Why Relationships Can Be So Hard? (Article 17-17)
Relationships are one of the most challenging things to engage in life. Making it even more trying is that everything in life is based on relationships – that being an interrelated connection with someone that deals with some state of affairs or matters. Relationships affect the way we feel and behave toward each other. This is true whether in it's in the workplace, dealing with business affairs, friendships or something more intimate such as spiritual relationships, relationships with family members, and marital relationships. It’s impossible to exist in the world without engaging in relationships of some sort. Some relationships may feel rewarding, fulfilling, and beneficial, while others seem to present the most difficult, frustrating and emotionally draining events in our lives. Does God even want us to have relationships? If so, does He care about the relationships we pursue and engage in, especially as it relates to our happiness? As it relates to intimate relationships, is God interested in our specific relational choices? Does God embrace romance? The answer to all these questions is “Yes.”
God Intends Us to Have Relationships and Romance
In the beginning, God created man to have a relationship with Him, and He with Adam. It wasn’t a mere relational acquaintance, but a very intimate relationship. In fact, God resided in Adam’s soul and reigned over his life. It was a relationship that can be characterized as one of “spiritual intercourse.” It was also a relationship that can be described as the exchanging of deep thoughts and feelings for each other. So strong and deep were Adam’s feelings for God, he didn’t even take note of his physical presence. It wasn't until he disobeyed God that he noticed his nakedness. He only saw and heard God. So strong was God’s relationship with Adam, he took a personal interest in Adam’s lonely state and gave Him Eve (Genesis 2:18).
Scripture also reveals God’s romantic side. Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. When Isaac sees Rebekah and Rebekah sees Isaac, well, you know the rest of the story. By way of scripture reading, you sense the passion and love they had for each other. They were inseparable. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, loved romance, as his Father King David. In Psalms 1:9-17, King Solomon begins his writings with “I liken you, my darling, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariot horses” He goes on to say “Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels. We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver. ”How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.” The assumedly beautiful damsel he writes to reciprocates in kind. Well, I’ll let you read her responses...oh boy! The Book of Ruth is also a very romantic story between two improbable candidates who come together in love and marriage. So yes, God is romantic, and He wants us to have romantic relationships.
If it is God’s will for us to have relationships, and not just any relationship but meaningful and romantic ones, why can they seem to be so difficult to find? Why can intimate relationships be so difficult? To answer this question, we must recognize that there is a direct correlation between the complexities associated with our relationships and the expectations we put on them regarding personal happiness and fulfillment. When I say relational “complexities,” I mean the degree of intimacy, feelings, and emotions associated with our relationships. We must also recognize that most people do not engage in bonds for the benefit of the other person, but rather for personal gain. As such, we engage in relationships with person expectations of what the link should provide by way of happiness and unfortunately, in my view, tangible (worldly or fleshly) benefits.
When relationships fail to meet one’s expectations, they often are abandoned. If two people continue to engage in an unfulfilling relationship, friction builds between the two parties often leading to confrontation, and sometimes emotionally or physically abusive behavior. Relative to relationships, we often have relational expectations that are often based on unrealistic beliefs, opinions, and expectations of what one should be to the other. Our most personal relationships are predefined in our minds and with it, expectations of what the other party should be to them by way of happiness. However, our expectations often contradict reality. This is when everything seems to go wrong, and the relationship heads “south.” Instead of the relationship being an uplifting and constructive force in our lives, a bad relationship leads to each other’s demise and depending on the complexities associated with the link, can lead to utter destruction. Yes, bad relationships can lead us to become disillusioned to whether good and fulfilling relationships are possible and whether love is real and even exists.
The Deception and Danger of Relationship Clichés
We’ve heard them before – the relationship Clichés “Opposites attract”; There’s a pot for every lid”; “You’re going to make someone happy someday”; “Never settle for anything less than a fairy tale”; “Time is everything”; and my personal favorite “Relationships are a give and take” affair. The problem I have with relationship-based clichés is that each and every one of them puts the onus of finding, understanding and having meaningful relationships on one's own abilities. With this comes our defining of personal relationship by the way in a “performance-based” and "conditional" manner. Subsequently, this often leads to one’s willingness to give or receive love based on certain conditions first being met. The relationships are built on a foundation of “conditional” instead of “unconditional” love. For example, going back to my sarcastically referred to favorite cliché, “Relationships are given and take” affairs, we can see that to receive love, attention, and affection in a relationship, one must first compromise or submit to another’s expectations. I'm confident in saying that we all experience instances in a relationship when “give and take” is a mechanism whereby we cannot expect to receive something if we don’t offer something in turn. Once the balance between giving and taking is broken, difficulties arise, and partners feel they are not getting too much from their relationship. This is not what God intends relationships to be. God never withholds His love for us until we meet His expectations. God’s love is never conditional. Give thanks to our Holy Father in Heaven this is true, for if it was not the case, there would never be any hope for God to love us. God intends our relationships not to be "given and take" arrangements, but rather a “give and give” arrangement, and we are to do so unconditionally. We are never to withhold our love: our patience, kindness, forgiveness, understanding, or compassion for the purpose of certain expectations to be met.
We Are to Be "Evenly Yoked" In Our Relationships
Scripture tells us to be “evenly yoked” in our relationships (2 Corinthians 6:14). When Paul refers to being “evenly yoked,” he doesn’t mean for us to engage in a relationship with another person who has similar worldly interests as you do. He says we must be evenly yoked spiritually as believers in Christ and all that it entails. We are to be equally yoked in our desire to abide in Christ for all things. We are to be evenly yoked in our understanding of what it means to be humble (knowing who we are in relation to God, and our need for Him in all things). We are to be evenly yoked in our understanding of what God means to be meek (to submit and serve each other). We are to be evenly yoked in God’s definition of forgiveness. We are to be equally yoked in understanding the importance of righteousness (being in right standing with God). Above all, we are to be evenly yoked in our quest and yearn to be one with God. In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul is telling us that we should never engage in personal relationships when one (or both) is not a believer in Christ. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? What fellowship can light have with darkness? Paul is telling us that the answer is nothing. When one is a believer and one is not, or when both are not believers, there is no hope of ever having a fulfilling and loving relationship – at least not in a way God intends. We find fulfilling relationships by first turning to and submitting to the will of Christ. It is only by means of Christ’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit) can we find the needed instruction and guidance on what and how we should be to each other in a relationship. If we depend on our own devices or abilities to figure relationships out, we will fail.
We Must Stop Defining Relationships By Our Own Expectations
What makes relationships so difficult are the personal expectations we place on relationships as defined by the world. If we insist on identifying and engaging relationships in this way, they will be fraught with complications and friction. See, our relationships need to be based on how God defines them and intends them to be. Whether you accept this fact or not, God knows what we need better than what we believe we need. Instead of looking at the world to define relationships and love, and subsequently, the shaping of our own relational expectations, we should be looking to God. For if we do, we discover the fulfilling experience differences in relationships that are driven by selflessness instead of selfishness. With this difference too, is a strong desire to focus on what the other person needs instead of what we need.
Really think about and meditate on these points. If both partners are focused on each other and what each other needs by way of love, there will be no friction. How can there be? Where can conflict exist when the only thing to do is to only receive each other’s love - love that is not tied to personal expectations or conditions to first be met. The days of "tug and war", constant arguing, accusations and allegations, silent treatments, and manipulation are over. Unconditional love knows none of these things. Unconditional love represents an eternal circle of giving to each other - a perpetual, contagious, fulfilling and joyful experience. These points also hold true with platonic relationships associated with the workplace, community, and business. We need to engage all relationships with a spirit of meekness – the desire to give and to serve, and with it, the intent to see the person we serve, succeed.
God created us to desire, seek, and engage in meaningful, fulfilling, loving relationships. But it doesn’t begin with worldly relationships. It begins with having an intimate relationship with Christ. We must submit to His Will, which is at the center of the Father’s will. It is only by submitting to Him can we begin to understand what God intended relationships to be, first with Him and then with others. It is only by abiding in Christ (John 15) can we ever hope to have fulfilling and meaningful relationships with anyone, and with it, interconnection with all believers in the Body of Christ. God knows what we need, and if we put our trust and faith in Him, He will lead us to the fulfilling relationships we all seek and hope to have while here on earth.