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Wrestling With Relationship Disappointment
by Cate Russell-Cole
10/19/2015 / Marriage
"Love that is chosen freely is an unbreakable tie."
I remember once being in church listening to a visiting speaker. He asked for every woman who felt deep hurts from her husband not meeting her needs expectations, to stand up for prayer. Nearly every woman in that congregation stood, including many single ladies who had also felt the pain of relationship disappointments. Every man and woman goes into a relationship with their own ultimate dream of what they would like it to be like, what they would like to see happen, but life rarely turns out in accordance with our plans. It is easy to hurt each other. It is easy to misunderstand, be unintentionally selfish. The actions and attitudes we know we need to develop to build a strong relationship can be the hardest to achieve.
In his book "For Better or Best: Understand Your Man," Gary Smalley says, "Expectations can be one of the most destructive forces in your marriage. They can bring unnecessary disappointment and discouragement to you and your husband. It's like holding a debt over his head he cannot pay as he doesn't have the resources... The best way to decrease your expectations is to change your focus from husband as provider of all to God as provider of all. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." [Philippians 4:19] Let God meet your needs...Diminishing your expectations doesn't mean getting rid of your needs or wants. That is humanly impossible. It simply means eliminating your time limit and preconceived ideas about when and how these expectations will be fulfilled... the expectations...are like bombs set to destroy your relationship. The only way to deactivate them is to get rid of the timer."
There is no perfect relationship in which we will never get hurt, however there are ways to deal with the rough patches we face, and there is always plenty of ground for hoping that marriage will be a success rather than a failure to give, receive and communicate.
The choice of whether or not to pursue love is one of the basic emotional rights we have as human beings. To me, friendship is the essential factor in every kind of successful relationship, be it a family tie, marital, or heart to heart companionship. It has the greatest value when chosen freely. Even with our families, we aren't whole, satisfied, secure individuals until we have been released from the controls and expectations that bind us. We need to find ourselves free to choose to love, or to walk away. This is the one precious, strengthening factor that enables couples to stay together: genuine friendship.
The closest relationships have the bonding that comes with true friendship at their base, and that is the component which stops them from fragmenting and dissipating. Through counselling training I have been repeatedly taught that a strong foundation of friendship is what makes a marriage work. The best marriages are the interaction of best friends. How does that work though? I have seen my parents in action, but I never identified their relationship as the equal of the kind of interchange I have with my friends. The two never came together in my mind. A relationship was either romantically based on passion, love and compatibility, or it was a basic friendship. It has taken me a long while to learn how friendship fits into the fabric of a marriage.
Friendship is a safe place. It is more than just sharing interests and being in the same location. This is where you know you are truly accepted as you are, where you have common interests and values, and where, most importantly, you know you're wanted. The most valuable friends are the ones you can be yourself with. You don't have to pretend, to live up to an expected model of behaviour or someone else's idea of perfection. You know you can make a fool of yourself and they will still want to be around tomorrow. You can have fun, kick back and relax. It is at its basis, a trusting relationship.
True friendship will also tell the truth lovingly when we need to hear it. It isn't scared of discussing the deepest issues of life: the hurts and fears, and sharing joy. It is someone who doesn't give up on you, someone not prone to an "I can just walk out" mentality when the going gets rough. There is no judgement, no mocking, and no betrayal. It is someone to share the little things that happened that day with. It gives you a shoulder to lean on, a hug when needed. It is the energy we all need to keep our love tanks filled, and it gives us value and meaning as individuals.
We all need to relate to other people, and be it as family, friends, business partners or co-workers, a strong foundation of friendship will enable the relationship to survive and work. Friendship is the core to successful human interaction on every level.
I appreciate what Alan Loy McGinnis said in his book, "The Romance Factor." "Permanent joy simply doesn't exist in this life... My goals for love have become more modest as well...and we've been together enough years to know that there will be more love on some days than others. Feelings of romance normally come in trickles rather than downpours, and once in a while there is a drought when it disappears for a time. But we do not panic; we have both learned to cherish the minor ecstasies available on any given day. Like the quiet contentment of a Saturday lunch on our patio, when we linger in the sun to talk and she reaches across the table to squeeze my hand. Or an evening spent reading before the fireplace when, if we do not have a lot to say, it is enough simply to be together. "True contentment," said G.K. Chesterton, "is the power of getting out of any situation all that is in it... When I counsel couples I tell them... if they will value love, in whatever quantities it comes, and delight in it each day, they will discover God can be very generous with joy."
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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