How do you seek to influence (rather than manipulate) your husband?

January 23, 2018 | Mark McAndrew

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-2)

Several people have asked where the line is between seeking to influence your husband versus trying to manipulate your husband.

This is a challenging question.

As far as I can tell, manipulation is different from spiritual influence in at least two major ways: motive and goal.

First, manipulation is motivated by selfishness, not love.

Second, the goal of manipulation is to change the outward action of someone (in this case, your husband) for your own convenience or advantage.

Spiritual influence is motivated by a love for your husband and with the desire/goal to see him transformed first inwardly, then outwardly, by the gospel. It also seeks to stay within the biblical parameters Scripture has laid out for how wives should relate to their husbands.

Manipulation is about winning a personal preference battle. Love is about laying down your preferences for the good of another.

If a wife desires her husband to lead spiritually for the good of their marriage and family, this is a holy desire. If she is unwise, she will speak demandingly of her husband and nag him about this until he either shuts down or gives in. This puts her husband in a lose-lose position. If he disobeys his wife, he disobeys God. If he obeys his wife, he is now following her lead.

However, if she is wise she will do at least three things.

First, she will pray. She will pray for her husband in the quietness of her heart daily, repeatedly, even hourly. The Lord loves to answer the humble prayers of submissive wives who long for the spiritual growth of their passive husbands.

Second, if she catches her husband doing something right (taking some kind of spiritual initiative) she will praise him for it and encourage him in it humbly and gladly.

Third, on occasion, she may have a private, calm, loving, gracious, humble, conversation with him about her desires and wishes. It may be best in these situations not to offer advice or solutions, but rather to calmly and humbly present a concern and seek his council.

These “concerns” should never be shouted out in a desperate moment in the midst of a disagreement or argument. (That goes for both husband and wife.)

In marriage there is often a tendency to store up our frustrations (keeping a record of wrongs) until we finally boil over in some moment of conflict. We then pour out the ‘record of wrongs’ on our spouse in a crushing, punishing, unloving kind of way.

How should she approach her husband?

John Piper helpfully says:

Patiently, full of prayer, full of hope, and full of forbearance and occasional efforts to draw him into conversation about her longings for him.

By occasional efforts to draw him into conversation about her longings for him, I mean the opposite of nagging. Nagging is day after day, coming at the guy sideways, top down, underneath, and communicating by body language and sideways comments that he is not measuring up. That destroys the relationship. It paralyzes the partner. It feels hopeless, and it feels like love is vanishing.

Rather, I’m referring to an occasional and intentional, “Can we talk honey? Can we go out to lunch and just talk about something I want to talk about?” Do it when you’re not tired or angry. It should be an appointment, and it shouldn’t feel undermining or threatening. Then she can lay out her heart for him, say what she needs to say, and ask him if he is willing to do more.

[For the rest of his answer, see here.]


I asked Kelly for a specific illustration of manipulation.

She said that after a husband has upset his wife in some way, the wife may be tempted to storm off and hide away in the bedroom sulking, waiting for her husband to come fix things. This is manipulative and selfish.

However, if a husband has acted selfishly toward his wife, she has a wonderful opportunity to practice forgiving grace that might actually get to his heart. Instead of huffing off or angrily telling him how bad a leader he is being, she can draw strength from the wells of the gospel. Grace can enable her to overlook the offense and treat her husband with gospel motivated love instead of trying to get even or hurt him back.

This is very close to the kind of behavior I imagine Peter was thinking of. Read the passage one more time:

1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external . . . 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God [not their husbands] used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:1-6)


To the husbands, it would be good to ask your wife at least monthly, “How are we? Is there anything about my schedule that you think should change? Is there anything about the way I am behaving that is spiritually harmful to you or the family?”

By doing this, the husband is still leading (and leading well), but he is also giving his wife a clearer voice than she might otherwise be able to have on these kinds of issues.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)


If a wife has a verbally abusive husband, she should speak to the elders of her church immediately and if necessary contact the police. If there is actual physical abuse, she should immediately contact the police.

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