Survivors of childhood sexual abuse were mentally, emotionally, and physically manipulated by their perpetrators. None of us look favorably at anyone’s manipulation of another person. But how can we know we are not manipulative?
I’ve learned that I need to check my motive when I ask my wife questions or do something that involves her. While knowing our true motive is necessary for any relationship, it has specific value for couples whose marriage is affected by past sexual abuse. Being honest about our motives is a safeguard against conscious or subconscious manipulation.
Being honest about our motives is a safeguard against conscious or subconscious manipulation.
In this blog, I share how we can identify the motive lying behind our questions and actions and recommend how we can be intentional in our effort to avoid manipulating others.
How can we identify our Real Motive?
In his book, Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets, Andy Stanley offers one way to identify our true motives. He calls it the Integrity Step. The Integrity Step is his label for the question, “Why am I making this decision, really?” with the emphasis on “really.” I identify my true motive when I ask, “Really?”
I identify my true motive when I ask, “Really?”
Stanley gives an example. “Why am I buying this new car, really?” Typically, we have a list of reasons for making the major purchase of a car. The list might include: “The new one gets better gas mileage,” “I need new tires anyway,” or “I don’t think this deal on the new one will last; I better act now.” The list can be nothing more than rationalizations when really, the motive is that we’re tired of driving an older car.
Putting it into Practice
Identify the real motive for your questions.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse contend with a variety of possible long-term effects. The possible effects include depression, eating disorders, shame, anxiety, self-blame, bodily disturbances, sexual aversion or perversion, and more.
Husbands of survivors are sometimes impatient as these effects linger one month into the next and even one year into the next. Some husbands monitor their wife’s emotional condition by asking, “How are you doing today?” I did.
We identify the real motive of our questions when we ask ourselves, “Why am I asking this, really?” Some motives that I discovered lurking behind my questions are:
- I want you to be okay so that I can have a better day – the co-dependent motive.
- I wonder how long your depression will last – the impatient motive.
- I have something important to talk about once you are not so depressed – the ulterior motive.
My motives revealed my manipulation because I was trying to get the answer I wanted to hear, which had nothing to do with caring about how she was doing.
Survivors of sexual abuse, having been manipulated through their past abuse, are hyper-alert to manipulation in the present. Unfortunately, a survivor might give her husband the answer he wants to hear, attempting to halt his further questioning and pestering. This becomes a counter-manipulation and results in further tension and conflict.
Survivors of sexual abuse, having been manipulated through their past abuse, are hyper-alert to manipulation in the present.
Identify the real motive for your actions.
We identify the real motive of our actions when we ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this, really?” Take, for example, a husband who voluntarily does things around the house. Every household operates differently, but the tasks might include emptying the dishwasher, doing the laundry, painting a room, or making the beds.
Again, I identify my true motive when I ask myself, “Why am I doing this, really?” Is my action one of love, which means “no strings attached”? Or is some other motive driving my action?
- Am I hoping to snap her out of her funk?
- Am I hoping she’ll have sex with me because I’ve been so nice?
- Am I hoping she’ll get the message that she does not measure up to expectations?
The survivor of sexual abuse, because of her keen awareness of manipulation, can potentially identify her husband’s motive before he does.
We must diligently examine our motives, discard any manipulative motives, and act with integrity.