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There is a fundamental truth about addiction, or any willful sin for that matter, and it is that the problem is never the fault of anyone but the addict (or the sinner). If someone we love is battling addiction, it absolutely is NOT our fault. However, there are things we can do to hurt their chances of recovery, and other things we might choose that would instead help their chances. In the early months of our journey toward healing I came face to face with one of those issues. I realized I had to learn how to let go of control in our relationship.

My control issues in marriage were genuinely motivated by my desire to “help” my husband succeed. I loved him so much (still do) and could very easily see the things standing in the way of his success, and what he needed to do to overcome them, or so I thought. And so, of course, I tried my best to force him down the path I believed was best for him. But in reality, surrendering a relationship to God gives the addict a far better chance at success than trying to manage his recovery ourselves. When I finally realized this and gave up control to God things changed, and they changed fast!

Control Issues in Marriage

In the years since our story hit its breaking point God has given us the privilege to work alongside many couples facing off with the monster of sexual addiction. In the process we’ve learned that the compulsive need to micro-manage every step of his recovery seems to be a pretty universal battle for the betrayed wives of sex addicts. So much so that we began to wonder if there was more to it. Turns out, it’s actually one of the symptoms of betrayal trauma along with a state of hyper-vigilance which helps the betrayed feel as if she is creating safety for herself and a stable environment in which both she and her addicted husband can heal.

Unfortunately, it’s an illusion. In fact, these control issues are doing the exact opposite. Here is something I wrote while we were going through an intensive (a strenuous week of marriage counselling designed to expedite the healing process) as I was trying to process my own control issues in our marriage.

“For some reason it brings me some sort of comfort to believe that it’s my responsibility to “help” Steve figure out exactly what he should be doing in every moment of his recovery.  As if I am his Holy Spirit.  But that is straight up sin! I most certainly am NOT his Holy Spirit! He has the actual Holy Spirit of God living in him, and I’m not it!”

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When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy! But you - who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

How to Let Go of Control in a Relationship

You see, I think I realized something really important in that moment. It’s something we all need to process and understand if we’re going to have any hope of surviving this life with peace and joy.

There is only one Holy Spirit of the living God, and we are not Him!!!!

When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy! But you - who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

Unfortunately, too many of us spend our lives living as if this is not the case. There are two major problems that result:

  1. It hurts our relationship with God when we’re too focused on someone else’s heart to hear what He’s saying to our own!
    In my own life I have far too often found myself reading the Bible “for” someone else rather than coming before my Lord in humility ready to hear what He wants to tell me. It’s pathetic! God’s Word is a living, active, and sharp tool in the hands of God’s own Spirit. I need to be divided by it!  I need to allow Him to use it to separate out my own sinful nature and destroy it by the power of the Holy Spirit living in me! May we all commit today to repent where we’ve gotten this wrong and move forward in humility!
  2. It hurts the people we love by getting between them and God. We have the potential to actually silence the voice of the Holy Spirit in their hearts by replacing it with our own.
    In my own life, Steve would often look to me for answers about what we “should” do in a given situation when he should have been seeking God for those answers. He looked to me as the “spiritual one” in the relationship and by accepting that role I allowed myself to become an idol to him. YIKES!
    I don’t want to be anyone’s idol, and I’m sure you don’t either. We have to repent, friends, and encourage the people we love to listen to the voice of God. It is CRUCIAL to their recovery that they do!
God's Word is a living, active, and sharp tool in the hands of God's own Spirit. I need to be divided by it!  I need to allow Him to use it to separate out my own sinful nature and destroy it by the power of the Holy Spirit living… Click To Tweet

So how do we let go of control in a relationship? Well basically, by somehow figuring out how to surrender the relationship to God! It all comes down to the same thing we talk about around here all the time. We HAVE to figure out how to really, truly, wholly TRUST Him.

Surrendering a Relationship to God

If we’re going to trust God with the people we love most, we’re going to have to accept a few truths:

  1. We don’t actually have the power to make the people we love do what we want anyhow. If we did, would we have ever been betrayed to begin with? No. We can’t control them friends, so we have to stop trying!
  2. They never belonged to us to begin with. We are all held securely in the hands of our Heavenly Father, and He is far more capable of taking care of the people we love than we ever were.
  3. As much as we love them, God loves our husbands far more than we do. FAR MORE! We can trust that wherever He leads them, it will be for their good and ours! We’re all far better off when He’s the one in the driver’s seat, because He’s the only one who belongs there!

If we can allow those truths to sink down into our hearts, then all that’s left to do is open up those clenched fists and release the ones we love to God.  This doesn’t mean we don’t make boundaries. We still need to do that, but our boundaries will be purely to protect, not to control. There is a HUGE difference! I hope this prayer of release and surrender will help all of us as we learn how to let go of control in a relationship!

Prayer of Release and Surrender

“Dear Lord, as I open my hands in surrender, please take this man that I love so much!  Help me. Teach me how to let go of control in a relationship. Show me what that looks like. I admit that I have control issues, and that it scares the life out of me to think about letting go and surrendering this relationship to You. I hate that. I don’t want it to be true, but it still is, and I am so sorry. I need Your help.

The truth is, he is so much safer in Your hands than in mine!  Help me to acknowledge and believe that!  Help me to remember that no matter how much I think I love him, Your love for him is greater.  The love that comes from me is flawed and selfish and tainted by sin!  Your love is perfect.  You want what is good for him even more than I do! 

Even when I think I’m helping him, he is ultimately still in Your sovereign control.  You are good and righteous and faithful!  You created him and you are working and molding him into what You want him to be.  Help me to keep my hands off ! 

Help me learn how I can truly help rather than control.  Give me wisdom as I figure out how to set boundaries that honor You and Your place in our relationship. Help me to be the wife You want me to be. 

Forgive me for trying to take Your place in his life! It was so wrong, and I am so sorry!  Please redeem any damage I may have done in his heart. I renounce any lasting damage that has been done in my heart because of this sin and ask that You cleanse me.  Calm the fears that arise in my heart as I recognize the great pain that could still result from our situation. Help me to trust You! 

Dear God, please, PLEASE, give him victory over the terrible sin that has caused so much pain in our life together!  Make us new and beautiful and use us to bring glory to YOU! 

I love you Lord!

Amen.”

*How about you? Have you ever made the mistake of trying to speak for God to someone you loved? Have you allowed that to get in the way of hearing from God for yourself? What did you do to get victory over that? Let us know in the comments below!


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13 Comments

  1. Beka

    Oh my, how this stung! I have been guilty of the same thing.

    Although (with God’s help) I’ve gotten better about telling Him what God says. However, I often ask questions to try and figure out if he’s getting the message from God that I think he should!- which is just as bad!

    Thank you for this post and the prayer at the end- much needed.

    • Esther Hosea

      Thanks Beka! I think almost all wives are guilty of this at one time or another. I’m so thankful for a God who keeps working with us and opening our eyes to these sorts of errors as we seek and follow Him!

  2. Kira Bridges

    Oh I feel you! It is so tempting to act as Holy Spirit to our husbands and even our children (which is also wrong). I love what you said in your prayer, he is safer in God’s hands then in yours. Amen! I think all of us control types need to embrace that truth.

    • Esther Hosea

      So true Kira. I am not anybody’s Holy Spirit. Not my husband, not my kids, not my friends, not the people in my church or small group, not my blog audience, not anyone! Thanks!

  3. [email protected]

    I also have been guilty of this in the past. A couple of years ago, God really worked in my heart to leave my husband in his hands. I had the revelation, by the Holy Spirit, that I had been holding him tight in my hands because I thought I could change him. In that moment, I gave him over to God. Sometimes, it’s still tempting to pick that up again. That’s why posts like this are great-they remind not to.

    • Esther Hosea

      Thanks Rosanna, I think this is a life-long struggle for many of us! And you’re right, we need each other for the reminders that they’re better off in God’s hands.

    • Esther Hosea

      Amen! It isn’t easy. At all. But He has proven Himself trustworthy again and again. He’s just better at it than me!

  4. Fleda Bennie

    I know I did this in the past – thinking I was helping. It was for different reasons than yours but the same control issue. I had to do the same thing and let go of control in the relationship. I love this statement – “but our boundaries will be purely to protect, not to control. There is a HUGE difference!” I never thought of it in that way but you are so right. Thank you for this great article. Actually, it applies to lots of relationships.

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