Turning Correction into Motivation

Every messy marriage faces the challenge of correcting messy or wrong behavior in a spouse. We often think it’s our duty to point out where our spouse has gotten off track. And in some situations and when offered in the right spirit, that can be true.

The trick is knowing how to communicate our observations in a way that motivates and encourages, rather than tears our spouses down and squashes their spirits.

Let’s say your spouse has a habit of:

  • Being overly critical. You point this out by saying “Well, it’s not the end of the world—stop being so negative.”
  • Being lazy when it’s time to do the dishes. You say, “You never remember to do the dishes without me having to remind you.”
  • Losing his/her temper with the kids. You are quick to say, “You know, you’re not helping the kids when you yell at them like that!”

Most likely, you’ve only reminded your spouse of what they already know, and perhaps, now feel defined by or even confined to—like a ball and chain.

skeleton key 

But you hold the key to release your spouse from this confinement and move forward toward change. How, you ask?

Simply believe the best about your spouse and point this “best” out to him or her instead of pointing out the worst.

If your spouse is …

  • Critical of others, say something like, “You have this ability to clearly see what the problem is and you’re often right. So I know you’re going to figure out how to make this situation work too.”
  • Critical of you, say, “I want to understand more about why you see this the way you do, because I believe you want the best for us and aren’t trying to hurt me with your words.”
  • Lazy about the dishes, say something like, “I know this isn’t your favorite household task, but I see you helping me with (you name it) and I want you to know I’m grateful for that effort.
  • Angry with kids, say, “I know you don’t mean to hurt the kids with your words. You just want them to “get it” so much. How can I help you when you feel that frustration?”

These new ways of correcting motivating your spouse point them toward what is right in his or her character. Then they’ll be motivated to rise to the occasion rather than feeling judged and demotivated by you. I’m not saying this is appropriate for every situation, but it’s probably more appropriate and helpful than many other ways we try to bring about change.

What I’m suggesting may involve a little pride swallowing on our parts and a whole lot of faith in God and in the process of encouragement, but I promise if you give it a try, it can reap incredible results! 

“Love … Puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best …” 1 Cor. 13:7 (Msg)

photo by theogeo


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26 responses to “Turning Correction into Motivation”

  1. Oh yes, Beth! Attacking someone else’s character is a surefire recipe for building resentment … and we are so prone to focus on the negative instead of gentle words that ‘benefit those who listen’ {Ephesians 4:29}.


  2. bluecottonmemory Avatar

    Wonderful suggestions, Beth! Being straight-forward about how something makes you feel requires bravery and trust in your spouse – and I think that’s how you build that trust – and how you establish healthy expectations that are in tandem.


  3. Great post and reminder Beth! I’ve seen this work in my marriage. But got to say it involves lots of death to self, as you’ve pointed out. I so appreciate it when my hubby encourages me instead of correcting me. So am motivated to encourage instead of correct, cos I know how it feels. I am a work in progress 🙂


  4. Megan@DoNotDisturb Avatar

    So true! Though I am aware of the trap of “correcting” my spouse there are times I still walk straight into it. Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement to change my approach.Megan


  5. Yes, it is so much better when we say things in ways that do not put our spouse (or anyone) on the defensive. I need to pray about being better at this. thanks, Beth, for the good examples/reminders.


  6. Oo, these are GOOD, Beth! Do you actually use those smooth words in the heat of the moment? I need to take these tips to heart for sure. Thank you!


  7. I’m grinning, Beth, because I can think of a very specific situation that I’m going to try out this advice in…


  8. Love the message of this post! Our words and our tone really make a difference. And…our spouse’s are more prone to helping out when we take the time to recognize them for what they do do.


  9. It takes self-control and some real consideration to change the habit of correction. I lived as a “corrector” for more years than I care to recall. I still dabble in it from time to time. It’s SO MUCH easier and more effective to motivate.The difference, and why some of us have trouble with tackling it permanently is that motivation means waiting for the target audience (husband) to process the motivation and then act on it. Correction is in our court — if the person doesn’t react, we simply keep correcting which does nothing but create a negative cycle!


  10. Gaye @ CalmHealthySexy Avatar
    Gaye @ CalmHealthySexy

    Thanks for the opportunity to link up with you, Beth.


  11. As always great advice but I will be HONEST and right now I’m struggling with even attempting to say to my hubby, “you are often right”. I am not trying to be a downer but I guess I’m seeing that I need to pray more on this. Thank you for your constant challenge to me to better my marriage and thank you for the lovely verse in 1 Corinthians. The Message states it quite boldly – no argument there, huh?


  12. Yeah, we don’t see our criticism as an attack but rather like we’re doctors doing surgery. The problem is the Great Physician is the only One who should be operating on our spouse’s hearts. We need to be their best cheerleader instead. Thanks for sharing that verse too–it’s one of my faves! And, as always, I appreciate your support and presence in this place, Linda!


  13. Yes, that’s true. You’ve brought out another beautiful by-product of this approach–it builds trust between you and your spouse, and of course, between us and God. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, as well as, linking up! Your support never goes unnoticed, my friend!


  14. Yes, it certainly does require that dreaded death to self, Ngina! But then, that’s what I keep asking God to help me do each day, so I guess He’s providing those opportunities regularly with my hubby! haha! Thanks so much for sweet words and friendship!


  15. Yes, it is a trap that we often overlook and by the time we realize it, we are already caught in it. I certainly am not claiming that I’ve perfected it–not even close! But I’m trying to be more careful, gentle and strategic about how I communicate with my spouse and thought I’d share what God is revealing to me. Thanks, Megan, for coming by and linking up, my friend!


  16. You and me both! Maybe we could pray for each other in this matter, since it is so very difficult to do in the heat of the moment. I’d say these conversations are best prayed about and thought through before they are ever put into practice. Thanks so much, Gail, for linking up and for encouraging me today!


  17. I’d be lying if I said, “yes,” Becky! But I do feel like God is revealing to me some amazing insights about how to communicate with my hubby and I wanted to share them. Thanks so much for your kind words and smiling face. It always brightens my day!


  18. Yes, that’s why it’s important to think about it ahead of time, Elizabeth. I wouldn’t be able to come up with these affirmations and acknowledgments without the calmness of praying and thinking through them. Now it’s just a matter of practicing them so much that I can recall them even when my pride is blinding me to the truth. Thanks so much for encouraging me and linking up too, sweet friend!


  19. That blesses my socks off, Laura. I just want to give a blessing to others as God has blessed me! Thanks so much for coming by and being a good bloggy friend!


  20. Yes, we don’t recognize it when we are on the “giving end” but we sure do when we’re on the receiving end! 🙂 Thanks so much for coming by, linking up and being an encourager in my life, Alecia!


  21. Yes, we, “control-freaks,” love to have the ball in our court! ha! But as you’ve said, it ultimately is so much easier to be an encourager in our spouse who also trusts in God’s work in our spouse’s heart. Thank so much for being vulnerable in your comment, Amy, and for encouraging me too! 🙂


  22. You’re quite welcome, sweet friend! I appreciate all that you bring to the subject of marriage every week, Gaye! I hope you keep coming around!


  23. I totally “get” that, Becky. I think that’s why I said it’s swallowed with a big dose of humble pie–and I HATE humble pie! But unlike other pies I eat … humble pie leaves me feeling lighter, freer and perhaps more lovely in the eyes of my hubby. I’m so thankful for you and your encouragement in my life too, Becky. Yes, the message version of that verse rocks, doesn’t it?! haha! Love ya!


  24. Just linked up my prayer post and the printable calendar. Thanks for the opportunity!


  25. Maurie Roselaine Avatar

    Great reminder to be uplifting in our words, and even criticism. Love the examples too. So often I have a desire to correct in a positive way, but have no idea how to go about that. http://twainbecomingone.blogspot.com


  26. I love how you so eloquently communicated these thoughts! The way you worded your suggestions are great! Thank you for sharing! I hope you’ll link up with us for Marriage Mondays on the happywivesclub.com! You have a lot to contribute.Christy joy#happywivesclub


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