We’ve been married long enough that I can see the signs.
I can immediately sense when my husband isn’t fully present, when he’s hiding. I know when he’s stressed, sometimes before he even recognizes it. I can tell when he’s empty and depleted, grasping at things that I know won’t fill him.
I’ve had plenty of practice being a student of his behavior—we’ve been married over 16 years. For over a decade of our marriage, he used porn as a hole-filler and an escape from the stresses of this life. Though he has found freedom from this particular affliction, I admit, my anxiety can still rocket sky-high when I see him in a not-so-good place.
Even though I’ve learned I can’t fix and I can’t fill, I still find myself trying. And when “I” don’t work or “I” am not enough, I tend to get despondent. Certainly, I want him to be happy and filled with joy. Certainly, I want him to have peace with Jesus and know without a doubt that God loves him with an everlasting love. Certainly, I want him to know that he has what it takes for him to be the man God has called him to be.
But certainly, I also want him to be able to meet my own relational needs. I want to have the kind of relationship where we are always ready, willing, and able to help each other. I want to feel loved, cared for, and important. See, I don’t want him to be in a good place just for his sake, but for my own, too.
And though our husbands are called to love us well and it is valid to want to be loved well, if I am not careful, my desires for him to be “all good” can have quite the negative impact on our relationship. If I see him solely through the lens of my needs, I can become demanding. Accusatory. Prideful and judgmental. I take into account only what he’s not giving, instead of seeing what he is.
He can’t continue give what he doesn’t have and if he hasn’t gotten to the place where he recognizes that he needs Jesus, we’re not going to get anywhere fast.
For so long, I felt responsible for his happiness. Scratch that. I still feel responsible for making him happy, even when there are oh-so-many factors outside my control. (This is where I need Jesus.) So when he’s not happy, despite my best efforts, I end up in a self-pity spiral. Again, getting nowhere (good) fast.
Yesterday, I recognized this cycle—of my trying to please and cheer to no avail—and the anger and self-pity starting to well up.
I took myself to the shower and did what I should have done from the beginning—praying. (When I will learn to begin here first? I know for a fact that my prayers played a part of Craig’s ability to break free from porn. And yet…)
I prayed for any spirits of oppression to leave him. I prayed for God’s peace to pervade him. I prayed that he would recognize what truly fills, that he would relinquish this false-self and press into the man I know that he is. And I prayed that God would give me new eyes, unclouded by self-pity, anger, and fear.
At the end of the day, I was able to communicate with Craig the needs that I have, while expressing sincere compassion for where he is. We left it at that, mutually understood, and went to bed.
Today was a new day. A cloud was lifted and Craig’s vision was different. How he saw himself, and me, changed. After weeks of trying to do it myself, surrendering to prayer allowed for God to do something new. Something that created space for both of us to shift. It was a clear reminder that our marriage desperately needs daily doses of the Holy Spirit, that neither ourselves, nor our marriage, can achieve the fullness God has for us, without Him.
God doesn’t want prayer to be our last resort. He desires to be at the forefront of our marriages and prayer keeps Him in this rightful space. It also keeps us in our rightful place—the place where we’re not the ones in control.
One of our great desires for couples is that they may be motivated continually to pray with and for their spouses. It is so easy (at least for me) to forget the incredible power of prayer! Thus, we’ve designed a year’s supply of prayer cards that tackle a multitude of themes, applicable to any marriage.
52 cards for the 52 weeks of the year. Please enjoy a free card in the graphic below. To purchase a set of cards for you (or for another couple), head over here.