The Biggest Enemy of Your Marriage: Entitlement

Our worst enemy in our marriages is not pornography.  It’s not lust.  It’s not temptation.  It’s not compatibility.

It is entitlement.

There are a lot of books and seminars out there on how to improve your marriage (some of them very good).  But if one of them actually worked in a once-and-for-all fashion, couldn’t books and seminars like these stop being made?

My wife and I were both virgins when we got married.  I was told by my church upbringing and by Christian sexual purity books I read in college that if I saved myself sexually until marriage, God would bless my marriage.  (Another way of saying “bless” would be: “everything you desire,” a la Psalm 37:4)

A deal was struck with God:  I do my part.  He does his.

This is entitlement.  The feeling that I deserve something; that I’ve earned something.

This view was compounded by the marriage books His Needs, Her Needs and The Five Love Languages, which taught that if you show love to your spouse in the way they want you to, you are entitled to a kickback from them in the way you want to receive love.  I scratch your back and you scratch mine, and everyone is happy…as long as the scoreboard is even.

What these books actually did is reinforced my sense of entitlement.  I was doing what the books said, but my wife wasn’t I’m the good spouse, my wife isn’t.  Ever felt that way?  Most all of us have.

It’s called entitlement.

The irony of this is that the foundational step to receiving the gospel of Jesus is to admit that I deserve nothing.  In fact, to be more precise, I deserve hell.  Apart from Jesus’ saving work on my behalf, I am a rebellious sinner who deserves to be in hell this very moment.

This is a far cry from feeling like I deserve or am entitled to an easy and happy marriage because I was “good enough” to earn it.  It’s a far cry from setting up expectations for my wife based on my own perceived merited behavior.

At the root of almost all marriage problems is unmet expectations.  When expectations go unmet, we have two options:  One is to try to figure out what we need to do to get our spouse to meet these expectations.  The other option is we can realize the truth that we have no right to expect anything from anybody, which includes our spouse, as well as God himself, and that anything that is given to us is an undeserved gift of mercy from God.

One of these options leads to a lifetime of disappointment, disillusionment and frustration.  The other leads to freedom, peace and gratitude.

When we choose to embrace all God has given us, instead of longing for what he hasn’t, we are then able to appreciate the thousands of mercies we could never see before.  Our spouse, and all of their good qualities, being one of the major ones.

The path of marriage is not a path of self-seeking pleasure.

Our purpose in marriage is not to be loved.

It is not to make our spouse into a god, expecting them to make us whole in a way only God can.

It is not to make ourselves a god, expecting our spouse to serve our every need.

The path of marriage is a path of worship of the only one worthy of our worship: Jesus himself.

Consider Romans 12:1 and Colossians 3:23-24:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The most powerful way you can worship is not by singing a song in church, it is by obeying God’s commands out of love for him.  And the most practical, in your face, moment by moment way you can worship God in this way is by showing love to your spouse.  Not with the expectation of an entitled kickback, but with the joy, awe and reverence that comes from knowing who God is and offering him our sacrificial, spiritual act of worship, as an overflow of thanksgiving for all of the mercy He has shown us.

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33 responses to The Biggest Enemy of Your Marriage: Entitlement

  1. I don’t see anyone else being brave enough to comment here. So I’ll be the first. Out of masochism. I’m one of the worst offenders where this sense of entitlement in marriage is concerned. Creates loads of animosity. I do have one question. Where does fairness figure into a marriage?

    • That’s a good question Brian. I think in some ways I am saying “don’t shoot for fairness” because when we do this, it creates that entitlement feeling. What I’m NOT saying is: don’t work on your marriage. I think people should still go to counseling and read marriages books and communicate about the areas of concern in their relationship, but in my experience, and in the experience of most others, you can do all of these things and those areas of disconnect are still going to come up with your spouse, so the question is what will you do then? For the first 9 years of my marriage I would just get frustrated, feel entitled due to the unfairness, and typically just wish I wasn’t married or was married to someone else. All of these types of thoughts only lead to misery. The real freedom I found was realizing I’m not entitled to anything and learning to love my wife even when it felt like I was getting the short end of the stick. Freedom because my love wasn’t based on how I was being treated, it was based on the mercy Christ had already shown me and I’m learning to feed off of that, rather than feeding off what I feel I deserve in a marriage.

      • “The real freedom I found was realizing I’m not entitled to anything and learning to love my wife even when it felt like I was getting the short end of the stick.”
        This really speaks to me. Will keep it in mind.

        • I just keep reminding myself that when I feel entitled, it is really the longing for an idol. An idol being anything I’m looking to to give me what only God can give me. This has been very powerful and helpful to me in my journey.

  2. I can’t completely jump on this wagon! This isn’t reality! We take vows to love honor and cherish in sickness and in health. It’s a two way street. Been married over 20 years & I can’t say I’m glad about it. My deepest need is to be loved by a tangible person… My spouse. All I hear is, change yourself and your spouse will then magically change. Lies. I’ve prayed and been unfulfilled. Unanswered. Ignored!!!! Add to that a mean hurtful hateful psychologically and mentally abusive person, that is perfectly fine with neglecting their spouse… Because they have their needs met. They are comfortable, & I am shattered! The question for me becomes do I live the rest of my life with this man, guaranteeing I will die feeling alone and any intimate or romantic need completely ignored. Or do I divorce & then have a perfectly good reason to feel alone, minus being hated and neglected and rejected & thought of horribly in my own house. It gets old hearing about Gods a big God and he can do anything. He can! But will he? The answer so far has been NO. So do I just keep living, and hoping, and day after day my heart breaks & HURTS!!!! Frankly hope is torture. Hope is just getting through the next moments & minutes & hours & days & years & decades… And the result? Disappointment to the point were I wish I was dead! Oh stay married… All your tears are saved in a bottle. Yeah that’s great! Your pain will be rewarded. How much of this can I take? Without taking myself out of this misery?! Let’s say the theory of… Your husband will change and when he does he will make up for all the hurtful painful years & you’ll be so glad you didn’t divorce. Really? So when is that going to happen? On my death bed when he bids me farewell? The truth is I married him as a kid not knowing what I was getting myself into. I bought hook line and sinker… That people get married because they love each other. Love will fix the tough times. If I’m being honest marriage has only been a decision to stay another day, to endure. Add it all up & I’ve willingly done this to myself. Is it so wrong to just want to be loved and be loved by my own husband? If he is unwilling or doesn’t want to learn then there’s no one else to meet that need. Unless I leave. He has no urgency in anything because he’s not feeling my pain! My prayers have evolved & changed to please take me. I’m so sick of being treated less than zero.
    Invisible God, he cares. Somewhere in outer space or all around me. I wish someone would have told me that in marriage you just continually choose to stay committed but there isn’t any fruit unless both people want it. I can’t just give my whole life with nothing in return. I’m only human, & God designed me to be loved. And it’s hurts so bad.

    • Hi Lisa, thank you for your transparency and vulnerability in your comment. My heart truly goes out to you. What you bring up is also the precise reason I wrote what I did. I don’t think your husband will change. I do think it’s a lie and false hope for us to be told that our spouse will change after we have tried the plethora of healthy ways to change them / our marriage (e.g. counseling, conversation, books, etc.)–all things that need to be done, but there are going to be times, lots of times in fact, when the change simply doesn’t happen and simply won’t happen.

      I’d like to challenge a few of the statements you made, with my heart being to help you find peace and to experience deeper and richer depths of the gospel of Jesus:

      My deepest need is to be loved by a tangible person… My spouse.

      Saying that your deepest need is to be loved by your husband is a flashing light indicator of idol worship. I don’t say that condemningly as I have done this myself in my marriage. What I mean is that you are looking for your husband to give you what only God can give you. While yes, you may have a lousy husband, but even if he was a great husband, he would still fail to give you what only God can give you. Your deepest need is to be loved by God and any substitute for that will never suffice. I did a very short blog on this that might be helpful to you.

      any intimate or romantic need completely ignored.

      Is it so wrong to just want to be loved and be loved by my own husband? If he is unwilling or doesn’t want to learn then there’s no one else to meet that need.

      When we start using the word “need”, it’s a sign of entitlement. I know this is hard to swallow, but it is true so try to bear with me on it: Yes, you have a lousy husband. Do you deserve better than him? I ask that as a loaded question. What you and I both deserve is hell because we are sinners who have rebelled against God. So you deserve hell and you have your lousy husband instead. He is lousy, yes, but is he worse than hell? There’s no way he is. Even though understanding that truth will not change him into a better husband, it can change that longing you have for that “need” to be met by him. Back to the idol worship idea, the only actual need you have is to be saved from your sins and brought back into right relationship with our Creator God. This is a need, everything else isn’t. But it’s only when we realize how much we truly don’t deserve this mercy from God that we can also receive it and enjoy it for all it’s worth. If we think we’re not so bad and that we are entitled to God’s mercy, it won’t have much effect on us. But when we realize we have created, through our rebellion, a chasm and an abyss that separates us from God but Jesus extends his mercy to us anyways, this will transform us. And it can even transform how we view our spouse. In reality, they become one of God’s mercies given to us that we don’t deserve, which I know isn’t what you want to hear right now, but it truly will revolutionize how you view your husband. Instead of going to him longing for love from him, you will already know you are loved by one much more powerful and meaningful than your husband.

      I know this is a lot to chew on. But I also hope it’s better than the lies and empty hopes you have experienced. I am going to sincerely pray for you Lisa. Not so much prayer that your husband will change, though I will pray for that, but prayer that Jesus’ mercy washes over you like a tidal wave, filling you to the brim and that it heals all of your hurts. That his love will fill every crevice and every longing for love and intimacy you have. This won’t feel the same as love from your husband, but it’s deeper and longer lasting and will ultimately transform who you are.

      As far as the practical aspect of your question about divorce and about abuse, there is a fine line with abuse that really will depend on your specific situation. I will leave my reply at this for now and if you’d like to share your thoughts further, please feel free.

      • I hear you & understand. However when a promise is made to love honor and cherish … And I end up wishing for the end because of how hurtful in remorseful and unloving he is.
        Let’s just say for instance the vows were to hurt hate and feel justified to keep doing it til death do us part.. No way anyone would agree to a lifetime of pain. That’s what I have. I may not deserve a good husband. I don’t even want one. But staying married how is that benefiting anyone? So just because I want to be loved you are saying I want to be worshipped.? Every wife needs affection. Like air. I’m dyeing inside and your answer is you don’t deserve it anyway. You are right no one can take away this maltreatment. And doesn’t look like anyone will. You basically didn’t give me any hope for this life on earth. Except to hope for when it’s over and I can be in heaven with no more pain.

        • Forgive me for my long delay in response Lisa. I hear you and I hear your pain. But you’re only hearing half of my point. What I want you to do is turn toward the affection of Jesus. Yes you are not getting affection from you husband, and yes you need affection. But you don’t need affection from a man, you need it from Jesus, just as I do. This is why Jesus can say to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “my grace is sufficient for you” when Paul pleads with him 3 times to take away his thorn. Here are some other Bible verses that will help.

        • Lisa, I can relate to you so much! I am not sure what to do at this point in my 30 year marriage but reading these posts has helped. I am seeking God’s love and hope it can heal my heart! Would love to hear from you more! It is always nice to know we are not alone in our pain!

          • Thanks for posting Alicia. You are definitely not alone in your pain and I am glad to hear you are looking to God to heal your heart. He can. And thank you for encouraging Lisa!

  3. Lisa and Alicia, I can relate to your situations as a wife of over 30 years to an abusive spouse (and there are several forms of abuse besides physical abuse) who also does not care to fulfill his responsibility before God as a husband to “love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

    If Jesus says this to husbands, can a wife EXPECT this? That is the question. I believe the answer is YES, just as a husband can expect his wife to fulfill what the Lord says to wives. It’s right there in the Bible, very clear, just as the Lord’s command to “love one another as I have loved you.” It’s all the same — LOVE. That’s the command. That’s the goal. That’s what it’s all about for everyone — female AND male, wives AND husbands.

    I do agree with you, Noah, about the focus of our thoughts and lives being to receive the Lord’s love first and foremost. Only out of this fulfillment can we truly love others anyway. This has been my goal and learning experience in over 30 years of marriage to someone who does NOT have this as HIS goal and experience. On the contrary, he has lived his life completely for his Self — and that, in itself, is idolatry. The more selfish one is, the less one loves. The less selfish one is, the more one loves. It’s just that simple.

    It is the most difficult road to have to travel — loving someone who is supposed to love you, but who does not. This is compounded if the husband is also abusive in other ways. The bottom line is, the is REJECTION.

    Rejection is, by far and most universally agreed upon by Christian ministers in inner healing, the most damaging, hurtful, and abusive wounding of all. Rejection is horrible. There’s no doubt about it. It’s so horrible that it can feel like hell on earth, like a constant IV-drip of pain. It hurts.

    All I can say from my standpoint, at this point in my journey, is that I do believe Jesus knows my pain and cares. Read Isaiah 53, as it clearly shows how Jesus experience the fullest of shame and rejection. Knowing this helps me. It helps to remember that “surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows,” and that He was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” So Jesus knows. He cares. And He heals.

    I can go to Jesus for healing and for love. Should I expect my husband to love, too? I think any Biblical Christian can say that the Lord commands ALL of us to love, even giving the very specific command to husbands to particularly love their wives. Maybe He says this because men tend to be more selfish by nature? I don’t know, but our society certainly shows evidence of this, as does history. I’m not going to dwell on this — I only mention it because it seems like “the elephant in the room” in our society. It seems men tend to want sex over relationship, while women want relationship first. There’s no way that I can believe, though, that God created men to want sex more than relationship, one reason being that Jesus Himself came in human form as a male, and He is the standard for all to follow. He is the “norm,” not society or the world around us. Jesus was totally relationship-oriented as a human male, just as He is now. Both men and women, husbands and wives, are to follow His very relational standard of love. He says of Himself that He did not come “to be served, but to serve.” That’s basically total unselfishness. It’s putting others before self. It’s called LOVE.

    I can’t control my husband or make him love me. Only God can do that. What I CAN do is ask Him to HELP ME RECEIVE HIS LOVE FOR ME. I can ask Him to fill me with Himself so that my deep, abysmal, painfully empty longing and pain goes away. My circumstances may not change, but my heart will — I can ask Him to simply fill me up to satisfaction.

    In the meantime, the question of whether to stay with your unloving, selfish husband or to leave him is an important one. I’m in the middle of considering it now, too. My testimony today, which I hope encourages you ladies, is this: About a month ago I went to an intensive prayer counselling session, during which I confessed to God that I did not trust Him like I thought I did. I asked Him to forgive me for not trusting Him with my heart, my life, my situation, my husband, and everything else. I had a level of trust, but deeper down I discovered I did not fully trust the Lord, especially trusting Him to love me the perfect way I NEED AND WANT to be loved. It may be cliche to say that only God loves perfectly, but it’s true. After I confessed this to Him, I told Him that I RECEIVE His love for me.

    This helped. In addition, there was a demon attached to the painful rejection I’ve been experienced all these years from my husband. Rejection hurts, but when a demonic stronghold develops over it, it becomes tormenting. Lisa, I wonder if that torment is what you feel. I did. Every day was the hugest chore to get through. Everything seemed hopeless. My pain was so deep it was indescribable.

    Today, it is not that way. There is still constant rejection in different forms, but the enemy does not have his “claw” in me like he used to, so now I can go on. Now I’m going on to seek healing and wholeness for MYSELF, trying to focus on the Lord and myself, and trying to untangle myself from my husband’s bad influence on me. This is a challenge, but it’s the best challenge to meet. In the end, if I focus on myself being healed and whole with the Lord, I win. No matter where the journey leads — whether with my husband or without him — I will be growing, getting better, feeling more whole with time.

    Each of us has our own choice that no one can make — We can pursue God and His love, or we can pursue love through other means, which only leads to unfulfillment. I know this in my head, but now I must REALLY KNOW this in my heart, by experience. I pray that the same healing and deliverance that I experienced recently happens to you, and that you receive a flood of His love that fills that painfully empty, huge void inside your spirit. This love from Him becomes like a reservoir of peace and unconditional love for others — even those who spitefully use us, like a husband who refuses to love.

    Help us, Lord. We need You desperately. Help us.

    Blessings to you all.

  4. Oh, and I forgot one of the most important things I wanted to share in my post just now (above) and that is this:

    I highly recommend the course from Life Skills International called “Learning to Live, Learning to Love.” Please look it up on the internet. The website has many wonderful resources, like DVDs and books, and also has information on this life-changing course for husbands and wives. Even if your husband does not want to change, or even see his need to change (i.e., to learn to love), you will benefit, too. It was started over 25 years ago by Paul Hegstrom, who was an unloving, abusive husband. Their story is amazing and encouraging, and now they are in ministry to help others recover and “learn to live, learn to love.” That’s the name of the course, and the ministry (again) is Life Skills International.

    My husband and I just started this course 2 weeks ago and we both like it. We meet once a week for 6 months, but there are shorter, more intensive versions, too.

    Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy or “wake-up call” for an abusive (selfish, and “abusive” in the form of refusing to love, withholding affection, abandoning responsibility and intimacy, etc.) husband to see the need for this. You can pray that God makes him miserable enough to seek God, and to open his eyes to see the truth.

    In the meantime, I recommend you look at the website, make some calls, get a few resources, and determine to focus on and receive GOD’S love for YOU.

    Blessings (again!) — Hope this helps.

    • Thank you for sharing so transparently Janis. I do hope it’s an encouragement to other women reading this, and I think it will be. An analogy I have found helpful is an extension cord. When we try to find our fuel to love our spouse from our spouse (i.e. I can only show love when I’m receiving it from my spouse), it’s like plugging an extension cord into itself — there’s no power there. But when I plug the extension cord into the wall (God’s love for me), now there is life in the cord. The cord can be connected to something else (our spouse) and love will flow from it. But it’s not a love dependent on how our spouse is treating us, it’s dependent on God’s unshakeable love for us. And the irony and beauty of this is, yes our spouse gets loved but for I’d say even more powerful and purposeful is that we ourselves are filled with love as well, in spite of how our spouse is or isn’t treating us.

  5. Im going through the exact same situation as Lisa and Janice. My husband is not even interested in salvaging our broken marriage. He refuses to love me but does not want to leave the marriage. He says he is staying for the kids. So day by day, he torments me verbally, emotionally (previously physically) and gives me the silent treatment every day The atmosphere is hostile and unpleasant. He believes i am solely responsible for his choice to not love me and our failed marriage. He refuses to take any accountability and responsibility for his actions, and abuse in all forms. He refuses to fellowship with me, go on date nights, read Spiritual books and DVD`s which i bought and i have read. He refuses also to go to marriage counselling.

    As a Christian, im confused because im living in the physical world with this cruel man and know what the Bible says about divorce.

    I can write a book of all the events in my life and how my husband has mistreated me – its jaw dropping!

    It is a human need to be loved and as a woman, protected, respected physically. We are not inhumane where we can just shut these needs off or ignore it. What makes it more difficult is being married to someone who does not fulfill these needs. Is that not what marriage is about or am i missing something?

    • Hi Anonymous, thank you for sharing this with me and other readers. I have thoughts on two different sides regarding your last paragraphs. On one side, yes it is a human need to be loved but no that need does not need to be filled by another human. It can be filled by the love of Jesus; in fact, it needs to be filled with by the love of Jesus as its primary source. Secondary sources from humans are fine, but the secondary cannot survive without the primary, whereas the primary can survive without the secondary.

      My second point is yes you do have a human need to be protected and physically respected. This is different than the general need to be loved. If a spouse simply wasn’t loving their spouse, I would advise like I would a single person, that they can depend on Jesus’s love as their primary source. But in a single person’s case, no one is endangering them. In your case, you can and should still depend on Jesus as your primary source of love, but it doesn’t mean you need to stay in that marriage. Or at least you don’t need to stay in that house. I think you can separate from your husband, taking your kids with you for their safety as well, and tell him this is how it will be until he repents and seeks counseling.

      • If we dont need another human why did God make EVE? He didnt say she is only to procreate. He made her for Love and companionship and this was when God was close to Adam. God had a closer relationship with Adam then we well ever have.

        • Hi Anonymous, I’m not saying we don’t need other humans, but I am saying on an individual basis we don’t need sex and we don’t need marriage. Certainly as a human race, sex and marriage are needed, but these are not required for each individual. And closer to the point of this article, within an established marriage, one cannot claim they “need” something from their spouse. If a person isn’t getting love and companionship from their spouse, it’s not an excuse to leave their spouse — they need to get that “need” met elsewhere, like with Christian friends and ultimately personal time with the Lord.

  6. So, if we apply these principles to our marriage – dropping the entitlement and learning to have mercy and love – what do we do and where do we turn when there are gaps in the literal sense of human needs? For instance, one person being left with the responsibility to do everything in order to live and to be a human for both people and the household and the kids? Where is the spouse supposed to be present at all? This seems to really leave out what to do or where to turn when you are basically married to yourself. I dont understand why a spouse would be given a free pass to just “be” because there are truly no expectations at all and all the love we need comes from the lord. In all human relationships there are needs…even with friendships. I think this is too simple for a dysfunctional couple. I can take away expectations but I am still alone and I don’t know what to do next. These questions are meant with sincerity and curiosity.

  7. Wow, this is a tough one to accept and I completely feel for Lisa, a previous poster as I am in the same boat. I’ve only been married 10 years compared to your 20 but I ache as you do. I long to be cherished and adored by my husband, instead I am his roommate, his nanny/caretaker/babysitter to our kids. He would rather watch football or work on the cars than be with me, do things with me etc especially get intimate. It’s like that old commercial where the woman is dressed in very sexy lingerie and the man is watching football. She tries to seduce him but only gets denied – ouch! And that is my marriage also. (Yes, I actually did that once, was so hurt and rejected I will NEVER do that again).
    Anyhow, back to the article’s point, perhaps Pastor you are somewhat right in using the word ‘entitlement’ but I’m sorry, we are all valuable to God and we all DESERVE respect. And RESPECT is a form of LOVE. So, I have hard time with a lot of what you wrote. Additionally, the traditional words and phrases that are in most marital vows – “I promise to love honor and respect”, how do you justify your article with that? If someone promises that, as my husband did, shouldn’t I expect that? Shouldn’t I deserve that? Just like every other woman on this planet, God created me with needs and the pain that develops over time when those needs aren’t met or even completely ignored erodes me, it eats away at my psyche, it hurts to the core, it makes life incredibly difficult.

    • Hi Michele, thank you for your comment. When I speak of ‘entitlement’, as well as what we ‘deserve’, I’m speaking from a theological perspective. So yes, on one level we each deserve dignity, of course. And each of our spouse’s made promises in their wedding vows, promises we should expect them to keep. But the difficult reality for you, and many others, is this: Your spouse isn’t keeping these promises, which like you said makes life incredibly difficult. The purpose of my writing isn’t to tell suffering spouses that they deserve to be treated poorly, it’s to create a new perspective, a theological perspective, in the midst of circumstances that aren’t changing. Theologically, we can remind ourselves that we don’t deserve anything; this is completely separate from what’s going on in our marriage. It’s a reminder of the truth that God is holy and we aren’t and in our sin / our rebellion against God, we deserve hell / separation from God. In this very moment, I deserve that punishment from God because I’ve rebelled against him. I’m NOT saying your marriage is God’s punishment to you for your sins. Not at all. What I’m saying is that in Jesus, INSTEAD of God punishing us for our sins, we get mercy instead. The definition of mercy is what we DON’T deserve. So the ultimate display of this mercy treasure is that I get heaven for eternity when I die, something I don’t deserve, but there is incredibly emotional freedom that becomes very practical, very day-to-day, when I apply this truth to my current circumstances as well, whether that’s a bad marriage, or life in prison, or whatever it may be. When I understand I deserve hell this very moment, I know at the core of my being that would be just, I then become THANKFUL for all of the little mercies I am given, like this soft chair, this hot cup of coffee, a friendship, etc. I become overwhelmed with thanks for these things, things I don’t deserve from God, then when the reality of the bad stuff hits me, my position and paradigm are completely changed. Instead of going to God saying “Give me what I deserve,” I can say, “Thank you for not giving me what I deserve (hell)! Thank you for giving me so many mercies instead!” You can lean on these mercies when your spouse is treating you poorly. This is only a first step. The next is to have the needs you mention, needs for intimacy, love, honor and respect, met by Jesus. Your husband has left you a large vacant hole for these things, God’s desire isn’t that they go unmet, it’s that, whether a person is single for life or in a crappy marriage, that these needs do get met, but they get met in Jesus. I find these truths in these verses: and I meditate on them. I talk to God about them, I focus in on how true they are. So instead of facing a bad marriage with an empty cup saying “fill me up!”, you approach a bad marriage with a full cup. More from the marriage would be great, but at this point it’s a bonus because you are already full. There really is incredible freedom in this, tangible, visceral freedom. Freedom no one will ever get just wishing their spouse would improve–that’s a real hamster wheel, which is part of what makes it so miserable.

      I hope this helps, and thank you for your comments. It helps me learn how to communicate in a more effective way, and make sure I clarify things more. We are definitely in some deep, deep water here, that is for sure.

  8. I’m having a lot of these same issues with my wife. So, what would be the point of getting married at all then? If Jesus is the only love we truly ever need, why get married? Just so we can have sex? We can have very close and deep friendships with others, then why get married at all, other than for sex or procreating? From the hurt standpoint, I’m sorry, its just not worth it, and I would tell anyone the same!

  9. Same question here like Annon. I asked my pastor what’s the point being married? because if you don’t have to expect all these from your husband but only from God, then it means marriage is just for procreation. Something to me seems not working in line with what the bible commands about husand loving their wives like Christ loved the church! Because if they don’t, they are defying God’s command and vice-versa( even for women)…so basically if we agree they may never change, it means we want them to face harsh judgment from God, cuz we must remind them that we are not only seeking for love because we take them for our idols but because we need it and God commands it. So if we all say its ok for them not to do it, are we saying what the word of God commands isn’t important? Please I am not rebellious but I believe there are too many divergent opinions when God’s word is black on white!

    • Hi Mary, thank you for the comment. Your husband IS commanded by God to love you, and if he isn’t, that is most definitely on him and he’s guilty before God. But the point of my article is, what solutions do you have if this is the situation you find yourself in? You can’t change your husband, that’s been tried. So I’m presenting a solution that brings a joy and freedom that transcends a marriage’s circumstances.

  10. Noah…thank you for the post. I have a question. I completely understand that we should not feel entitled, and that entitlement is evidence of a wicked, prideful heart that is sinful towards God. And I also agree that the only thing we deserve from God is judgment and eternal separation, because of our sin. I also know we shouldn’t do things for our spouse just to get something out of them. I have certainly been guilty of this. However, when you say that we shouldn’t expect anything from our spouse, and anything that we do get is a gift, I must ask, what do you mean? Should we not expect fidelity? What about commitment? Should we not expect sex? What about forgiveness? Repentance? I guess I don’t know what you mean and I’d like for a little more clarification. Thanks again for the post.

    • Hi Chris, I apologize for my very long delay in responding. Great questions. In my book, I break down a little more the difference in definitions between “expectations” and “entitlement” because I learned from some of these blog posts that I do pose it in a confusing way. Let me see if this helps clarify what you’re asking about… It’s definitely not wrong to expect things, that’s natural — in fact it’s what we put in our marriage vows — but what I’m getting at is, how do we respond when we don’t get those things? Sex is a good example. yes you should expect sex from your spouse and if they deny you of it, they are in the wrong, in fact, they are breaking a direct command in the Bible (1 Corinthians 7:5). But I guarantee quoting that verse to them isn’t going to help any! 🙂 –so the point I’m making is, when an expectation goes unmet, how do we respond? Do we become entitled about it? If so, we’ll find ourselves angry at our spouse, angry at God, pouting, depressed, and downright miserable. Many will snap and go off and have an affair or look at porn or what have you. So what I’m writing about is another option that changes our perspective, that gives a joy and gratitude that transcends the specific negative circumstances of a marriage. It’s something that’s truly life-changing if someone applies it holistically on a theological level. What I mean is, you can truly get to a point where instead of always saying “I deserve better”, you can truly say “I’m so thankful for what Jesus has given me” without any actual circumstances changing. Most marriage tips are about how to change your circumstances, but I’ve found (from personal experience and from counseling others) that some marriage circumstances just are not going to change.

      let me know how all this sounds

  11. Hi last writers. I’m not sure where Noah is but I will try to respond. I think the idea of not expecting anything from your husband or wife is a way to protect yourself from let downs and discouragement. Certainly your spouses are not doing their part whether it is by loving you as God commands or treating you with respect or simply honoring their vows. But we have to remember that we are married to people, sinners, God expects them to flop time and time again and so should we. Yet He expects us to love our spouse as He loves the church. We, the church, the ones aiming Day in and day out to accomplish what The Word says, we fail God daily. We mistreat Him, neglect Him, disrespect Him yet He still shows us unconditional love and He wants us to do the same. It’s hard, for sure, but with God’s help it is possible. Maybe if we knew then what we know know, we would have followed Paul’s advice and stayed single forever…but if we want to honor God we must honor our vows unless of course we are putting our lives in danger.

    • Hi E, thanks for filling in for me! 🙂 I got swamped these last few months and had to put my blog comments on the back burner for a while. Getting caught up now.

      The heart of my post is for when people to get a point where they’ve tried everything to change their spouse, and their spouse isn’t changing. I’m definitely not saying the way their spouse is acting is right, but at this point there’s only two options: one is to keep expecting the change, which is only going to cause more misery… the other is to reframe how we look at life in the way I’ve laid out. It’s a path of true freedom when it looks like there are no more paths to walk down.

  12. I want to say thank you to everyone who has contributed here. Most topic threads are trite and basic. This one is truly amazing. I have searched many sites for commentary on this very topic and all your responses have put me through a tumult of emotions, empathy and more. It has helped me a great deal to know I am not alone in this struggle, but also that there are people who can cut through the muck and explain so well the complications of it all…Lord, please turn your face of mercy to all of us and fill us with your strength and love to bear our crosses. Again thank you all for opening your hearts.

  13. Yes I agree with the post that we are not entitled to get what we want……..however, I believe that the problem many commenters are getting at is, “Now what?” Or, what does love look like in my situation? Is it loving to keep being kind and never setting boundaries with serious consequences with someone who is betraying you and continually harming you? No, it is not. You could be contributing to their path to hell. I would suggest checking out Patrick Doyle on Dove tv for more great teaching on this subject.

  14. PS In fact, my husband is using this very teaching to try to guilt me into accepting his narcissistic behaviour toward me so he doesn’t need to work on his stuff. We always need to find a balance in our beliefs.

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