Is There Room In Your Marriage For One More? How My Intimacy Idol Almost Ruined Us

“So this is what marriage is.” I thought to myself as I sat on the couch in our new apartment. There I was, home since 3:30 and eating my dinner alone while I waited for my workaholic new husband to come home. But it would be hours before I saw him. It was our first year of marriage and it wasn’t going so well.

As a teacher, I had to be at work by 7:00 AM which meant we only saw each other for a brief few minutes at the start of the day. The fact that he often didn’t get home from work until 8:00 PM  meant we had maybe, 2 hours a day together-if I could keep my eyes open that long.

“Why did I get married in the first place if I am never going to actually be with my husband?”  I wondered.

And then our first baby was born just two months after our one-year wedding anniversary. A baby who had extreme colic and reflux. I was dealing with the most beautiful mess of a child I could imagine, and suddenly I felt lonelier than I had ever felt when I was single.

I had always dreamed about a shared life with my husband. One in which he met my needs and I met his. Except life actually happened. He felt the pressure of providing and that meant long hours in his particular industry. He was doing his best, but that wasn’t good enough for me. Romance dwindled and if we went on a date, it was always because I took the initiative. It made me feel hopeless. In my mind, we were almost like strangers.

The bitterness and discontent began to take root. Instead of counting my blessings, all I could see were my barriers. Barriers to the happy life that I expected. My loneliness permeated my life.

I wasn’t lonely because my husband worked a lot. Nor was I lonely because I was often physically alone.

I was lonely because of my own sin.

I often became aloof and withdrawn.  I wanted my husband to pay for what I considered his lack of commitment to our marriage and attentiveness to me as his wife.  I longed for true companionship and I felt the void on a routine basis.

So I became an idolater.

And I bet I’m not the only one. Maybe you are too. I just didn’t fully realize it at the time.

Martha Peace, in her book, The Excellent Wife, A Biblical Perspective, puts it like this:

“It is not wrong for a wife to desire intimacy with her husband unless she desires it so intensely that she sins if she cannot have it. Then her desire becomes idolatrous. In those cases, even if her husband attempts to be more open with her, she is likely to be disappointed no matter how hard he tries. He may give up trying and then her idolatrous desire for intimacy becomes even more intense.”

The Bible speaks strongly about idolatry in both the New and Old Testaments, but this passage from Colossians 3:5 is especially convicting:  “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” I coveted the ideal marriage. God wants our whole hearts to be devoted to Him, and when we put any thing or person before Him, we make it into an idol. That’s exactly what I was doing. My need and desire to change my husband became the thing that dictated my emotions and my joy.

My loneliness grew the more I felt sorry for myself. My self-pity multiplied my discontent. My discontent depressed my spirit and my poor husband couldn’t please me if he wanted to, because his efforts always fell short of my imagined standard.

My intimacy idol almost ruined us.

But through those dark days, the Holy Spirit began to convict me. It was clear that we were unwitting hostages on a train that was hurling towards a bridge-less ravine.  If I didn’t put the brakes on my wayward emotions, then we were going to plummet into the depths of brokenness and take our son with us. We vowed we would never divorce but the prospect of living like enemies under one roof seemed more than I could bear. I was willing to sacrifice my own happiness for the sake of my kids, but as a Christ-follower, I knew our fractured relationship wasn’t pleasing God.

But what was the answer? How could I get my husband to be the provider, leader, spiritual giant, romantic, and friend that I thought I was getting when I married him?

I tried, but I couldn’t change him.

I had to change me.

It started with gratitude. Removing my idolatry of intimacy and desire to have my needs met by a human being, my husband, required that I take my eyes off my selfish desires and place them on the only one who can truly meet my needs-the Lord.

I needed to cultivate an attitude of gratitude towards God-it meant thanking Him for everything in my life, even if I didn’t “feel” very grateful at first. It meant going against my feelings, using self-control, and speaking only words that edified my husband. Instead of wallowing in my self-pity, I needed to meditate on the goodness of God in my life. I had lost sight of it.

I had mistaken God for a magic genie whose goal was to serve me instead of the other way around. I had made my Lord too small and placed Him in the confines of a white picket fence. My view of God was tainted by my circumstances when I should have had a high view of God to lift me above my circumstances. I lost sight of the fact that my role in life is to serve God, not the other way around.

My happiness was at the forefront of my goals instead of my holiness. And it wrecked havoc.

I was called to love my husband, no matter what. Just as Christ loved me, while I was yet a sinner. Even if he never changed. Even if things got worse. My ability to fulfill my role as an excellent wife had nothing to do with my husband’s performance. Yes, he could make it easier or harder on me to do so, but ultimately, my goal was to honor God with my thoughts and actions. That is where the true and lasting joy would come from, not from any earthly relationship.

And you know what? The more I changed, the more he did too. He began to take his spiritual walk more seriously and we became more like-minded.

Today, people look at us and think we have a blissful marriage but the truth is, we worked hard and we went through deep valleys to get here. God refined us both and we are still a work in progress. But my husband is the very best man I have ever known. He is my best friend, and my cherished lover. I wouldn’t have believed we could get to this point, and we still have areas of struggle because we are both sinners saved by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. But we have learned how to communicate and put each other’s needs before our own. Truth be told, my husband is far better at that than I am.

Our marriage is stronger than ever and I’m deeply blessed, but that’s only because our mutual satisfaction rests in our individual relationships with God, and not in each other.

Wives, if you find yourself today in a pit of turmoil over your marriage I want to lovingly remind you of something: You are only there by your own hand.

It’s not your husband’s fault.

He may not be meeting your God-given needs or desires. He may be downright rude and self-centered. He may never “get” you in the way you dreamed.  That is between him and God. But your happiness and joy will never be satisfied by any earthly possession, position, or person. It will only well up from the heart-spring of a woman whose hope is in Christ alone, and who drinks continually from Living Water, despite her circumstances.

If you have made your need for intimacy with your husband an idol, tear it down today.Sacrifice your self-pity on the altar of gratitude. Pray this Psalm from the depths of your heart to God:

Psalm 73:25-28 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Simplify your troubled marriage by giving it back to God. Your idol may not be for intimacy, but if your marriage or happiness is an idol in any way, and you are sinning as a result, then it’s time to take a look at your heart.

What if your situation NEVER changed? You have two choices:

You can yield to misery and fight against your situation which will lead to misery and depression rendering you useless as a light on a hill and will ultimately waste this one life you have been blessed with.

Or,

You can put your unwavering trust and faith in a good God who loves you unconditionally, sees you in your need, and promises to give you both peace and joy in any circumstance which will lift your soul and spirit far above the ocean waves that seem at this moment to sweep you away, and ultimately, you will rise above the fray and shine so brightly that the world will take notice of your great God who will then also reward you for all of eternity.

Which will it be, friend?

The idol of intimacy is a cold substitute for a husband of any kind. And it can’t compare to the One True God. Humble yourself and put on a robe of gratitude today. Rely on the Holy Spirit to help you, and be the wife God created you to be.

The beautiful byproduct can also be a healed marriage. At the very least it will lead to a healed wife.I know from personal experience that idols make three a crowd but there is always room for Christ at the center of your marriage. Make the trade today and the intimacy from your relationship with the true Husbandmen, Jesus Christ, will bless you in supernatural ways and bring you lasting joy.

Read MORE about marriage in my posts, I Married Mr. Wrong But It's Alrightand How To Find The Perfect Husband Even Though You Are Already Married!

YOUR TURN! Can you relate to this post? I would love to pray for you. Please, share with me in the comments how I can pray for you.

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Amber Lia

A former high school English teacher, Amber is a work-at-home mom of 4 little boys under the age of 10. She is the best-selling author of Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, say Something New. She and her husband Guy own Storehouse Media Group, a faith-friendly and family-friendly TV and Film production company in Los Angeles, CA. When she’s not building sand castles with her boys on the beach, or searching for Nerf darts all over her house, you can find Amber writing to encourage families on her blog at Mother of Knights (www.motherofknights.com).