can’t seem to get past, although growing in freedom in Christ, is that I felt like his fantasies and many sexual ideas had to stem from the world and porn, which made me see him as a pervert. I’ve learned since then through reading a lot if different things that maybe that wasn’t so odd after all. He will read anything he can get his hands on about ways to make our marriage and sex life better, just wished he would read more about growing in Christ.

        The tying up routine and a few other things seems like that would never have been thought of by the typical guy if it hadn’t been seen in porn first ?? Wished it didn’t all seem so hard and everybody had the same drive.
        I do think that I’m going to have to be the one to to start to lead the praying, bible reading and devo’s. hopefully he will have a break through in this and take the lead.
        Thank you for your time!

        1. Jay Dee says:

          I think it may be flawed logic to think guys wouldn’t think of these things on their own without porn. I mean, where did porn get the idea? The porn industry does it because men are turned on by it. At some point, someone must have figure it out on their own.

          Now, I agree, it probably is a catalyst in many circumstances, but I don’t think you can write off the interest completely.

          In fact, I think it was my wife’s idea to begin with bondage play, and she’s never seen porn.

          At the end of the day, God made sex, God made our bodies, and God made men to dominate. Granted, sin corrupted much of that, but I don’t thinks its a total write-off, meaning I don’t think all sexual activity outside of missionary position is inherently sinful. For that matter, you could argue that Adam and Eve might not have even had sex in missionary position…considering the only other sexual activity happening in the world was animal, doggy style would have been seen by them first…

          I hope your attempts to show your husband how to lead pay off. I’d love to hear how things are going later on.

          1. Dragonfly says:

            Jay, I am with your comment about assuming that because he is coming up with these fantasies he is looking at porn. HOWEVER…as a recovering porn addict I must say that I see classic signs of porn use in her description of the last five years of her life with her husband. I was ( and still am to some point ) just like that in that I wanted to do all this new stuff in sex. Basically I was being SELFISH. I wanted, wanted, wanted from my wife but was not willing to do anything in return that she wanted me to do (help with housework for example). I would take take take and give nothing in return. I would not even try to lead my home in anyway, but I have learned over the past few weeks and months that I need to start giving more. Giving more to my wife, kids, church, work, everything.

            This change all started when my wife started to pay for a service on our computers that not only TRACKS where I go on the internet and sends her an email EVERY WEEK but also filters out certain sites that we can specify by web address including FACEBOOK (that’s right ladies and gents I had to GIVE UP Facebook), YOUTUBE, all the sites that I used to go to look at the porn, and certain sites that we used to use to shop for intimates for my wife (she is a “bigger” girl and can’t buy bras locally so we have to order them for her). She can still log on and WE can look TOGETHER but I can’t log on and look with out her. She has also placed TIME LIMITS on there that only allow me to be online during certain hours of the day. Sadly this service doesn’t work that well on android based device so we made the DIFFICULT decision to GET RID OF OUR SMARTPHONES (yes BOTH of us got rid of them…not just me) and went back to “dumb” phones. We both miss them once in a while but over time we have learned to adapt and have found that time out (date nights and such) have been much more productive for both of us without them!!!

            “Covenant Eyes” (See “my website” for the link to the accountability and other services they provide) is the name of the company by the way…

            By using this program/service we have found that I am much more likely to be surfing for ways to build our marriage (how I found you Jay) and finding studies that help to develop me as a spiritual leader because that is what my wife would like (and needs) from me. I have stopped looking at porn and as much of an annoyance this program can be to me (or so the devil will tell me) I actually have come to like its time limits especially because when I come home from work I go snuggle with DW and even though she is asleep most of the time that closeness is wonderful! (I work 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and she runs a daycare so we are on kind of opposite schedules!)

            1. Jay Dee says:

              Good for you for making changes in your marriage and life that you realized were hurting you. That’s fantastic. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Covenant Eyes, though I’ve never used it myself.
              Thanks for the comment Dragonfly.

    2. Jay Dee says:

      Oh, and I completely forgot to say: Good for you for meeting your husbands needs! That’s amazing.

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