Say no to Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo is Latin for “If you want something from me, you better give me something”. Okay, actually, it means “this for that”, but the common usage today generally means a favour for a favour.

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A lot of marriage advice, including I fear some I give here, comes off as little more than Quid Pro Quo. Someone complains about what they are not getting, and the first response is usually “are you doing the following for your spouse …” Such a question is a necessary starting place; significantly short changing your spouse is something that needs to be dealt with, and it may well contribute to them not doing things for you. What’s more, when someone asks for help they are the person you have access to, so changes they can make are the most productive.

The problem with a valid “are you doing …” questions is it can come off as “if you want your spouse to do such and such, you need to do something for him/her”. In other words, a favour for a favour, or Quid Pro Quo. This is a horrible thing to do in a marriage because it leads to score keeping and arguments about who is doing what, who is doing more, and so on. There will be disagreements about the value of certain acts, which can lead to both holding back because they are each convinced they are doing more than their spouse is doing.

“I will do something for you if you do something for me” is a horrible trap in marriage. It might initially get you something you have wanted and not been getting, or not getting as much of as you want, but long term it will end badly for both you and your wife. 

A far better plan, in my mind, is to give as much as you possibly can, regardless of what you get back. Give all you can, and work on being able to give more. Only the most selfish or wounded of people can stay stingy when confronted with massive generosity!

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11 Comments on “Say no to Quid Pro Quo

  1. I agree 100% that we should never ever keep score in marriage. EVER! And I would never encourage anyone, husband or wife, to do that.
    However, when a wife is lamenting her unmet needs or desires, the only person she can really change is herself… so she does need to look at areas that she might be leaving her husband feeling unloved or un-cared for. Same for men who are feeling neglected.. he can’t demand that his wife change, but he can take a good hard look at how he can show her unconditional, sacrificial love. He can look at things that might be tripping his wife up and leaving her feeling neglected. That isn’t keeping score, it’s sacrificing self… and that is what we are all called to do in our marriages.

    I know I came across a bit snarky in my response about men asking for sex and not getting it, but I still say, he can’t change his wife, but he can change himself. He can make sure he is meeting her needs for connecting and feeling loved and cared for. If she doesn’t come around, he needs to take the lead and get them into counselling. Not sure what else he could do here.

    And before you write me off as a demanding, whining wife, I will say that I do practice this. Everything I referred to in my response to that post is a frustration that I have had at one time or another with my husband… but God convicted me and I made the choice to love him unconditionally when I was in despair over my marriage. Has he changed? In many areas, yes, but in some, no. Am I getting everything I want? Absolutely not, but in serving and loving him unconditionally, I am experiencing freedom and fulfillment that would not be possible otherwise.

    I have learned that I can’t change him, but I can change myself and learn to die to my own will and way. That isn’t keeping score, that is unconditional love, and it is what God calls us to do in our marriages.

  2. Forgive me… I really didn’t read your last paragraph carefully before I typed my response…
    “A far better plan, in my mind, is to give as much as you possibly can, regardless of what you get back. Give all you can, and work on being able to give more. Only the most selfish or wounded of people can stay stingy when confronted with massive generosity!”
    Exactly! I couldn’t have said it better myself ;-) And I am seeing the fruit of this in my marriage.

  3. workinprogress – I agree looking at what we are failing to to is importnat – it should be our first action every time. The problem is when someone has done this over and over, then they ask for help, and all they get is “what are you doing wrong”. If you have worked really hard to fix your stuff, this kind of an answer is hurtful. It’s still necessary to check it, but it can be hurtful.

    What I need to do is be sure I learn to ask this in a way that does not seem to assume the person looking for help is a selfish jerk!

  4. I know I have been guilty of this, particularly before my bride and I (and God) began turning our marriage around. This is one of the many things I have been working to change but still have a ways to go. She used this post this morning to tell me how much a comment just yesterday made her feel used. I thought I was simply joking around but I missed the mark on that one. I feel terrible about hurting her and pray God will accelerate these changes in me so I can avoid more mistakes. Actually, it did bring to mind Monday’s post about knowing your wife. The “Line” has moved frequently and dramatically, both forward and back, since we started turning things around a year ago and I need to pay more attention to where it is day to day.

    In regards to gift ideas, I am fairly easy. My main hobbies are sports shooting and home brewing and I have wishlists assembled at the online vendors I use the most. She knows she can log on to find the very specific components I want for a future project. To me having those wishlists works the same as the planning for a vacation you mentioned yesterday and it makes easy gift ideas for my bride.
    Of course she does still surprise me with ideas of her own. Some of my favorites have been a very high quality pocket knife, quality hand crank L.E.D. flashlights, unexpected approval of a guys weekend or hobby project, a six pack of hard to get craft brews, and even the gift of her time as she happy accompanied me to events that I like but she doesn’t.
    Of course seeing her in nothing but a bow and an enthusiastic mood is always a great gift.
    I should mention what I am giving her because a lot of guys may like it and she already knows due to scheduling it. She loves to fly, so I am hiring a pilot friend of mine to take us up in his Navion for a couple of hours.

  5. I agree, quid pro quo should not be the status quo. That said, if you marriage is solid, your sex life is stable (frequent and enjoyable), then I see nothing wrong with a little quid pro quo here and there as an EXTRA.

    For example, “If you rake the leaves while I’m out grocery shopping, maybe we’ll have a little afternoon fun when I get back.” Of course, then you have to follow through with it, and if you don’t rake the leaves, this would in no way impact your normal sex schedule/frequency/activities. Purely as an “added bonus”, extra incentive, or what-have-you.

    • Oh, and sometimes it’s kind of fun to come home from work and say “Make sure you don’t come to bed too late tonight, I think I owe you an orgasm” (if they didn’t have an orgasm last time you had sex). Of course, we don’t actually “keep score”, and it generally ends in both of us having one, so the “keeping score” is really just a pretense.

      • Just one major if: stable/healthy sex life.

        But then, that goes for most “spicing up sex life” advice. IF you lack trust, communication, gentleness or decency, you shouldn’t try a lot of things like video taping, bondage, anal, etc, etc, etc.

        Put down a solid foundation, then worry about the rest.

        Sorry to confuse the issue.

        • I would call solid marraige and stable sex life to things. Granted you can’t really have one without the other.

          My bigger concern is it would be easily misused by many, maybe not even intentionally. But yes, for some it could be a fun game.

  6. I fully agree. It’s not about keeping score. For most of
    our 45 years together, my wife and I have refused to play this game. Following
    Jesus’ example as born again Christians makes it possible to put aside this selfish
    impulse of the flesh (we both accepted Christ seven years after our wedding, so
    we’d played this common game). Still, that impulse can raise its ugly head at
    times (we are sinners after all). But there’s forgiveness and grace!

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