Why Motives Matter in Marriage

the motive

What you do in your marriage is important, but WHY you do what you do is equally important.

That’s because your WHY, your motive, often determines your what. The reason behind the things you say to your spouse, or do for your spouse, shows you whether you are doing it out of love for your spouse or for yourself…whether you are truly serving or self-serving.

If your WHY is all about yourself and all about getting, then your love for your spouse will be squelched. The opposite of love is not hate; it’s selfishness. And selfishness is the greatest enemy of every marriage.

So in everything you say or do in marriage, you must ask yourself “WHY?”

Sometimes, in marriage, the motive may be totally bad or wrong. Other times it’s mixed with good and bad, pure and impure, legitimate and illegitimate—they are called mixed motives or ulterior motives.

Here’s why mixed motives must be addressed head on in a marriage.

Mixed motives change your marriage dynamic in a negative way       

A strong marriage is based on mutual sacrifice and submission, both partners going out of their way to serve the other. I’m not talking about being a doormat, but giving of ourselves in the best interests of the other. True love is about them, not you.

When you start doing things and saying things to them because of what you hope to get out of it, you shift the basis of your relationship. It moves from one based on giving to one based on getting. It becomes transactional, more like an exchange than a shared life. Your spouse becomes a business partner rather than a life partner.

Mixed motives breed mistrust           

Chances are, if you are doing and saying things with an ulterior motive, to really get something for yourself, your spouse is going to realize what is going on at some stage. They are going to recognize that you’re quietly trying to manipulate them to get your way, that you don’t truly have their best at heart. They’ll constantly be asking themselves, “Why is he saying this?” Or, “Why is she really doing this?” Doubt and suspicion lead to mistrust in the relationship.

Then there’s also the danger that you might find yourself doubting them as well. After all, if you are doing and saying things with an ulterior motive, how do you know that they are not acting the same way with and to you? It’s no fun to be in a relationship where you are constantly having to decode what’s really what.

Trustworthiness is one of the three essentials for a strong marriage. [Tweet This] So rather than, say, helping with the dishes and hoping your wife reciprocates with romance later, or offering physical intimacy so that he might get round to those honey-do projects in gratitude, why not just give to your spouse without any expectation in return. Clean up after dinner, or make a move, because you know your spouse will feel loved and appreciated.

Monitoring your motives

Now, none of us are completely selfless, of course. We all have mixed motives sometimes. But being honest about that tendency is the first line of defense.

Like a small crack in the foundation of a building, this-for-that words or actions may not seem to be a cause for concern at first. Allowed to spread unchecked, however, they will over time affect the stability of your relationship.

To guard your heart and help keep your motives purer, take some time to think about your own motives. Ask yourself these questions about the things you do and say in your marriage:

  • Am I doing or saying this to give or to get?
  • Would I do or say this even if there was no reward in it for me?

Remember, love is all about GIVING—giving selflessly and sacrificially to your spouse without expecting anything in return.

Are there areas in your relationship in which you recognize you barter rather than give selflessly? What might you do to change your way of relating here? Share your thoughts with the rest of us.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.