Skip to main content
AddictionBeing PresentBetrayalDepressionEncouragementMarriage

From Despair To Hope: Harnessing The Positive Power Of “If Only” In Your Recovery Journey

By January 26, 2024One Comment
If only

“If only we could go back to the way things were.”

“If only I lost the baby weight more quickly.”

“If only he didn’t travel so much.”

“If only we weren’t so tired all the time.”

“If only he didn’t have a wandering eye.”

If. Only.

Two simple words. But when you combine them, they reveal strong desire, pain, disappointment, discontentment, longing, and more.

When you found out about your husband’s secret struggle with porn, those two words flew through your thoughts and perhaps even your words: “If only I’d [fill in the blank].”

Too often, these combined words heap negativity on you.

1. Disrupt contentment.

Listen to when you use these two words. What’s the emotion behind them? Would you classify that emotion as positive or negative?

2. Heap shame.

If only piles on the idea that you should have known or done something but didn’t. These words could imply your lack of insight or intelligence.

3. Expect omniscience.

A fancy word that means you are all-knowing. Only God knows all. You are not God. Therefore, this false expectation throws you back to #2—shame.

4. Breed self-condemnation.

These words invaded my thoughts, journaling, and physical posture. The overwhelming shame I felt stooped my shoulders, which already carried backpacks full of emotional boulders. “Surely I could have done something to prevent this,” I self-flagellated. “It’s my fault he searched for porn.”

5. Promote judgment.

As long as you’re condemning yourself, you might as well look at all the ways others fail. “If only she’d exercise more, she’d lose the weight.” “Jeez, if only these women would put some clothes on and quit tempting my husband.” “If only he’d quit watching R-rated movies, he wouldn’t struggle with porn.”

If only [fill in the blank].

In certain coaching situations, I use “if only” to help you process your feelings.

When you identify and express those heightened and heavy emotions, they become less dark, intimidating, or overwhelming. You call them out, acknowledge them, and then decide what to do with them. You recognize how they fall into one of the above negative outcomes.

However, as a coach, I love to use “if only” to create positive mindset shifts.

Here are some “if only” questions you can use to move the needle in your recovery.

1. What do you need for yourself?

“Right now I feel [blank]. If only I could [fill in the blank].” Take your time with this question. You can explore your emotions more deeply by asking “and” after you answer the question. Repeat this as needed.

Admittedly, this one often reveals more when done during a coaching session. I remember my counselor walking me through a similar exercise. By the end of that exercise, I felt more peaceful even though life still looked like a train wreck.

2. What have you learned through discovering his porn struggle?

“Because of what I’ve discovered If only I [fill in the blank].” Write everything that comes to mind. In the early moments of discovery, your mind might feel like mush or like a raging bull. Capture those thoughts in your journal. Don’t judge them.

Review your thoughts with your coach or counselor. If you don’t have one yet, consider reaching out for help. The best thing I did was get help when I couldn’t harness my thoughts into anything cohesive. Through the help of coaches and then counselors, I experienced many aha moments—painful and productive.

3. What are your options?

“If only I [fill in the blank], then I [complete the sentence here with something positive].”

You may think you are stuck. Or your first thought might be that your marriage is over. There’s no way you can recover. I dissolved into “poor me” thoughts rather quickly because I felt trapped. And I feared a divorce but hated this pain. I didn’t see other options until after we met with counselor friends. You do have options.

4. What do you need from others?

“If only I [fill in the blank], then I would [complete your thought(s)]. Be honest with yourself. Be bold to state your needs.

You might feel awkward expressing your needs. Perhaps you struggle to articulate them. That’s okay. Write what you can the best you can. The more you tap into your needs, the easier it is to know they’ve been met.

5. What does this make possible?

“If only I [fill in the blank], then I will [state this outcome as something that is already true].

I learned this thought process from Dan Miller, a business coach. For many years, I read it daily from the sticky note on my computer. What does this make possible? When you ask this question, your mind begins searching for new alternatives. You see options you didn’t before. Your RAS filter searches for answers. God designed our minds to function this way. What a gift.

You don’t get to this question quickly or easily, so give yourself some grace. But keep asking the question and allowing God to bring an answer.

Your discovery of his struggle with porn creates shockwaves through your entire being. It’s time to deal with them.

Today, you can use those two innocuous words if only to rebuild your life or tear it down further.

It’s your choice.

If you feel like you can’t breathe, you are optionless, without value or significance, angrier than you’ve ever been, or cast aside, please reach out for help. I’ve been there. But I’m no longer there, thanks to those who helped me find my way again. Would you allow me to do the same for you? Schedule your Let Me Help You Breathe session now. Don’t wait. You deserve care.

  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.

One Comment

  • temp mail says:

    I wonder how much work goes into creating a website this excellent and educational. I’ve read a few really good things here, and it’s definitely worth saving for future visits.