Ed Welch, in his fabulous book When People are Big and God is Small, clearly identifies how any relationship - including marriage - can become a misplaced idol of the heart. I have used the following quotation in many counseling appointments and half-a-dozen sermons:
Marriage has been a privilege and blessing to me. It has also been the context for a surprising discovery. I found that being okay in Christ was not enough for me. When I was first married, I knew that Jesus loved me, but I also wanted my new wife to be absolutely, forever smitten with me. I needed love from her. I could handle small amounts of rejection from other people but I felt paralyzed if I didn’t have the love I needed from her. If she didn’t think I was a great husband, I would be crushed (and, as you might guess, a little angry).
This led to a second awakening. I suddenly realized that I mutated into a walking love tank, a person who was empty on the inside and looking for a person to fill me. My bride was, indeed, gifted in being able to love, but no one could have possibly filled me. I think I was a love tank with a leak.
Since those days I have spoken with hundreds of people who end up at this same place: they are fairly sure that God loves them, but they also want or need love from other people – or at least they need something from other people. As a result, they are in bondage, controlled by others and feeling empty. They are controlled by whoever or whatever they believe can give them what they think they need. It is true: what or who you need will control you.