This past year I’ve come in contact with many different forms of relationships.
Some of my friends entered their second year of marriage.
Some of my friends got married.
Some got engaged.
Some just started dating.
Some broke up.
Some have been married for many years.
And none of them are the same.
I decided a while back that I would try to learn from what everyone around me in relationships had to offer.
How do relationships really work? What's normal? What's is trying to make it work and what is beating a dead horse? What makes a relationship last?
So I’ve watched. I’ve asked. I’ve taken mental notes. And I’ve prayed.
Most of all, I've learned.
I've learned that no two relationships are the same. They all start differently, they all have different struggles, and they all have different ways of functioning. You cannot compare your relationship to that of someone else. Just because one relationship starts really quickly and one takes months of months of being friends before dating… doesn’t mean one will last and one won’t. There is no cookie –cutter relationship that we should all hold a standard to.
I've learned that it doesn’t have to be hard. I’m not saying that it is always going to be easy, or that you will never fight. But I’ve seen a lot of my friends in couples over the past few months… and it doesn’t have to be that hard! If while you are dating: you fight every single day, you can’t agree on anything, you talk bad about each other when you aren’t around one another, you’d rather be alone more than being with your significant other, you can’t trust them… there is a better way! Maybe you work it out with the person you’re with. Maybe you decided to move on. But I’ve seen it. It does exist. Relationships are work, but they don’t have to constantly be hard work.
I've learned the importance of dealing with your baggage BEFORE you enter a relationship. I never realized that the things that have scarred me in my past—“daddy” issues, the way I have been treated in past relationships, the way I behaved myself and the scars I caused myself—will show up in your relationships! In a major way. No one person can make me whole. No one person can “fix” me. It is up to me to allow Christ to do that and to genuinely seek becoming more like Him and healing those scars. He is the ONLY one that can do that.
I've learned that your spouse will always come second. I used to believe that my future husband would come above anything and everything else in my life. If we had children, they would follow. Then I fell in lovewith Jesus Christ. And He wants to be first in my life. ABOVE ALL ELSE. That all else… that includes a husband and kids. That includes family. That includes EVERYTHING. If you do not have a significant other that feels the same way or sees Christ the way you do, you need to seek Christ together and ask Him to change your hearts, make you fall in love with HIM, that way you can allow room for Christ in your heart and in your relationship.
I’ve learned my position as a woman in a relationship. I used to get soooo offended at the thought of “submitting” to my husband. I am my own person, why should I let him get the say? This could be a whole post in itself but in the end, it’s not a power thing… it’s respect, it’s Godly, it’s trust. The bible calls me to be with a man worth leading me and making the decisions when it comes to our well being, our walk with Christ, our children. Ladies, if he’s not worth submitting to, don’t. Men, we need you to lead us. We need you to be worth submitting to.
I've learned that no matter how hard it may be or how difficult and confusing it may seem at the time… sometimes you have to walk away. I get so upset with friends who allow themselves to be walked all over. Mostly because I've been there myself. Problems with someone relating to emotional or physical affairs will not get better in a relationship or in a marriage. This does not solve anything. Ladies, if he is having an emotional affair with someone BEFORE you get married… what makes you think that the minute you get into a really difficult situation in a marriage, he won’t run to another woman to help him? Guys, if she’s cheated on you once, what on earth makes you think she’ll never do it again? She did not have the respect or love for you to not do it the first time. And in many cases it’s what I like to call a cockroach situation: If you find out she’s cheated once (notice she didn’t tell you and didn’t want you to ever find out) there are probably about 10 more cases that you do not know about where she has cheated. You may be afraid of being alone, you may not want to give up, but God wants you to. Let go of a bad, abusive, emotionally trying relationship. Don’t settle.
Speaking of settling. I've learned not to settle. Someone to lead me in my everyday life and my spriritual walk. Someone who makes me laugh and laughs with me. Someone who appreciates me. Someone who is not abusive in any way. Someone who loves Jesus way more than he will ever love me. Someone who is ok with the fact that I may know just as much about football and baseball as he does. Someone Godly, respectable, and endearing. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I’d rather be picky, have high standards, not settle... than be in a relationship that is destructive for the rest of my life. I’ve come too far to give up now. And if life in a relationship doesn’t glorify God the way life not in a relationship does, no thank you.
(Side note: I do not say alone, because I believe that whether I am blessed with a relationship or not, I will never be alone. God has blessed me immensely with plenty of people and loved ones to fill my life. It took me a long time to appreciate and understand this.)
I've learned it’s not about me. My entire life, I have desired a relationship with a man. I’ve wanted a family. And more recently, I have desired to be a stay-at-home wife and mom. But these are selfish desires. I’ve learned we must align our hearts with God’s. If my relationships, if my life, does not honor and glorify Him, then what is the point? I do not want a relationship, simply to have a relationship. Paul speaks of the good single people do and how his preference is to stay single for the simple fact that as a single person, we dwell upon the Lord and aim to please Him. If I can serve God more furiously as a married woman, FANTASTIC. If I serve Him better single, then He will grant me the peace and understanding to do so for the rest of my life. And I fully believe and put my hope in this truth.
I've learned the best and most fruit bearing relationships bring you closer to God every single day. I’ve observed some pretty incredible relationships this year and have been so lucky to get to be a part of their lives and learn from them. And the biggest lesson they have all taught me… is you can’t get closer to each other, without getting closer to God. Intimacy was CREATED by God Himself. How do we expect to know it, to have it, without Him? It’s like a triangle: The closer you get to Him at the top, the closer you get to each other. It also keeps your relationship strong and keeps Satan from attacking you with the everyday struggles of life. Those can either magnify the relationship or destroy it.
What advice do you have? What have you learned through relationships of your own or from others around you? Are you looking to learn? What could you learn?
I encourage anyone who is single or even in a dating relationship to seek out advice and things you can learn from those around you that are married or in relationships. But don’t forget to consult the One who made you. He thought up, designed and implemented the idea of relationship, so that He could have it with you.