You’ve said it, I’ve said it: Happy wife…happy life. Call it nice. Call it sweet. I call it appeasement. It’s a conflict avoidance style that sacrifices your feelings, beliefs, or ideas in order to pacify or please the other person. To some, this seems like a noble identity to assume. After all, keeping peace and harmony in the relationship is important. But, is “giving in to get along” an effective method for fostering a healthy marriage?
Appeasement has never been an effective strategy in marriage (or parenting, or friendship…or, well, life). Don’t get me wrong, it’s good and gracious to be accommodating to the preferences of your husband/wife in various circumstances. Our first response should always be to serve. In strong marriages, both spouses understand both give and take. Servanthood is a mark of healthiness. But when one spouse ALWAYS GIVES and the other ALWAYS TAKES major problems are unavoidable.
Constant yielding to your spouse may appear to achieve the desired peace, but this peace, at best, is temporal and superficial. In reality, appeasement brings eventual harm to the marriage.
Here are some of the reasons why…
1 – Replaces Christ as the center of the relationship. Instead of a relationship that pleases the heart of God, all actions are done to please the heart of the spouse being appeased. It’s through him we are created and he holds all things together (Colossians 1:17)
2 – Creates a one-sided relationship. Constant appeasing one’s spouse will empower him/her to assume a position of dominance in the relationship. Appeasement makes one spouse inferior to the other. This creates an imbalance that will fracture the oneness that marriage was designed by God to be. (Mark 10:8)
3 – Removes the word “no” from your marriage. I’ve found that couples that have an issue with appeasement want to say “no” but just don’t know how to say it properly. “No” is a very good word and keeps us in check. Healthy marriages don’t look to say “no” but are not afraid to say it in a healthy edifying way (Romans 14:19). Without “no,” the whims and desires of the spouse are controlling the relationship.
4 – Removes respect. I find both the spouse that is appeasing and the empowered spouse lose respect for one another for different reasons. The lack of healthy servanthood erodes the opinion that each spouse as of the other. Romans 12:10 says to “take delight in honoring.” Appeasement keeps you from doing that.
5 – Cultivates a spirit of fear. Appeasement replaces the heart of serving the needs of your spouse is with the anxiety of having to constantly attend to the wants (not necessarily needs) of the spouse. That mindset will loom over the marriage creating an atmosphere that God never designed us to live in. (2 Timothy 1:7)
6 – Develops frustration. The appeasing spouse lives with unmet needs. He/she represses heartfelt feelings at the expense of legitimate needs. Unfulfilled needs have a tendency to re-emerge and manifest themselves in other ways – depression, anger, bitterness, resentment, regret, and so forth. Appeasement literally drains the joy of serving your spouse. (Galatians 6:9)
Appeasement doesn’t work. Like scratching poison ivy, it feels good in the moment but spreads faster than you intended to places you never wanted it to go. I’m not a proponent of shifting to the polar opposite of appeasement (which is domination…basically involves one or both parties striving to have their desires prevail). But appeasement will feel right in a moment but will erode what you are trying to build.
Marriage is a daily walk of humility before God and our spouse. Don’t stop serving each other. Be willing to take a step a step back and ask yourself, “How full is the ‘love” tank of my spouse? Have I been more of a taker than a giver?” If we’ll be humble and honest as couples, we’ll see stronger and more fulfillment than we dreamed of while showing an example of Jesus to the world around us.
Thanks for letting me ramble…