Powerless to Change?


Do you feel powerless to make changes in your marriage?

“It’s just how I am,” I would say.

When I married, all that baggage I dragged with me was just part of who I was.

I had views about sex, about men in general, about my husband in particular, about what it meant to be a wife, and about never giving up even an inch of who I was.

After years of feeling emotionally neglected, having my husband irritated or sad all the time, and engaging in countless conversations about our sex life, I was resigned to a sad truth:

I was living in a difficult marriage . . .

 . . . and I was powerless to change it.

Change = Not Me

I felt completely powerless. I was trapped in an unhappy marriage, with no way out of the marriage or out of the unhappiness.

To an extent, I felt powerless because it seemed that the entire burden of effort had been laid at my feet. Big Guy said that I was the one who needed to act differently, think differently, and become a different person. How can one person bear the entire load for changing a whole marriage?

The challenge was far too big for me to be able to comprehend, much less figure out how to proceed.

Even more than that, though, my mind simply could not reconcile the idea of change with what I really yearned for.

I wanted, more than anything, to be loved and accepted for who I was. I feared that if I changed even one thing about myself, the “me” that Big Guy would then love wouldn’t truly be me. I thought changing would require me to become an artificial version of myself.

I needed to be authentic. Real. Raw. Me.

The least bit of change would have made me into Not Me.

His desire for me to change seemed like a rejection of who I was at the deepest level. The thought that my husband wanted me to be something other than who I was broke my heart.

“It’s Just How I Am”

When I would respond to my husband’s questions or frustration about my lack of interest in sex with “it’s just how I am,” those words were infused with multiple meanings:

  • I don’t understand what it means to be different. I cannot even imagine it.
  • Changing how I am requires a rejection of who I am. If I’m not who I am, then who will I be?
  • I worked so hard to figure out how to be the way I am. This is the only way I can function. How can you ask me to shatter the very walls that have held me together for so long? How dare you ask that of me?
  • Even if I knew what to do, or how, my efforts would never be enough.
  • Even if my efforts were enough and our marriage got better, I’m pretty sure I haven’t earned the right to a good marriage.
  • Your desire for me to be something or someone different hurts me more deeply than I thought I could ever hurt. You are the one person who is supposed to love and accept me—but I’m so unlovable and unworthy that even you can’t do that.
  • God made me this way, so trying to be different is rejecting God.
  • The fact that you want me to change is the reason I can’t trust you enough to take even one step of growth.

I felt so trapped. The thought of divorce terrified me, but I often thought it would be easier than what my husband was asking me to do.

Power in Change

Because the thought of working to change overwhelmed me, I sat emotionally stagnant. I desperately hoped God would take pity on me. If God wants me to change, I would think, He can just come fix me in an instant. The fact that He hasn’t done that already is a sign that I am the way I am supposed to be.

The decision to let go was a leap of faith unlike anything else I have ever done. It required me to completely die to myself. I truly saw it as a last-ditch effort. I had no idea if I could actually make any changes, but I knew I needed to try. It was both simple and hard—simple because it turned out to be just a few basic things to work through and hard because it took a lot of effort.

I’ve learned so much in this journey, but three things in particular have stood out:

  1. My efforts were enough to change our marriage. What I did was enough. I was enough. I can’t begin to describe what this did for my confidence, in so many ways.
  2. My changes were not a rejection of who I was. They were a rediscovery of who I am. The woman I thought I saw in the mirror was one who carried the layers of baggage and wrong beliefs. Shedding those layers uncovered the woman I was inside—my true self, the woman God had made me to be, the one unsullied by the experiences of my childhood and youth.
  3. It was never about me and my husband; it was about me and God. I was terrified to trust that God’s love was truly for me. I didn’t know how to reach my arms out for the comfort I’d heard God would provide. My efforts to change truly did make a difference in my marriage—but it was only when I worked through my unwillingness to trust God that my heart was truly open enough to absorb the love that my husband had been offering me all along. The act of trusting God was what allowed me to feel trust for my husband.

I was living in a difficult marriage and I thought I was powerless to change it—except that it turns out that I wasn’t.

Far from making me feel powerless, the decision to change was one of the most powerful things I have ever done.

I wanted to be loved and accepted for who I was—yet it wasn’t until I shed all those layers that Big Guy even had a chance to do that. His desire for me to change wasn’t a rejection of who I was. Instead, it was an invitation, a yearning for me to become and embrace who I truly was.

Change didn’t make me into Not Me. It made me into . . . Me.

Real and raw. Loved and accepted.

Is your husband asking you to make changes? Do you feel powerless to change—and hurt that he even asks you to?

Is it possible that his request for change could be an invitation to become who you truly are in God’s eyes? Is it possible that shedding your baggage and hard-won beliefs is the one thing that will empower you to change your difficult, unhappy marriage into one that sings with joy?

You are a beloved daughter of the King. You are not powerless.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

Do you feel powerless to make changes in your marriage?

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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12 Comments on “Powerless to Change?”

  1. I have liked to think about this as “becoming me”. God chose me (us) in Him, before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless (Eph 1:4). That is who we are. Then there was sin, then I was covered by the blood of Jesus, now I am on my way to becoming who God intended me to be from the very beginning.

      1. Isn’t it a common plight of (wo)man?

        To quote Rich Mullins:
        “Surrender don’t come natural to me
        I’d rather fight You for something
        I don’t really want
        Than to take what You give that I need”

        We all have a process to go through. We all are/were blind, the question is, how long will it take before we see?

        1. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind while writing this post, but there may be baby steps to take toward these things. My experience has been that moving outside my comfort zone to explore my sexuality with my husband has contributed to my sense of being more “me” than I was before–even when it comes to things that aren’t especially appealing to me.

  2. After reading this I thought for awhile, and it came to me, that one of the reasons we become Christians is because we don’t like who we are very much. At least I don’t, apart from Christ.

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