We all have patterns of relating that we have learned over time. We have picked them up from our parents, friends, our past relationships. They are shaped by our personality and experiences. Some are healthy patterns and some are unhealthy and damaging.
One of the most destructive ways of relating is by a system of “do to get”. It is the most selfish of all forms of relating. This “do to get” approach bases its happiness and love for others on how the other person behaves. If the other person behaves as we expect or desire, then we show them love. If they do something we are not happy with, we do not show them love. While it is one of the most common patterns for relating, it is also one of the most unhealthy patterns of relating. It is the source of many marriage conflicts, separations, and divorce.
The purest expressions of love are shown without expectation of response or reward. They flow from the heart of the one who loves in a one-way direction. It is not based on the behavior of the one being loved. God demonstrates the nature and depth of His love by showing it to us while we were disobedient. And He shows it without expectation of having to receive anything in return. God’s love is not based on “do to get.”
When we experience this kind of love, it transforms us and our relationships. If we don’t experience that kind of love, then we continue to relate with the system of “do to get”. There are many ways that this way of relating shows up in marriage relationships. Today, we look at 5 of them.
- Reward the other person with love because of what they do for you
While this may be the way we relate to our pets and how things function in the workplace, this is not a healthy pattern for relating in marriage. This is the opposite of how God relates within His kingdom. He shows the fullest expression of His love even while we are doing what we shouldn’t be doing. Rewarding good behavior with love is a selfish and demanding. It makes you continually measure others, waiting for them to be good enough to be loved.
- Withhold love when they aren’t doing what you like
The other side of rewarding behavior with love is withholding love when the other person doesn’t do what you want. This way of relating makes the qualities of patience, understanding, and forgiveness almost impossible. And these are essential to any relationship, but especially in marriage! If your pattern is to withhold love for undesirable behavior, you’ll find yourself eventually backed into a very small place where you give very little and demand very much. We find it much easier to give in to anger, resentment, bitterness, and hatred. They are all very natural to the “do to get” pattern.
- You only feel love for them when they are doing what you want, expect, or like.
When we relate with the pattern of “do to get” there will be evidences in our relationships. One of those happens in our own heart, mind, and emotions. We get to the place where we only feel the emotion of love when the other person is doing what we want. Our feelings are attached to their good behavior or to us getting what we want. Again, this leads to very unhealthy approach to love and relating.
- You regularly think through all of the things you do for them and what you deserve in return.
One of the byproducts of the “do to get” pattern is a focus on what you “do” and what you ought to “get”. This is a dangerous pattern that causes you to focus on yourself. It affects the process of how you think as well because you are focused on the good things that you do. The more you think you do all things right and that you deserve something in return, the more you are headed for disaster. There is nothing more deadly to your heart and your relationship than to think about all that you deserve.
- You regularly think about what the other person ought to be doing in the relationship.
The other destructive byproduct to the “do to get” pattern of relating is that it makes you focus on the weaknesses and faults of the other person. It makes you focus on what they ought to be doing in the relationship. Being fixed on what they ought to be doing will keep you filled with expectation, frustration, and demands. You will be handicapped from being able to genuinely love, serve, sacrifice, and give.
If these are the way that you relate to your spouse, you already know the pain that it is causing. You are already experiencing personal frustration and the resulting outward conflict. This relating pattern says something about what you believe in your heart. It says something about how you believe you find worth. It says something about how you believe God sees you.
When we experience the release of “do to get” in relating to God, then we can begin to relate to others in the same way. Then we will find the joy of being loved by God. Then we will find the joy of loving others with that same love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
I John 4:7-9 New American Standard Bible
For more on relationships of grace, check out:
- 9 Marks of a Grace-Driven Husband
- 7 Marks of a Grace-Driven Wife
- 5 Things to Look for When Dating and Considering a Mate