Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Pleasing Versus Loving

EMS Online Registration Opens Today at Noon CT!

Our Emergency Marital Seminar Online, better known as EMSO, isn't a one-size-fits-all program for couples. Over decades of experience exclusively in the field of infidelity, our methodology has been honed to better serve couples as they address the betrayal, reconnect as partners and restore their lives.

Spots fill up quickly, so don't wait to register! Learn more and register for EMSO using the button below.

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About a decade ago, my daughter decided she'd like to get hitched. There were a couple of serious contenders along the way that I'd like to tell you about.

Boy #1

I remember when she brought her first serious boyfriend home to meet the family. As her father, I felt it my duty to vet this young man. I wanted to know what type of metal he was made of. Was he good enough for my girl? I loaded my pickup with axes and chainsaws and took him out to the back of our property to do a little land clearing. Much to my chagrin, he hurt his back in the first hour and spent the rest of the weekend in bed.

After depositing him at the airport for his trip home, my daughter came in and asked what I thought. Her mom and I were standing in the kitchen, and I can still remember the look on our daughter's face when I gave her two thumbs down. She burst into tears and ran out of the room. My wife, Stephanie, being none too pleased with my honest non-verbal communication, sent me to go after our daughter to straighten things out.

I found her sitting on her bed with mascara-stained eyes.

"Why don't you like him?" she cried with fists clenched.

"I never said I didn't like him," I replied.

"Then why did you give him two thumbs down?" she asked.

"He's not right for you,” I said. “You're like your mother, stronger than an acre of garlic. That boy is crazy about you and worships the ground you walk on. He'll do anything and everything to please you and make you happy because he's looking to you for his validation. He believes if he can get someone like you to love him then his life will be easy and complete. He'll never have an opinion because he'll always be so desperate to please you. He'll never stand up to you and say 'no' because he's too afraid you'll reject him. You'll end up going over his head so often that he'll get athletes foot on his scalp.”

I continued, “You don't want someone who looks to you for their validation. You need someone who's willing to be known and who will stand up and be real with you. Someone with enough courage to share their opinions even if it's something you won't like, now that's what you want and need. It will be far better to find someone who can speak honestly about his fears and disappointments, even if it's something you don't want to hear. Anything short of that would be boring and only a façade of what marriage was made to be."

Thankfully she heeded my advice.

Boy #2

Older and wiser, I was much more prepared for the second young man who captured her heart. When he called and asked if he could fly to Austin to speak with me, I said, “Absolutely not. First, I want you to write me a letter telling me why you want to marry my daughter. And don't tell me it's because you love her—that's a given. Tell me why you even want to be married and what type of husband you want to be to my daughter. How do you plan to support my daughter? How do you plan to lead my daughter spiritually? What type of father do you plan to be for my grandchildren? What principles guide your life? What do you hope to accomplish in life? I also want to know how you view yourself as a man. Once I receive your letter, I'll let you know whether you can come speak with me."

Fortunately, he responded with an eight-page letter that, as Stephanie proclaimed, was better than I could have written! Even more than great answers, Boy #2 had a vision and a passion for life. He loved my daughter but was also healthy enough to be authentic and vulnerable. He wasn't afraid of intimacy or conflict. I felt he was going to be an authentic man who would lead and protect his family.

Which of these two men do you think ended up being more appealing to my daughter? Was it the one who desired to please her and lived in constant fear of being a disappointment? Or was it the one who desired to love her and maintained both vision and passion?

The Validation Trap for Men

In my 30 years of experience in working with couples, nothing kills appeal faster than a needy man. Women want to be part of the adventure; they don't want to be the adventure. A husband looking to his wife for validation can oftentimes feel like an albatross around her neck.

It makes no difference if the man has been unfaithful or has been the one betrayed. The problem remains the same. Men tend to work desperately (almost codependently) to please their mate and/or win them back. But oftentimes, it's not out of love. It's because they can't be okay unless their mate validates them by choosing them over the affair partner. Even more tragic, the man's neediness creates burdens in the marriage which can make the marriage even more laborious, uninteresting, or vulnerable.

The very act of looking to their wife for validation makes them potentially vulnerable to an affair, especially if they feel like nothing they do is good enough. The key to a healthy marriage is enjoying your mate and learning to love them rather than needing them to love you. This is the difference in loving versus pleasing!

Neediness Kills Passion

There are two ways the male pursuit for validation plays out in marriage. The first is through passivity. A man will compromise who he is if he believes it's his responsibility to make his wife happy. If, after all his sacrifice, she's still unhappy, he'll either look elsewhere for validation, or he'll become even more needy in an attempt to draw validation out of her. This is essentially the definition of codependency and not a good place to be.

The second approach to seeking validation is aggression. When his wife fails to validate him, this man will either punish his mate with anger or try to guilt her into becoming what he needs in order to satisfy his need for validation.

In marriage, both of these approaches are unappealing to a healthy woman. I'm not saying it's bad to love your mate or to do things that bring her joy, but if you do the right thing for the wrong reason, you'll end up in the wrong place. We don't fail over what we do, we fail over why we do it. If a man's actions are driven by love, then that's something that will never grow old. However, if a man's actions are driven out of a need for validation, then his wife will likely lose interest in the marriage, lose desire and respect for her husband, and eventually become resentful. At the same time, the man will become frustrated, possibly lose desire for his wife, and begin to look outside the marriage to get the validation he feels he so desperately needs.

Regardless if the man was the unfaithful or betrayed spouse, the husband's pathway of healing from the pain of infidelity is the same. He needs to focus on becoming someone he can respect. He needs to mature into a healthy man, one who isn't dependent on his wife. He needs to learn how to love his wife and take responsibility for any behavior that caused her or others to feel hurt. Men, it's hard to be able to do this on your own. The cycle has typically been operating in your life for several years and will not be broken overnight.

Are You Trying to Get Them to Love You?

Change is difficult. It's especially hard if you've always sought others for your own acceptance and validation. Those habits run deep, but there is hope. The crisis of infidelity can serve as a catalyst for positive transformation. Men, I hope you'll take this charge to heart. Said with the greatest compassion and respect for each of you, I want you to know that you don't have to remain a boy forever. I know it's scary to change the dynamic of your marriage when it may already be frail but learning to love your wife instead of trying to get her to love you can actually help strengthen your marriage. Now may be the time to mature into the husband your wife needs instead of adding to her burdens. I don't want you to be another thing for your wife to worry about, I'm sure you agree.


I hope you'll hear my heart behind these strong words. My desire is never to shame you, nor is it to put you in a category you don't feel you belong in. I want you and your spouse to live extraordinary lives of meaning and purpose. I believe it's possible! The dynamic of passivity compounded with the trauma of infidelity can be a killer to any marriage if not handled appropriately. What seems forever lost can be found, redeemed, and restored. I hope both spouses will take this challenge today to find new hope and life through the implementation of this new approach. Our EMS Online program may be the change you both need in your recovery work. Registration opens today at 12pm CST. Click here to learn more about this program: https://www.affairrecovery.com/product/ems-online.

EMS Online Registration Opens Today at Noon CT!

Our Emergency Marital Seminar Online, better known as EMSO, isn't a one-size-fits-all program for couples. Over decades of experience exclusively in the field of infidelity, our methodology has been honed to better serve couples as they address the betrayal, reconnect as partners and restore their lives.

"Affair Recovery's EMS Online course literally saved our marriage from divorce. We had tried other professionals, which only led us to more pain in our marriage. It was a relief to find someone who understood our pain. It was comforting to know that others were feeling and thinking the same thoughts as us. We were not alone on this journey. Our marriage has been enriched by the valuable lessons we have learned through EMS Online." - K., Alabama.

Spots fill up quickly, so don't wait to register! Learn more and register for EMSO using the button below.

Register For EMS Online!

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