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How Do I Get What I Want in My Marriage?

Dear Lord, Tear Down the Idols. Take Back the Throne.

I Have to Have It!!!

Take a moment and honestly answer this question: What is something I have to have?

Something I value so much that it controls my actions, timeline, and decisions?

Something which when I don’t get it, I’m angry, sad, frustrated, and/or irritated?

In a previous post, I mentioned my morning workouts.

Sometimes I lace up my running shoes and head out for a run through the country. Other times I turn on a Beachbody workout and lift weights in my living room. Either way, there’s plenty of potential for interruptions or things not to go as planned.

How do I respond in those moments? If I’m honest, frustration and anger often win out. This is when I know I’ve made exercise an idol.

We do the same thing in marriage.

We all have expectations- things we want from our spouse, ways we want our marriage to look. {Most times those expectations are secondary purposes. But remember God’s primary purpose for your marriage? It should reflect the sacrificial love God has for His people.}

When the expectations and secondary purposes we have for our marriage are unmet, we may think:

  • I’m not happy

  • This marriage isn’t serving its purpose

  • I wonder if my life would be better not being married to this person anymore

  • Maybe there’s someone better for me

Ouch. Those are painful thoughts.

How quickly our desires grow from little wants

…to seemingly reasonable expectations

…to big demands

…to idols of our heart.

What are some of your desires in your marriage?

From Desire to Idol

It starts with a desire.

It could even be a good desire! (Take my example: Working out is good; exercise keeps us healthy.)

Because exercise is beneficial and it makes me feel good, I think I have a right to it.

I place expectations on my family to provide time and space for my workouts, then leave me alone to do them.

When my expectations are unmet, I feel like I’m not getting what I “need.”

So, I demand to have it, and those demands cause division.

When my unmet expectations move me to act unloving toward the people God has placed in my life to love, my desire has become an idol.

Desire → Right → Expectation → Demand → Idol

What started as a little desire turned into a big idol, which always causes disruption and destruction.

But God…

He knows us so well.

He tells us that with His help, we can tear down those idols.

Here’s how…

1) Look at the fruit

Even on our best days, our sin nature can get the better of us. We may have the greatest of intentions but get tossed by our sinful desires.

Galatians 5:19-25 talks about this heart struggle: a battle between flesh and spirit.

Do you recognize any of these “fruits of the flesh” in yourself? In your marriage?

  • Sexual immorality

  • Impurity

  • Idolatry

  • Hostility

  • Strife

  • Jealousy

  • Fits of anger

  • Rivalries

  • Disagreements (Is it really ok to agree to disagree? Check out THIS post to learn more.)

  • Divisions

  • Envy

If you can identify any of these in yourself or your marriage, idols are present.

Conversely, Galatians 5:22-23 tells us what the fruit of the Spirit looks like: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a marriage full of that?

2) Take responsibility (It’s not you, it’s me)

Most of us think Wouldn’t it be nice if my spouse changed? THEN our marriage would be fixed. If only they would display the fruit of the Spirit, it would be easier for us (me).

We need to work on our own heart before the Lord because our marriage will benefit from the fruit of the Spirit… EVEN IF our spouse is not on board for changing their own life!

Be aware of your own selfish motives no matter how selfish your spouse is being.

3) Identify the idols

Let’s get to work

Ask God to search your heart and show you what things in your life have taken His place.

Ask yourself the following questions to help identify what idols might be driving your life.

  • What do you make sure you have time for?

  • What do you hide that you secretly long for?

  • How do you tune out/check out when things aren’t going well?

  • What gets you out of bed in the morning? What keeps you going throughout the day?

  • If you had to name one thing, what would you say is the driving force behind your decisions?

For most of us, our motives are probably a mixed bag; wanting to please God and please self. Think about it…

Do you have a desire to know His plan for your life?

Now go deeper still, is your desire for knowing His plan for your life greater than your desire for knowing HIM?

What does He say about our idols?

4) Read God’s Word for lasting heart change

In this chapter we see Eve believe the lie that God was holding something back from her, and that if she could just get that one thing, she would be content. The result was the fall of man; sin entering the world.

We do the same thing.

We believe that some idea, some goal, or some desire is going to deliver fulfillment, so we demand it, and it becomes an idol. But idols never deliver what they promise!!

God knows we will never be satisfied by our idols; that they must be torn down.

So, He says…

Exodus 20:3-5You shall have no other gods before me.” He tells us not make for

ourselves a carved image or any likeness of anything that’s in heaven, on earth, or in water. “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”

Ezekiel 14:1-5 shows us how God interacts with us when we have idols of the heart.

In this passage, we see elders of Israel inquiring of God, asking good questions. But God knows they are idolaters. He says, “these men have taken their idols into their hearts” (v. 3).

Because of this, God puts their questions on hold and deals with the core issue first: the idol(s) standing between them and Him.

He does the same with us.

When we ask God to speak to us, to come near, to bless us (God, help my marriage!), He responds in keeping with His justice, mercy, love, and faithfulness.

He says…

Idols might play a bigger part in your marriage than you realize: James 4:1-6 tells us why we fight with one another. It’s because of our idols! Because we aren’t getting what we want.

If we link this with the Ezekiel passage, we learn something pretty life-changing:

The elders of Israel have a good request, but God says,

“I know that even in this good request of Me… because of the idols in your heart… that you will spend what I give you on yourself. You won’t use it to help others or love the way I’ve called you to. So, I must answer you in keeping with your idols. That means I must deal with your heart FIRST, and THEN we’ll address this thing you say you want.”


He loves us too much to settle for anything less.

5) It’s all a matter of the heart

Our heart is what God wants; our complete affection and worship. (For more on living a life of worshipful thanksgiving and devotion to God, check THIS out.)

Anytime we go against God’s Word, we are in spiritual adultery, giving our love and worship for God to someone or something else (Luke 6:13-14).

Anytime we exchange the truth about God for a lie, then worship/serve the creation rather than the Creator, we are idolaters (Romans 1:21-25).

What rules your heart other than God?

Whoever/whatever is ruling our heart will be shown in your words and decisions.

For this reason...

Our spouse/family/others around us can sometimes identify our idols better than us. One thing’s for sure: everyone around us plainly sees the products of our unseen heart idols.

Perhaps we could ask those closest to us: What in my life do you see me placing above God’s calling to love Him and others? Then humbly receive the answers.

Vow to change: an encouraging call to action

Idols must be removed- either by God’s force or by us finding the end of them and choosing to turn away.

If we go back to James 4:7-10, we are asked to…

  • Submit ourselves before God

  • Resist the devil (and he will flee)

  • Come close to God

  • Humble ourselves before the Lord

It says if we do these things, then God will…

  • Come close to us

  • Exalt/honor us

Did you catch that?

Idols (sin) put us at odds with our Savior, but God does NOT stand back in anger and judgment.

He says, “Come to me. Let’s take care of this. Repent and turn away from the sin you love so much. Humbly submit to My authority and sovereignty in your life. Put Me back on the throne of your heart and you will be wholly satisfied in Me.”

You may have noticed this post is a little longer than normal. When my husband and I did the VowsToKeep counseling, identifying idols of the heart was pivotal in our progress. Too many times, our idols go undetected, which is dangerous because hidden heart idols are some of Satan’s favorite playgrounds. You and your spouse’s hearts are too important to leave prey for idol play.

So, in this call to action, I’m asking you to carve out time and really delve into the depths of your heart and actions. Take your time; you do not need to complete everything in one sitting. It might be more effective to do it in smaller increments.

  • Read through this post again, asking God to show you what He wants you to know and understand.

  • Read all the Scripture references

  • Write down answers to ALL the questions posed throughout

Watch how God changes your heart as He takes down the idols you’ve placed there and sits back on the throne; the place from which He can love you best and you can serve Him most.

To go deeper, listen to this post's corresponding podcast:

Check it out

Have you been deeply hurt by the person you love most in this world? Is your marriage stuck in one place, slowly dying because of the pain? Forgiveness will bring healing and restore unity to even the most broken marriages. If you’re having trouble forgiving your spouse for the pain they’ve caused, check out the next post: Help! My Marriage is "Stuck"!


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