Here are a handful of various thoughts to ponder with respect to relationships. These are more a reference of somewhat random notes and not intended to be a formal, organized writing. These are a combination of notes taken from others counsel as well as meditation. There are so many sources and years of note-taking behind all this, I cannot quote them all. (A handful of these things have come from or been inspired by a couple of my direct contacts, to whom I am very thankful!) I certainly do not intend to take any credit for this content. The idea is to share what I have gleaned with hopes that something here will speak to you (or me once again) that we will carry on, or rather, may carry us when we need it most…
- If you marry the right person, emotion will always be present.
- If emotions change, you are with the wrong person.
- Big events carry the relationship.
- If I fall out of love, the marriage is over, or I cannot fall back in love with my spouse.
Maturity and Selflessness
- When you get beyond just how they make you feel and you get more into how you make them feel, you are moving from infatuation to a maturing love.
- Prov. 31:20 … Pay more attention to others’ needs, as well as your own, more than how they make you feel (or how you make them feel) emotionally, sensually.
- Work to become what you are also looking for!
No one is perfect, so…
1) Be willing to be humble, admit when wrong.
2) Be willing to work on weaknesses.
3) Determine what you can’t live and stand by it if currently not married. If married, your task is to mesh the gears of any existing core differences with as much oil of grace as available from God.
4) Observe how people use their money, if they are a workaholic or slack, if they put their family above marriage or are overly disregarding, if they communicate their dreams and frustrations well, and if they are willing to pay attention to your needs and serve. And while you are looking at these areas in others, work on them yourself.
It is vital to be on the same page here. Core compatibility includes core values and needs, chemistry and commitment level. When you have these three things in sync with your partner, you have ‘it’. You have the potential to walk through your relationship together without fear, with the capacity to endure anything. It takes relational maturity to do so, but the security of your potential is golden. It is vital to know your core needs (some call them ‘dealbreakers’, so refer to them as “top 5 must have’s and top 5 can’t have’s”). It is equally important to know those of your person of interest, ideally before emotional involvement.
The more I go forward, the more I realize that core compatibility is the key, the foundation that determines the health and potential of so many other things in a relationship (of any kind for that matter).
Receiving: help, love, service
Attending: tend to your own legitimate needs, understand what your emotions are saying about your circumstances.
Giving: keeps self-care from degenerating into selfishness. Why? Because you realize that you take care of yourself so that you have something to give to others. There’s no way that you can really take care of yourself without truly giving and serving others. This will take a little growing up from holding too tightly to toys and games.
Spouse’s Built-In Marriage Manual
- We tend to love or give to others the way we expect or want it. But our spouse’s love language is going to be different in some ways than ours.
- Periodically ask each other how they are doing in meeting your emotional needs.
- Share your love language with each other.
- Be specific in what you feel you need to have from each other.
- Be humble and willing to admit when you have neglected each other, and check to see what things subconsciously bring you to selfishness or degrees of disregard.
Three Protection Keys
- Pay attention to your spouse’s plea for attention. If you begin to skip saying I love you or special hugs, or kisses when leaving for the day, you are creating an emotional confusion and a deficit that needs restored.
- Don’t share personal or intimate information with someone other than your spouse. This can be especially hard if you have a close friend, and they may be someone you share more closely with, but never personal information about your spouse. And your spouse should be the one you come to as a best friend when it comes to sharing things. If there are issues in your marriage that genuinely need discussed or aired out outside directly addressing your spouse, seek Christian counseling from someone of the same sex.
- Do not harbor ill feelings towards your spouse. This is like allowing bad bacteria or infection to fester without doing anything to stop it. Isolation and bitterness will quickly ensue, and these are stone walls in a relationship.
- Make your spouse at the top of the hierarchy in the area of relationships that includes family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and others.
- Nurture emotional intimacy as a priority in a balanced, consistent way.
- Regularly take pause long enough to show appreciation.
- Don’t forget to still have fun hang-out times together down the road.
- Keep physical intimacy ongoing.
- Discuss and resolve issues when they come up. Don’t put it off.
- Talk about safeguarding from infidelity and agree upon boundaries with openness with calmness, and be intentional in walking it out without fear and eggshells.
- Share goals, dreams and fears candidly with each other, and support one another’s.
- Celebrate birthdays, holidays and special occasions together.
- Survive crisis and spend concerted time to work on the relationship during non-crisis times
- Eliminate unhealthy behavior
- Define what you need in your marriage (and mutually listen to and support your spouse’s needs)
- Lay groundwork to connect better
- Develop love skills
- Be selfless enough to compromise on the surface things
- Know what you are willing to sacrifice (core versus surface needs, compatibilities).
- Understand that being a romantic is a blessing, but there will be a learning curve for you because you must plan, discuss and face things about yourself, relationships and marriage that require new habits and discplines.
- Kick the bad-boy habit. They are just that: bad. Learn to appreciate those you used to think were boring, plain, nerdy, without flair. Those are where many of the keepers are.
- Beware of emotional infidelity. Period.
- Be strong enough to say No and close the discussion (or texting, or phoning). Explain once, and do not continue to reply or answer if the person persists.
Self-Observation Checkpoints in Relationships
- Do you let little arguments escalate into ugly fights, with accusations, name-calling, or bringing up past hurts?
- Do you criticize or belittle your spouse’s opinions or feelings verbally or by not addressing or acknowledging them?
- Does your spouse seem to view your words or actions more negatively than you mean them?
- When there is a problem to solve, do you feel like you are on the same or different team with your spouse?
- Do you often hold back from telling your spouse how you really feel?
- Do you consider seriously what it would be like to date or be married to someone else, whether general or someone specific?
- Do you feel lonely in your relationship?
- When you argue or have a disagreement with your spouse, do one of your back out and refuse to talk about it, or leave the scene altogether?
As we grow in our marriages (or courtship with the right type of person), we ought to work towards moving from unhealthy extremes of codependency to a healthier dependency, sometimes referred to as interdependency. It is going to be natural to want to lose ourselves to some degree with each other, and rightfully so, especially at first. But when taking this to unhealthy extremes, we will suffer an eventual silent suppression or we will snap way back to our ‘old self’, to the shock of your partner and the relationship itself. Both of these are defense mechanisms for the situation, and are avoidable stressors if we approach friendship and courtship in a more patient, healthy manner.
Here are a few stages of overcoming unhealthy extremes in dependency:
- Separation: People can recognize unhealthy dependency by seeing they are somehow different when not with their partner. They may feel inordinately sad or lonely for them to a mood-shifting extreme, or on the opposite pole, overly free or relieved to be away from them.
- Individualization: Here is where we begin to live in such a way where we are operating in our own thoughts and choices and not living through our partner’s, parent’s, friend’s or boss’ desires and feelings all the time.
- Differentiation: This is the point where we are getting better at not letting someone else’s temporal feelings or behavior (within themselves or directed towards us) dictate or affect on an inordinate level our mood and self-esteem.
Note: in marriage or other types of very close relationship, there will be more overlap and mesh, but there is still healthy distinction between the two. It will be a balance of freedom and intimacy…not freedom from the other, but freedom within the relationship.
Keep yourself from going into ‘single mode’ when you are away from your spouse, especially for extended periods of time. This an unhealthy extreme of freedom and is indicative of issues in the relationship. It will lead to marital drift and separate lives. Keep the balance from this and from being overly dependent when together, which is unhealthy codependent intimacy. Find the middle ground of a peaceful interdependence, where freedom and intimacy operate in harmony and constantly, whether with your partner at the time or not, and the relationship is thereby healthy and protected. The ideal is to have the freedom within your relationship to be yourself at all times, whether with your spouse or not (of course, within the context of commitment, servitude and other healthy relationship values).
Are you committing emotional adultery? Do you discuss your spouse unfavorably with someone of the opposite sex? Are you confiding secrets to a “friend” of the opposite sex? Are you relying on advice about your marriage from someone of the opposite sex? If you are doing any of these you are committing emotional adultery and beware physical adultery is often the next step. Never discuss your spouse in a negative light to anyone of the opposite sex! Guard your heart, guard your spouse’s heart, never leave your partner behind!
- Give single women a better selection to choose from.
- Live in such a way that causes them to love Jesus more.
- Do you want to be a leader in your family? Serve. Do you want to be the man of the house? Put everyone else in it, especially your wife, above your buddies and toys.
- Do you want to be like Jesus? Then be like Jesus. Be the chief servant of your home. Wash the feet of your wife by holding her close, listening to her, and equally raising your children with her.
- Return to your first love, Mr. Ephesus (Rev. 3:7)
- Do the things you did when you dated and first married.
- Don’t you know that when you bowed your knee to propose to your wife that you were not supposed to get up? Stay on your knee, love your wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her.
- Live in such a way that shows your wife she made a better choice than she thought she did.
- Do you want to be a leader, full of faith, upright, with strength in your back? Do you want to be known as a man of God, full of the fire of His Spirit? Then stir yourself up sometimes. Don’t wait for someone else to encourage you all the time.
- You are to be a humble flame of the fire of God.
- You are to be the chief servant of your home.
- Men aren’t stupid, left brained, second rate.
- Don’t belittle a man’s inner manhood…his aptitudes, interests, skills and sexuality.
- Respect is golden to a man. It may begin naturally, but it will take work to maintain it towards him over time, including when he shoots himself in the foot.
- Note that these are referring to a man that is worthy of your attention and not one without backbone.
A Final Thought
We need to learn to express our feelings and desires in a way that balances confidence with humble gentleness. Too often we operate in extremes: from ultra-shyness, overly submissiveness, to arrogance, anger, or domineering attitudes. We have to find the middle ground, rooted in a rested love that only Jesus can author. Otherwise, we will continue patterns of unhealthy behavior and will repeatedly hurt the ones we love and push away those who love us.
Being assertive in a godly way simply means you will stand in humble confidence in who you are and what you are willing to accept and not accept. Whether it is someone who insists on taking you out that you are not interested in or comfortable with, or you are confronted with core differences in a growing relationship, you have to be able to stand for yourself. Be true to yourself, operating in gentle love and not anger or control. This contributes to your wholeness as a person.
Jesus didn’t have self-esteem issues. When people left Him, He turned to His closest ones and asked if they wanted to leave too. This goes for companionships of any kind as well. Work to be unafraid of losing them. Have security and contentment in Him. He is your desperation, your need, your sufficiency. You will then have the most to offer your friends and acquaintances.