My wife recently made the comment, “I’ve spent my life being told I should be more this way or more that way. I’ve been told what I should be, how I should act and how I should do things.” My first thought was that she was referring to her upbringing and reflecting on the way her parents and family directed her. Then it occurred to me – we’ve literally been married twice as long as she was single. To have “spent her life being told” is not limited to her first twenty years, but must include the forty years we’ve been married. I asked her flat out, “Does that include your time with me?” to which she replied, “Yes, to some degree”. Wow! That was a wake-up call.
It is inevitable that we will influence our spouse, especially over an extended period of time. Realistically, we’re the most influential person in their lives (and vice versa). When you stop to think about it, that is a big responsibility and one not to be taken lightly.
Positive vs. Negative Influences
When our kids were young, we were always concerned about the influences on their lives. We spoke of “positive influences” and “negative influences”. We made every effort to steer them toward the former, and shield them from the latter. Be it friends they hung out with, or television shows they watched we remained very aware of what influences they were taking in.
But what awareness do we have when it comes to influencing your spouse? There’s no doubt that our influence is both intentional and unintentional. I can’t imagine anyone trying to intentionally influence their spouse in a negative manner, but I’m sure that it happens. As an example, one spouse may be more comfortable watching movies or television shows with graphic nudity or sex scenes than the other. Over time, neither spouse thinks anything about it.
Conversely, positive influence with spouse can be pursued. If one spouse persists in encouraging daily devotionals as a couple the reluctant spouse could come, over time to enjoy them. This takes determination and a vision of achieving a better relationship.
It’s a fine line between influence (positive or negative) and manipulation. Manipulation contains a selfish motivation. “I want them to do ______ because it pleases me.” Manipulation can come in many forms both overt and subtle. It can consist of providing rewards or withholding affection if the desired behavior is not displayed. I don’t believe this has any place in a Shocking Marriage. Rather, we should communicate our desires with our spouse and explain our reasoning behind them. Our intentions and motivations should always be obvious, never hidden in a marriage.
I know I’m not a perfect husband, and I’m sure I have both manipulated and negatively influenced my beloved over our four decades of marriage. And for that, I apologize. I hope that the positive influence has been much greater (in terms of intent and effect). Being aware of the level of influence we have on our spouse is a great place to start. With that knowledge, it is important to make sure our influence leads them to be a better person whenever possible.