Rewards and Punishments: How It Affects Relationships


The last thing on my mind, as I stepped into that shop, was to get caught in a dead end argument about the wiles of women. I mean it’s a stale topic!

However, when I heard, “Men don suffer too much for women hand oh.” I spontaneously responded, “Women sef don suffer for men hand oh.”

The men turned up their noses and said, “What else would you have said? You are a woman nau. But you people should be talking to yourselves about your selfishness. It’s not good.”

I had a rejoinder, “We learnt how to be selfish from the men.”

“And women took it to another level.”

By now, I was tired of the back and forth. I just wanted to do what I came in there to do and get out. That was when the bone of contention dropped.

One of the men had lost his job, leaving his wife to cater for the family.  Even though he had been trying to get another job, he had been unsuccessful and his wife was beginning to feel the pinch. In turn, she had been pestering him about getting a job faster.

To ensure he’s sufficiently motivated to get a job, apparently Madam withdrew   some of his privileges in the house and it was what led to him declaring all men had become sufferheads in the hands of women.

An elderly woman, Motomori, who divorced her husband after 22 years of marriage due to domestic violence, recently shared how she wished she had stayed and “prayed for him to change.” Even though I could not understand her logic, I listened as she shared how her husband had been her first love, lover in fact, and how lonely she feels now, with all her grown children living their own lives.

Apparently, the beating started early in their marriage and went on throughout the 22 years they were together. It was due to the insistence of her children that she left and sought a divorce.

What was the cause of the beatings? Motomori wanted him to be a better name; one who didn’t drink himself into stupor nor came home in the dead of the night, waking the whole house with his drunken drama.

They had become a laughing stock in their neighbourhood. It was so bad that even their children grew up knowing afternoons were the best times to talk with daddy, as the previous night’s drinking effect would have reduced and he wouldn’t have gone for an encore…yet.

Her husband was having none of that controlling influence, and he battered her to declare who the head of the house was.

It’s obvious that there is some form of circular movement in these stories; a wife wants an employed husband, she withholds some privileges, forcing him to put more energy into getting a job. Another woman wants a more responsible man, she tries to punish him into behaving well and gets battered…and the cycle continues.

Rewarding people for good deeds and punishing them for bad deeds is quite instinctive; parents use this with their kids, teachers use this in classrooms, but is it ideal, especially when you’re dealing with a fellow adult, moreso your spouse?

Should there be a need to either reward or punish our spouses? What happened with learning to accept and love our spouses, rather than training them? Really, it’s not your job to train your partner. The unwritten code is “train your children, love your spouse.”

But this vicious circle revolving around rewards and punishment has effects of relationship, and it is mostly negative.

Let’s take a look at some of the effects;


Punishment creates distrust


I’m pretty sure we all remember the teacher whose favoured means of discipline was corporal punishment, and how much we avoided and distrusted his words and actions, even when he was not holding a cane.

It’s the same way with relationships. When you punish your partner for whatever reason, you’re setting the scene for deep distrust to strive.

And when punishment is used over and over again, trust is broken. A huge emotional and psychological wall will be erected by the punished partner, to protect himself or herself from enduring more pain.


Rewards and punishment upset a couple’s partnership

Divorce and separation concept as a rope with a burning knot shaped as a love heart as a relationship problem symbol or infidelity crisis icon between a couple.

Ideally, a mature relationship should be based on partnership.

However, with the introduction of the duo of rewards and punishment, one of the partners has the power to punish or reward, and that automatically upsets the balance; partnership is thrown out of the window.


Relationships based on unequal power are very unstable and transitory


Have you ever seen a teenage rebel against their parents attempt to mould them into someone they are not?

The possibility is high in a relationship filled with rewards and punishment. Often, this will lead to reactions that will undermine and weaken the power of the controller. One of the most common reactions is dissent. The controlling partner may squelch it for a time, but it merely goes underground to emerge later as outright rebellion.

Even with all the negative aspects of punishing or rewarding a partner, there are times we will feel a need to teach our partner a lesson, either for being disrespectful, or hurtful.

However, it should not be a long term approach, or one you resort to too often, as it will damage the relationship.

Instead forget, forgive and use the pain as a way to understand your partner more.

Again remember to train your children and love your spouse.


Kristine Signature

Kristine is a member of  The Lovelint team. She  is a down to earth person, who says it as it is. Having given relationship advice for years in a national daily, she has found out that fear is one of the main reasons holding people back from enjoying a healthy, happy relationship. She is married with kids and is willing to listen to you and help as much as you let her to.


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