Jul. 9, 2015

Relationships 101

For ten years I worked in an outpatient mental health ministry with 17 wonderful clinicians. Believe it or not, I do not pretend to be an expert on anything. However, all the research provided reveals that hurting people are 4 times more likely to consult friends before seeking help from a professional therapist.   

Please do not consider this blog to be the advice or opinion of an expert.  Nope….like it says, “Lessons Learned,” based on experience. 

Relationships are tricky business. I would like to share some life lessons regarding both romantic relationships and friendships. I will divide it into categories understanding each lesson just might fit into both categories. 

Dating and Friendship – You can have two very good people who are very bad for each other. This doesn’t necessarily mean one person is better or best. It simply means they are not compatible.  Hopefully, this is discovered before marriage or before two friends hurt one another deeply over understandable differences of opinions. 

Marriage – When I was growing up, the rule of thumb was “Stay together for the kids’ sake.”  When I had my own children, the train of thought was, “You do your kids more harm exposing them to an angry and hostile environment than you do breaking up their home.” Again….not an expert, but based on 38+ years of marriage, I would like to make a simple suggestion. Make sure you can live with the person you want to marry, understand there will always be disagreements, stay together and work out your differences, or – to put it bluntly – don’t have kids. If you have not dated a person at least one year, made it through every holiday with both families involved, and had your first fight – hold off on walking down the aisle, please. Most marriages are based on terrible dating relationships that seem to think all the problems will go away if they just get married.  Worse, yet, children do not bring you closer together unless you want to be close in the first place. Well, apart from sexual closeness.  When the sex ends, the real “fun” begin.  It’s called responsibility. 

Marriage – Marriage has become way too complicated and divorce is entirely too easy. The rate for cohabitation is up not due to the bad press on marriage but based on adult children who watched their parents do a really bad job at creating a family beyond the reproduction process. You are your children’s teacher on the basics of life, including relationships. 

Friendship and Marriage – If you are a Christian, forgiveness is not an option. It is a commandment. If we are willing to let go of valuable relationships over trivial matters then we do not value relationships and have trivialized love and/or friendship.  

Every relationship known to man and woman – We all have a variety of roles to play in life.  At home, at work, in the community, with extended family, etc. The most important role you will ever fill is an ambassador for Christ. Work on close relationships within your immediate circle of influence before trying to save the world, please. 

Spiritual relationships – You may not believe in God. He does believe in you. Consider not casting the first stone or worrying about the speck in someone else’s eye until you’ve dealt with your own baggage, please. It's a biblical concept. One we should employ more often.  

All relationships – Pretending nothing is wrong does not make anything right. You cannot fix or heal something without first acknowledging it is broken. Just one question: Why is divorce more appealing than professional counseling? 

Finally, for all of us (myself, included): If we cannot forgive and forget, we do not understand the concept of “forgive us as we forgive others” and, therefore, cannot claim to know or truly understand Christ. My second greatest frustration is people who refuse to work together to solve issues instead of leaving a trail of broken hearts and relationships in their path.  Children are the most painful causalities of relationship wars.