5 Ways to C.L.E.A.N. Up Manipulating Your Spouse with Guilt

Guilt Spouse - This post reveals 5 ways to clean up tactics we take to manipulate our mates with guilt. #marriagematters #marriage #manipulation #guiltmessages #guiltspouse #insecurityinmarriage #Bibleverses #faithinGod

Today, I’m excited to continue in the Spring Clean Your Marriage series with my next guest blogger, Karen Friday. I feel a special kinship with her because she’s a pastor’s wife like me! I hope you’ll check out her bio below and make her feel welcome by commenting and sharing her wise words all around the web!

“You’re going over there again? If you really loved me, then you would spend more time with me instead of with your friends.”

The familiar words rolled off my tongue for the umpteen time. Guilt-ridden words that not only drove a dagger into my husband’s heart, but also injured our marriage.

Guilt Spouse - This post reveals 5 ways to clean up tactics we take to manipulate our mates with guilt. #marriagematters #marriage #manipulation #guiltmessages #guiltspouse #insecurityinmarriage #Bibleverses #faithinGod

My husband enjoyed hanging out at his friend’s house, going on motorcycle and camping trips with him, and doing things with both this man and his wife.

But I felt left out and unimportant—like being passed over for better choices. So, I told him exactly that. “You must enjoy their company more than mine. Why don’t you want to be with your own wife?”

Because my husband knows one of a woman’s greatest needs is to feel loved. And since he knows my love language is quality time, I used these truths to my advantage…to manipulate him with guilt.

If he came home and decided to head over to the friend’s home, I sulked and pouted and made him feel guilty from the minute he left till he came home, and for days afterward.

I even went so far as to start scheduling more outings with my girlfriends. Two can play this game, I convinced myself.

Sometimes my husband would text my phone from his friend’s home and asked if I wanted to watch a movie together when he came home. I think it was his way of trying to please me and to perhaps appease me.

Still, my text replies to him carried the undertone of guilt. “Don’t bother. I called a friend and I’m going to her house to watch a movie. I don’t want to keep you from your favorite people.”

On occasion, me and my husband joined this other couple on double dates. But it often felt strained and hard for me because of my bitterness. I carried a grudge, and it continued to fuel manipulating my husband into feeling guilty and influencing his choices.

While it’s not healthy when either spouse spends huge amounts of time with other friends, using guilt to manipulate the other person to get what we want is also unhealthy.

This approach only muddies our marriage, making our tactics dirty, instead of from a clean heart with pure motives.

[bctt tweet=”Using guilt to manipulate our spouse muddies our marriage, making our tactics dirty instead of from a clean heart with pure motives. @FridayKaren #SpringCleanYourMarriage” username=””]

I began to reflect about why I tend to send my husband on guilt trips over something that bothers me. Besides our human and sinful nature that seems to gravitate toward these measures, I soon realized my own issues extended much deeper.

The answer lied in my dysfunctional childhood which included multiple divorces and remarriages by both my parents. And how using guilt to manipulate a spouse to say or do something was modeled for me.

You see, I held front-row-seat tickets to this kind of unhealthy and dirty behavior in marriage. It played on the big-screen of my life over and over until the idea became ingrained in my mind and soul …

If you want to control a spouse’s words and actions, then manipulate him with guilt. 

However, in my own marriage, I realized how the results of getting what I wanted this way were short-lived and not rooted in long-lasting change—neither behavior nor mindset. My husband may change his mind or his plans out of a false sense of guilt. Yet, the wrong thoughts, the wrong emotions, and the wrong reasons never bring about the right outcome. Never.

[bctt tweet=”The results of getting what we want through manipulation by guilt are short-lived and not rooted in long-lasting change—neither in behavior nor mindset. Find out how to change for the better! @FridayKaren” username=””]

Since I was creating the opposite reaction from my husband, I needed to decide what I really wanted and the best route to take to gain those results. In this particular instance, I wanted my husband to want to spend time with me. My attempts at manipulating the situation, produced distance between us, not connection or quality time.

So, how could I be the wife who is a pleasure to spend time with, and who communicated my wishes and desires in a healthy and attractive manner?

I’d like to offer these 5 ways to C-L-E-A-N up guilt and manipulation toward our spouse …

C – Change the way we communicate our desires to our husband.

Stop using “if-then” statements. “If you loved me or if you meant what you said or if you were a better husband, then you would _____________. If-then begins and ends on the premise, “I hope I make you feel guilty enough to do whatever I want.”

Instead, we evaluate our desires and communicate them to our husband in an honest and loving way. We ask his opinion and feelings on the matter, and decide a plan to work together to reach them. Also, allow him to express his desires and discuss.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, ESV).

L – Leave room for God to work in our spouse’s heart and life.

People make lousy gods. When we strive to alter a spouse’s behavior to suit us or what we believe is needed adjustments in his life, we may be keeping our spouse from hearing from God. And the Lord is the best change-agent.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22, NIV).

E – Entrust our hurts and injustices to the one just Judge.

Jesus modeled this for us. Although He innocently suffered hurt and injustice, He didn’t retaliate “but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23b, ESV).

We run to God with our hurts in marriage and ask the Lord to heal us and help us respond as Jesus responded. We trust the Lord to uphold our cause and we entrust our injustices to Him.

A – Anchor our marriage in freedom from guilt through Christ’s work on the cross.

Every time we start to bring our spouse under guilt, ask the Lord to remind us that our own guilt was wiped away and made clean through Jesus’ sacrifice. Christ came to save us not condemn us.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17, NIV).

N – Nurture our relationship in the same grace Jesus has given to us.

Jesus never used guilt to manipulate others to believe in Him or follow Him. Giving grace to our spouse shows we understand the great grace extended to us.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24, ESV).


Which of the 5 ways to clean up guilt and manipulation are you hoping to put into practice?


How can you relate to Karen’s feelings or earlier reasons for using guilt to manipulate?


Karen Friday is a pastor’s wife, mom, grandmother, author, speaker and blogger at karengirlfriday.com. She would love for you to connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

Be sure to join me next week in the “Spring Clean Your Marriage” series! Carmen Brown of marriedbyhisgrace.com will be sharing how the common trap of wiping up imperfections in the lives of our spouses makes our marriages messier. She will offer insight on how to clean this bad habit up and form a healthier focus. I hope you’ll join us then! Check out the image below to see the other fine bloggers joining me in this series …

Spring Clean Marriage - In this blog series, you'll discover ways to clean your marriage and attitude toward your spouse. Click to find out more! #messymarriage #springclean #springcleanyourmarriage #newattitude #marriageconflicts

Check out my first published Bible study! Click the image below to go directly to Amazon to find out more about it! Ephesians Bible Study - Click the link to head to Amazon to find out more about this powerful Bible study on Ephesians. #Biblestudy #Bible #Bibleverses #Scripture #quiettime #devotional #Godsword #studyscripture

Here are some other lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me MondayKingdom BloggersLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementGrace and Truth Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday


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26 responses to “5 Ways to C.L.E.A.N. Up Manipulating Your Spouse with Guilt”

  1. Hi Karen and Beth … thanks for speaking on the subtle destruction of the guilt trip. This manipulative tactic siphons away trust, respect, and honesty.

    A steady diet of this kind of maneuvering leaves little relationship to build on.

    But God …


  2. I so agree, Linda. Manipulation and control are often the stowaways on each of the guilt trips we send our spouse on. And it destroys healthy communication and authentic engagement. May we ask the Lord to help us model His ways in our marriage.


  3. Well-said, Karen!

    You inspired a short poem.

    If you would have me do your will,
    then make it worth my while.
    Don’t manipulate with guilt
    nor treat me like a child.
    I am not hear to vex you,
    nor leave you in the lurch,
    but you cannot see true
    from a high and haughty perch.
    The best I have is all I’ve got,
    so plainly let me know
    when my aim has hit the spot
    and when it’s far too low.
    I promised to be there for thee;
    I ask your confidence in me.


    1. Awesome and powerful poem, Andrew. Thanks for sharing your words with us.


  4. Most of these work well for “clean” ing up other issues as well and. I am focusing on Entrusting it to God with our issues right now. Thank you for sharing!


    1. Hey Aryn. Yes, these c-l-e-a-n steps apply to other relationships and even other issues in life. We can never go wrong by entrusting our hurts and injustices to the one true just Judge. Thanks for commenting and adding your thoughts.


  5. Wow, Karen, this post really puts a finger on our motives, the hidden part of our sin that is easier to sweep under the table because it’s known only to us and to God!
    Beth, thank you for your big table of wisdom here! So may good voices each week!


    1. Thanks, Michele. Hasn’t this been a wonderful series?! Michele, you are simply one of the best encouragers on the blogosphere. You bless so many of us weekly. And, thank you, Beth for your insight to do this series and what it has brought to your community and others online and what it continues to do.

      “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, ESV).


  6. I have definitely been guilty of these things. Thank you for this clear and concise list of how to truly address the heart of the issue. Most of my guilting comes from brokenness in my past as well. I needed to see this today!


    1. So glad this encouraged you, Brittany. Amazing how insight about our past and our brokenness plays such a strong role in our present issues. But it always helps us be able move forward when we process it, address it, and decide better ways to deal with areas of our marriage.


  7. This series has been excellent Beth! Such great wisdom in each post and Karen you have really pointed out some great truth’s that I think many (including me) have dealt with at some point. This is something that I will definitely keep a closer eye on even in my own motives, if ever I feel I’m being left out or want my way, let’s face it, we as women often do want our way 😂 but yes it’s so important to give our way over to Christ and it’s ALWAYS best to do it God’s way!


    1. I’m right there with you on wanting my own way, April. And it often lies beneath the surface and is something we miss in our heart. Part of it is spiritual warfare and the enemy’s whispers that we deserve our way and we deserve control. I love your statement of how it’s so important to give our way over to Christ and God’s way is best! That’s well-said. Thanks for commenting.

      “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22, NIV).


  8. Great tips. Manipulation sneaks in quickly and causes the problem to grow. Thanks for this wisdom!


  9. Oh, how true that is, Rebecca. The issue only festers and grows beyond anything we can do about it. The wrong thoughts, the wrong emotions, and the wrong reasons never bring about the right outcome. Never.


  10. So much wisdom in this post. It applies to many situations–I have used guilt to try and get my husband to change behavior and found that it is ineffective. It is so much better to simply share my heart with him and then pray for him.


  11. This is so true. Manipulation doesn’t work, but giving it over to God and trusting him to work in our spouses does. I have found that while I’m asking God to work in my husband so he will see things my way, God often works in me to change my attitude or to give me clarity. Running to God with our hurts and frustrations is always the best choice.


  12. Guilt can be such an easy tactic to use against others, and it often *appears* to work, but we’ve all felt the wounds from it, on both sides of it. Thanks for sharing this word with us, Karen. My husband does a LOT of volunteer work (which is a great thing) but sometimes I can feel left out because I can’t keep up with his energy. But I have to remember to not use guilt when he *might* need to cut back. 🙂


  13. Thanks for being so transparent in your story, Karen. It takes a humility to allow God to do such a work in our hearts. I’m a fan of acronyms and enjoyed yours at the end. 😉


  14. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Karen! It’s amazing how much our childhood experiences shape who we become as adults. It takes a lot of courage to face those wounds and heal. You’re absolutely right about using guilt and manipulation to motivate – it poisons the water for both of you. Thanks for pointing us all to a better way!


    1. Hi Sheila, while our childhood affects and shapes our adulthood, we don’t have to stay stuck there. That’s what the Lord showed me when I realized manipulation and guilt were the only things modeled for me. He can transform us and help us relate to our spouse and others on a more authentic level…if we cooperate with the process. Thanks for commenting!


  15. This is such a GREAT post! Thanks for your honesty and transparency, but more for your wise counsel, Karen! Blessings to both you and Beth!


    1. Awe, appreciate your kind words, Liz. How they bless me. Thankful that I finally figured out that people make lousy gods…I make a lousy god. When I release my feelings and my husband’s actions into the hands of the Most High God, me, my husband, and our marriage are all much better off because then, God’s hand is in it.


  16. I think my original comment must not have sent. Glad to see your post on Grace and Truth Link-Up it gave me a chance to read for a second time. Great wisdom here.


    1. Thanks, Maree Dee. May we be reminded that using guilt to manipulate the other person to get what we want is unhealthy on so many levels. “Lord, give us clean hands and pure hearts and motives in our relationship with you that spills over into our relationships with others, including our spouse. Amen.”


  17. People make lousy gods – ain’t it the truth. Just had to remind my very smart husband that today is my birthday. No jabbing, now!!


  18. We’ve probably all had to grow up and accept our own sinful habits. I know I have! It’s sad that we not only displease God and hurt our spouses, but the very things we try to use to “keep them” often drive them away. I thank God for His patience and mercy with me.


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