Prior to my 4-year-separation, I spent the majority of my 19-year-marriage trying to conform my husband into the image I thought he should be. I didn’t realize how unhealthy our relationship was.

My efforts did nothing to keep him from serial adultery, concluding in a 3-year-affair with a business client.

After he moved out, it took me two years to accept the fact I had to get out of God’s way so He could work on my husband and open his eyes to the disastrous direction of his life. I had to learn to sit on my hands till they were numb and bite my tongue until the blood was running down my throat.

It’s amazing what happens when we get out of the way. As creative a writer as I am, I couldn’t have imagined or fabricated the means God would use to humble my husband and bring him to repentance.

I believe my husband is a completely different man today, in large part, because I chose to “be still” and let God work (Psalm 46:10).

Here are eight steps you can take to get out of the way of God working in your spouse’s life:

 

1. Quit Trying to Catch Them in the Act

Quit checking your spouse’s cellphone and email for illicit messages. Quit tracking their whereabouts via GPS. And quit giving them the third degree every time they walk in the door.

You don’t have to know the details. God sees it all even if you don’t (Psalm 90:8), and He will make sure your spouse’s sin comes out one way or another (1 Timothy 5:24).

We all reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8). Even your spouse.

 

2. Stop Trying to Convince Them They’re in Sin

You’re wasting your breath and your time trying to convince your spouse their sexual sin is wrong. Stop.

I’ll say it again, Stop!

Their brain is already wired to protect them from confronting their guilt and shame. Satan has probably been working on them night and day for years. How in the world do you think you’ll change their mind?

Your partner has to take the prodigal journey (Luke 15:11-32). And just like the prodigal’s father, you’ve got to let your spouse go so they can reap the consequences of their sin. Only then can the scales fall from their eyes so they can see clearly.

 

3. Accept Your Powerless

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know how hard it is to change yourself. Why do we think we can change others?

Besides, you aren’t God. Only He has the power to humble your spouse.

When we recognize our powerlessness—that we aren’t God—it is much easier to stop fighting Him for control of our lives.

 

4. Focus on Your Own Relationship with God

While you aren’t responsible for your spouse’s choices, you are responsible for yours. How’s your relationship with God? Even if it’s been great, it’s time to go deeper.

Here’s an example of how to go deeper in your Bible study:

An emotionally intimate relationship with God (Bible study, prayer, and meditation) is a bottomless well of refreshment. If you aren’t experiencing it, commit to it by creating an intimacy manifesto.
If you can afford it, go on a vacation with just you and God. That may mean a week in a mountain cabin or a day at the beach. Commit your plans to God in prayer and He will help them to succeed (Proverbs 16:3).

 

5. Set Your Mind on Things Above

The word “repentance” has a bad rep these days. But the original Greek word—metanoia—simply meant “a change of mind”. Colossians 3:1-2 calls us to set our heart and mind on things above, not on earthly things. How do we do that?

 

Music

Music is one of the most powerful tools to change both our emotions and our mind. The same technology your spouse uses for sin, you can use to renew your mind. Apps like Pandora, Google Music, Amazon Music, and the host of Christian radio stations make multiple genres of positive, Christian music available to anyone with cellphone.

Here’s a list of powerful Christian music to help set your mind:

Books

Besides the Bible, spiritual books are essential to helping you change how you think about yourself, your spouse, and God. You can read books on recovery but not to the exclusion of other non-fiction books. If you like fiction, it’s okay to “escape” for an hour a day, try to avoid romance novels. Many of them are verbal or emotional pornography. They can easily turn your mind into fertile soil for a love or romance addiction.

If your time is tight and you can’t sit and read a paperback, why not try audiobooks? Audible.com has been my primary source of reading material for the last 10 years. Or check your local library.

 

6. Find Safe Friends

If you live in an area that has spouse support groups, I highly recommend joining and attending one regularly. Use Google to find a local group. I personally prefer Christ-based organizations. Celebrate Recovery has about 25,000 meetings worldwide each week. There’s also L.I.F.E. Recovery International An alternative to live group meetings is an online group.

Make sure the group you are attending isn’t a spouse-bashing fest. People who stay in unhealthy relationships and complain about their spouse without aggressively pursuing their own recovery can become bitter. Such “friends” are neither good examples nor healthy company for you.

Remember what the Apostle Paul said, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefits those who listen…Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger” (Ephesians 4:29, 31).

7. Practice Self-Care

Most spouses of addicts neglect their own needs because they obsess over their spouse. But you’ll never be healthy unless you’re doing the bare minimum in self-care—eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.

Nutrition

Eating healthy isn’t rocket science. You know the basics—stay away from fast foods and refined sugars, focus on protein and whole grains, and eat a well-balanced diet. If you want some ideas and recipes, check out my free healthy food prep guide.

Exercise

Movement releases endorphins, the happy-chemical that promotes well-being. Today, there are more fitness activities to generate positive energy than you can do in a lifetime. But you won’t do anything unless you enjoy it, so find something you like then do it 2-3 times a week. It could be a brisk walk around the park, a yoga class, or rock climbing. Just do it.

Sleeping

If you are having a hard time sleeping next to your sexually-addicted spouse, move into another room (or ask them to move). Nothing in scripture says you have to sleep in the same bed as an unrepentant adulterer or porn viewer (Matthew 5:27-28). If sleep still eludes you, practice deep breathing techniques and/or listen to lyric-free nature music.

Here’s a video to learn deep breathing techniques.

8. Recycle your pain.

One of the most satisfying parts of recovery is realizing that all your pain and struggle can help someone else. Paul said that God comforts us so we in turn can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

When you quit trying to catch your partner in sin and convince them they’re wrong, you’ll recognize the same dangerous pattern in others and gently encourage them to stop. When you accept your powerlessness and share your victory with others, you empower them to change.

When you share about your intimate relationship with God, the self-care practices you’re implementing, your own challenges in finding safe friends, and the struggles you’ve wrestled with setting your mind on things above, you help other spouses to know they aren’t alone on their journey.

 

The Most Loving Thing

You may think that setting boundaries and letting your spouse reap the consequences of their sin is uncaring and selfish. In truth, it’s the most loving thing you can do for them.

Remember whose hands they are in. God loves your spouse even more than you do. He wants them to repent and come into the light (John 3:19-21).

When your spouse refuses to own or repent of sin, they put their salvation in jeopardy (1 John1:8, 10; Hebrews 10:26). Tough love sets boundaries and expectations. God did it in the Garden and with the Israelites. Jesus set out his expectations in his Sermon on the Mount, and Paul and the other New Testament writers reiterated them in the epistles.

God is a gentleman. He won’t force us to do anything. He will patiently wait until we step out of the way and let Him do what He does better than anyone—lead us to Him.

 

What methods have you used to get out of God’s way so He can work?

Help someone else on their journey by sharing your thoughts on this post in the comment section below.

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Also published on Medium.