Relationships are obviously important in the lives of humans. From the beginning of our lives as children, we seek relationships. We’re built for them.
Our primary relationship should be with God. Yet often, we turn first to others to complete our lives. We do need other relationships, but many relationships fall apart at the seams because people are unhappy, frustrated and trying to find completion in human relationships rather than in God.
In looking at our motivations for seeking out human relationships, many of us enter into romantic relationships in particular trying to discover what we want out of life and looking to “find ourselves.” This happens especially during times of confusion or insecurity, leavingus in precarious positions at times, grasping at whatever relationship comes along and settling for something because we feel like we may never get what we truly want. I’ve even found that sometimes we stay in unhappy relationships, putting up with strife and junk, just for the sake of not being alone. Why do we find ourselves in these relationships, putting up with arguments and mistrust? We deal verbal and emotional blows to one another,and yet try to hold on the very one we have hurt.
God meant for our relationships, romantic or other, to be experiences that are beneficial and long-lasting. Ideally, our relationships will continually build upon previous experiences, which should cause us to continually go deeper with one another. But far too often, we find that our relationships fail, and for many of us, that has happened more times than we’d like to count or discuss. We begin to feel like the relationship we hope for will never work out for us. As we enter into relationships, we find ourselves apprehensive with expectations that the same things that happened to us in previous relationships will happen again. This poses a problem: Our expectations of what will happen to us become self-fulfilling prophecies. Even if we don’t like to admit it, our thinking often tends to default to the negative, and we worry that the worst is yet to happen.
In my experience, wrong expectations in a relationship cause the most problems when they’re not communicated. Being in a relationship for three years, I found myself constantly frustrated at my significant other. We frequently ended up in arguments that left me upset and very emotional. Often times, I felt that I no longer needed the relationship, but kept running back to it time and again. This continual cycle wore on me and didn’t benefit me at all. Two years into it, after being on and off in the relationship, I discovered the reasons why things happened the way they did. After some time of being away from the relationship, I discovered that I had unmet expectations, which had done more than cause a rift—they had caused a perception problem. This perception problem caused trust issues that escalated to much more than at times could be tolerated. As the problems escalated, there was more friction. As friction increased, more problems arose. As problems arose, unforgiveness and bitterness took root inside me.
I had never communicated my expectations in the relationship or dealt with them on a personal level, and because of that,there was not only an unbearable breach in my relationship with my partner, but my relationship with God was hampered as well. My relationships with other people were even hampered because I was not honest with myself and had unforgiveness in my heart.
I had to come grips with two vital steps I needed to take: forgiveness and dealing with the very expectations that I had. What was I expecting to be done that wasn’t being done? How had this caused a problem? How did I expect to be treated? Was I being treated this way? How was I supposed to be treated? Did my significant other know? Where did I get these notions from, and why were they important? Moreover, why were my expectations not communicated? Most of all, why were all the expectations on my girlfriend instead of on the Lord?
Relationships are two-way streets, so one partner is not always to blame, but both partners can always bring issues to resolution if they are willing and ready to work things out. My expectations in my relationship did not belong on my partner, but on God. He is the only one in the universe who can fulfill all of my expectations. In my heart, I had to consider assumptions and perceptions that had been built because of what I had perceived as a failure to fulfill a need. I had to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Also, I had to make amends with my significant other for the things that I had said. Surprisingly, it was freeing, and the strife I felt inside could have been taken care of long ago if only I had realized the darkness of my own heart.
So if we find ourselves in conflict-ridden relationships and we’re tired of fighting, let’s ask ourselves why. If our expectations are not being fulfilled by those we share our lives with, then we need to understand this: Our expectations need to be on the Lord. He is the only person who can fulfill our need. Our partners may not always understand our hearts, but God does. Understanding this will stop strife and disappointment. It’s out of a love for Him, our overflow, that we are even able to love people without judgment, disappointment, expectation or pain. We look to God for our identity.
Our primary focus and relationship is with Him. We look to Him for our purpose. We look to Him for our fulfillment. It’s so vital that we don’t have unrealistic and unspoken expectations on our partners, because they won’t be able to always fulfill them or make us happy. At times, they will fail and fall short. However, when we place our hope and expectation in the Lord and choose to let His love give us value and security, then we can get rid of strife that makes us bitter. We can live in peace because we realize we don’t have to always prove our point. We can choose to forgive and live lives pleasing to God, the way He intended for us to live. This will show the world that relationships are not irreparable, and breakups and divorce don’t have to be the answer, especially when God is the main factor involved.