Most people think that marriage is a union of compromise, but sometimes it can be a power struggle. You want to spend time with your husband but he is engrossed in the football game. Alternatively, he wants to visit his parents and you would rather work on the yard with him. Motivating your partner to complete tasks, spend time with you or even work on your relationship should not be a game of manipulation. Instead, motivating your partner begins with a clear understanding of each other, followed by support and encouragement.
Bargaining for what you want in a marriage is often similar to being in a kindergarten classroom. Just as prizes, rewards or sweets motivate children, these may motivate your husband, too. Offer to make his favorite meal if he finishes cleaning the garage or treat him to a day of golf if he completes the latest home improvement project by the weekend. However, extrinsic rewards may only motivate your partner temporarily, Kate Stewart, Ph.D., author, coach and mediator warns in Hitched Magazine.
Nagging your spouse will not get you what you want. In fact, it may foster resentment, annoyance and even distance between the two of you. Instead, Stewart suggests asking open-ended questions to prompt your spouse to think critically about household tasks you need help with. For example, questions such as “What would make it easier for you to make dinner a few nights each week?” or “How can we work together to accomplish this task?” Rephrasing and repeating your spouse’s answers helps validate that you understand his response. Working together to develop a solution can be motivating for you both.
Although it may be difficult to look inside yourself when trying to motivate your marriage partner, you need to consider both sides. Think critically about your own motivation, says Stewart. Are you modeling motivating behavior? Are you more concerned about changing your partner or do you like the power of feeling like the victim? Consider your role in disagreements about motivation, household tasks, and obligations and think about whether the responsibilities are divided evenly. Once you take on more responsibility and model motivation, your mate may soon follow suit.
Avoid Intimidating Tones
If you resent your spouse’s lack of motivation, he may feel this when you communicate with him. He may perceive your irritation as subtle nagging. Instead, foster open communication about the responsibilities you both have, without shifting to a condescending tone. Show your concern without blaming him.
Discussing motivation does not have to evoke outbursts. A primary reason people lash out is that they feel that others are not hearing them, Maud Purcell, a family therapist with PsychCentral.com. To motivate your marriage partner, listen with an open mind and encouraging body language to show him you care about his opinion. He may be justified for refusing to exercise, take out the trash or look for a job, for a reason you did not know about. Put assumptions aside and hear your spouse so that he will be motivated.