Question (from Facebook community): “I’m in a very hard marriage. How do I move my focus off of my husband and back onto God?”

When I first started attending a twelve-step recovery group, and I heard the people read the steps, and they talked about being powerless over their unmanageable lives, I inwardly rolled my eyes and thought, speak for yourselves. It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that though my outward world was ridiculously orderly (to attempt to compensate for my horribly unmanageable emotional and relational worlds), my thought life was not only unmanageable but I seemed powerless over its wily ways. My thought life was centered on my hurting marriage, my pain, and my husband.  And when I say centered, I mean obsessed.  And when I say obsessed, I mean that I had made my difficult marriage my idol. An idol is defined as any person or thing regarded with blind, determined dedication and profound attachment.

Umm, yep. Unfortunately, I was not blindly devoted in the best sense of the words.  I wasn’t, you know, making breakfast in bed every morning and singing love songs while I ironed and cooked.  Oh no.  I was profoundly attached in the worst possible ways.I kept records of wrongs.
I rehearsed his words.
I replayed arguments.
I practiced what I wanted to say next time.
I ruminated about the past, the road not taken.
I threw one constant decade-long self-pity party.
I did try to look inward and upward, but not nearly as much as I looked and pointed outward.

My every waking thought – in the shower, putting on make-up, driving, running errands – was fixated on, literally infatuated with, my marriage and how, woe is me, it was only getting worse and there was nothing I could do and how was I going to get through even one more day let alone the next fifty years?

My failing marriage was my idol, more important to me than God.  Though I never would’ve said that with my words, and it truly was not my intention or heart’s desire, the time my mind spent on trying to untangle my marriage knots was indication enough that I had bowed down to my marriage and I was letting it run (and ruin) my life.  So, I understand the heart behind the question of how to shift our focus.

Matthew 6:33 says this, “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Msg)

You must start by acknowledging that this is in fact what you are doing.  That you have placed your marriage on the altar, where God should be, and you need to ask God to forgive you and to help you set things in right order.But then, you’ll have to take some steps.  Some suggestions:

Get into a recovery group, take a Boundaries class at a local church, get yourself a mentor, or get into counseling with one goal: to work on making yourself healthier and more like Christ. Pray prayers of change for yourself but pray prayers of blessing for your husband.  Focus on asking God to transform you and your thought life and your words and actions, and focus on asking God to simply pour out blessings on your husband.  If there are serious issues of abuse or addiction in your marriage, ask someone else to pray prayers of change over your husband on your behalf.

Serve him in simple ways. You may be getting hurt repeatedly, or ignored on a regular basis, but you can still ask God to give you creativity and strength to take the high road and do something kind.

Ask someone to hold you accountable and pray for you in your attempts to change your thought life.Next time a not-so-great, obsessive thought sneaks up on you, stop it. Say outloud, “No, I’m not going to think about that right now.”  Then be ready with something to replace that thought. A prayer, a Scripture you’re working on memorizing, a simple mantra or recovery slogan, a favorite song.

Learn who you are. It may have been a long time since you’ve done something you’ve enjoyed or since you’ve read, for instance, a non-marriage book. Ask yourself what you actually like to do, think about how God created you; then act on this.  Do something fun and healthy that has nothing to do with your marriage.

Show yourself some grace.  When we think about something often enough, it literally creates ruts in our brain, and it can take a look time to learn how to stop a repetitive thought from doing what it always does, and replacing it with a new thought. Be patient with yourself and the re-routing process.

Please remember that God is on our side.  He doesn’t want you obsessing about anything besides him, so this is a step he is eager to help you with.  It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, but the freedom that will come in no longer having your marriage as an idol will be so worth it.

I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you. –Isaiah 45:5- (NIV)

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Life isn't always how we want it. When change seems elusive, and we're stuck in old routines, a gentle push or some self-reflection can make a difference. Let these questions be that nudge to get you moving.

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