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“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4).
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I’ve counseled many spouses who refused to take this advice. Instead of implementing a biblical plan to restore the brokenness in their marriages, they “nourished and cherished” other things that became replacements for their infected marital relationships. Here are ten of those marriage replacements:
1. Ministry: Serving others is a standard marriage replacement. Whether it’s a pastor or some other role, their “ministry” became their new “marriage partner.” The “married to ministry problem” is more significant than you might imagine. There is a lot of praise that can come through the door of ministry, satisfying the person in a dissatisfying marriage.
2. Work: A person’s vocation is similar to the “ministry replacement.” It’s a place for a spouse to get his “approval fix.” His marriage is unfulfilling, so he puts all his energy, skill, and time into his job. He uses the “job card” to answer why he does not devote more time to the family. “I work all day” is his excuse, which can be a smokescreen to justify his anger toward his wife.
3. Children: For a woman in an unsatisfactory marriage, her outlet may come through her children. Rather than enjoying her husband, she moves her primary human affection to her children. It is not unusual for the child-centered mom and workaholic dad to divorce after 35-years of marriage. After he retires and the kids are gone, the distractions are gone, too.
4. Flirting: Both husband or wife may resort to flirting in the workplace or the church as a method to fill their cravings for “soul-to-soul” companionship.
5. Porn: Many men enjoy the private fantasy world of pornography as a wife replacement. Through the Internet, they construct their fantastical narrative. The cyber women “virtually adore” the husband as he enjoys a temporary break from a dissatisfying marriage.
6. Friends: Women are particularly susceptible to this trap, especially her friends who want spiritual intimacy. The Bible study can become a surrogate husband to a wife who is longing for any emotional bonding.
7. Social Media: You can find an alluring “free therapy outlet” on the Internet. It’s the unhappy spouse’s favorite social media site.
8. Approval: At the root of all of the brokenness in marriages lurks the desire for appreciation from someone. If the wife is demanding or a nag or the husband is inattentive or harsh, the temptation of the hurt spouse is to look for any means to feel better.
9. Strengths: A person’s strength is their greatest weakness if they use their gifting to fill their cravings while ignoring their marriage.
10. Distort the Truth: If your marriage is not what it should be and you don’t find help to resolve the problems, the temptation is to somehow alter God’s Word. Perhaps you blame your spouse or justify your anger. Sin unchecked, like cancer, will cause more problems.
If your marriage is dissatisfying, do not ignore your “marriage replacements.” Ask God to help you identify yours and make a plan to cut it out of your life.