"[Love] does not insist on its own way." - 1 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)
Oh, my friends, we know what buttons to push, don't we?
It's amazing how quickly we learn what gets us our way. It happens so early in life we probably aren't even aware of it.
When my firstborn was just a little one I began to notice she had a way of getting what she wanted. She had these big blue eyes that just melted my heart when she looked at me a certain way. And, yes, I would almost always give in.
Every one of us has "batted our blue eyes" at one time or another. And with each successful attempt at getting our way, our covert skill increases.
It's called manipulation. It's taking advantage of another person or situation for our own pleasure and benefit. It's putting ourselves before the good of others.
And the Bible tells us this is wrong: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).
In short ... manipulation is SIN.
Vocabulary.com says, "a manipulative person knows how to twist words, play on emotions and otherwise manage a situation in a sneaky fashion to get what he wants."
And sadly, we probably do this the most with the person we know the best - our spouse. The one we are to love and care for above all others.
There is no love in manipulation. Therefore, manipulation has no place in a marriage.
In fact, manipulation is a tool of the devil. He used it on Eve, on Jesus, and he uses it on us every single day. He knows best how to push someone's buttons. And we certainly don't want to follow in his footsteps.
But so often we don't even recognize when we do it.
Just take a look. Have you noticed yourself doing any of these things?
A Manipulation Checklist
Yeah, men, I know - you probably haven't done this. But oh, we women are so good with tears! Now, I'm not saying that every time we cry we are using it as a way to get what we want. Some of us just de-stress that way or have a hard time hiding our emotions. But I know there have been times when I've let my tears flow a little longer because I wanted more attention, or I wanted my husband to know how bad I felt, or I wanted him to give in. (I'm not proud of it, but it's true.)
I confess I know this one a little too well. When I'm stressed, I sigh. I think most of us do. And that, in itself, isn't sinful. Like tears, sighing can relieve stress. But when the sighs are louder and more pronounced to get attention, that's when they become manipulative. This usually happens when I'm upset or not happy about something and I want my husband to notice. A big sigh usually does the trick and he'll ask what's wrong. It's almost like bait, and once I've got his attention then I can reel him in. (I can relate to far too many of these.)
Ooh. This is a big one. As with most things, there is good silence and bad silence. Good silence can be backing away from a heated conversation to cool down or take time to pray about it. But bad silence is when it is used as a weapon against my spouse. And I think we all can tell the difference.
I suppose this one is obvious. We don't agree on something and we want our way, so we argue. And usually we throw some of these other manipulative strategies into the mix.
This one is so pathetic, and I am sad to say I know it well. Attempting to make our spouse feel guilty so he'll feel bad and give in. And it doesn't even take any creativity. It's just too easy to do.
This one is interesting. It is a form of manipulation where you break the other person down by annoying them into submission. Constant complaining becomes like nails on a chalkboard.
It's so easy to focus in on what we see as our spouse's faults. And when we want them to change, we can find all kinds of ways to point it out to them. Criticizing breaks them down.
Kind of the opposite of criticizing. But this one is telling them what we think they want or need to hear in order for them to do what we want. Flattering isn't complimenting or praising to encourage our spouse. Flattering is "buttering them up" so they will agree with us.
I suppose questioning what our spouse does is another form of criticizing. It isn't coming right out and telling them what they are doing is wrong in our eyes, but by mere suggestion in question form, we move them to doubt themselves and press them to see things our way.
This can take various forms - refusing to discuss something, refusing to go along with their decision or desire, refusing intimacy, or rebelling in some other way. This is obvious rebellion with the goal that our spouse will give in.
This is probably the most obvious of all. If we can't recognize when we yell, then we probably do it most of the time. (Ouch.)
Related to criticizing, belittling goes one step further and often includes humiliation. Putting them down in front of others to put the pressure on or to attempt to make yourself look better. Oh, this one is SO harmful!
Giving gifts seems so great and good on the surface. But along with flattering, this method doesn't give with the desire to bless our spouse. It is given to appease or bribe.
These, of course, are just samples of the many methods we can use to manipulate.
Did any ring a bell with you? I, for one, had bells ringing all over the place. (What a sorry statement!)
The bottom line? Manipulation begins and ends with SELF. What I want is the all-important focus and goal.
But marriage isn't about getting what we each want. It's about sharing life together. It's learning to love each other like God loves us - unconditionally, graciously, sacrificially.
1 Corinthians 13:5 says: "Love is not self-seeking." And the English Standard Version puts it this way: "[Love] does not insist on its own way."
Yep, that's it in a nutshell. We are not loving each other when we insist on our own way.
I know you've read through the list above. But might I challenge you to go back through it - prayerfully? Ask God to show you ways you have been manipulating your spouse (and others). Sometimes it's so subtle we just don't see it in ourselves. We need God's revelation to show us how we are hurting each other. You can even make a little check mark in the circles next to the ones that stand out ... a prayer list for God to help you overcome these harmful ways.
I'll be praying for you, as I pray for myself in this area. Manipulation has no place in marriage. May we all learn to love each other with God's perfect, agape love.
Holy Father, open our eyes to the ways we are loving ourselves more than our spouses. Help us learn to love like You love. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Simply One. It has been republished here with permission.