The Reality of Relationships
My mom called yesterday - as she does annually - to wish me a happy 31st anniversary of the date of my first date with my husband. It's hard to believe. I still feel like the nineteen year-old girl I was when we met, yet I've changed so much largely because of my husband. He brings out the best in me, he loves the worst in me, and he has taught me what love is. Sadly, many people cannot say that about their spouses, friends, or family members. So often people settle for mediocrity in relationships mainly because fear prevents them from going deeper. I have found that relationships must constantly be attended to -- they must be shaped and formed into something beautiful. It's kind of like sculpting. You make an adjustment here or there, step back and have a look at it. The next day you have another look, and something seems a little bit off, so you fix that. Maybe that adjustment moved something else out of whack, so you try again. It doesn't end -- it's never quite finished -- but it's not a job, it's a hobby. It's a special gift that's been given to you, and you enjoy it and the work it requires. It's all a part of the gift.
I didn't go into this relationship with my husband knowing anything at all about relationships. We fought like crazy when we were dating! Even the early years of our marriage (now 29 years) were spent arguing. No, that's way too gentle of a word. We fought -- we screamed, slammed doors, kicked walls, threw things, etc. We fought to be heard and understood. The Bible says: "'. . . a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." That sounds so sweet and simple. Well we struggled like hell for our individual identity as we were being transformed from two into one. We fought our way into creating a new identity as one. Think about what a traumatic process that has to be -- two becoming one flesh. It's downright volatile, and that's the way it was. Once we survived the "sculpting" that transformed us from two to one, that new creation had to be safeguarded, cared for, and it required routine maintenance. It still does.
A relationship defined is simply: "a connection, association, or involvement," but I beg to differ that it is much, much more than that. That sounds to me like a relationship between some non-living things -- like a couple of blocks. But if you think about it -- any person, place, or thing that has a connection, association, or involvement with another, is going to somehow affect the other person, place, or thing. Two blocks placed side by side on a table might cast a shadow on the table or reflect color onto the other block. When you place two things together, or side by side, there is going to be some sort of reaction -- positive or negative. Add in all the complexities of human beings, and you've got yourself quite an array of reactions. And we all experience that on a daily basis. We react to the people around us -- the people we are in relationship with -- constantly -- positively or negatively.
So what makes our relationship work -- my husband and me? Much of it has to do with trust I think, and there can be no trust without truthful, shameless, candid, and continua communication. To be in a relationship you have to relate. That's a verb meaning: "to tell." Heart has to speak to heart, and there can be nothing blocking that connection - that sharing - that telling. Heart speaking to heart doesn't mean singing sweet love songs to each other. It is often painful and frightening. We have to share everything -- the good and the bad -- to be able to understand and manage things. There are too many people who live together or have friendships or other relationships with people they don't really know. There is a desire to share, to communicate, to love, but there is also a fear of being hurt, shamed, or shunned. Yet they continue to interact, to be in relationship, and therefore to react in ways that are unproductive and even harmful. It's unhealthy, it's heartbreaking, and it continues because of the fear of rejection or confrontation. It's a waste of time, of life, and of love.
Gandhi said: “Whenever you have truth it must be given with love, or the message and the messenger will be rejected." The truth must be shared and received with love. It's often painful, volatile, and scary, but it's the only way to a real relationship. We are all in relationship anyway -- we are all connecting, associating, or involved in some way (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors). We've got one life and the relationships in it are important. We need to keep positive relationships close and nurture them, and we need to sever negative, unhealthy relationships. Both can be done in truth and in love.
I encourage you to speak your truth -- to listen to others' truths -- and to speak and listen with love to avoid the fear of rejection. Someone has to be the catalyst -- why not you? Take someone special in your life by the hand and show them the way to a beautiful, flourishing, healthy, whole, real relationship. Tell them you have to relate to be in a relationship. Don't settle for anything less.
Photo of Mark and Nina from 1981
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