Thursday, August 02, 2012

A Real Relationship

What is a real relationship?  There are many kinds of relationships.  In a strict sense, it could be argued that I had a relationship, a "relating", with a waitress at Applebees when she greeted me, took my order, gave me my food, and then I paid her.  But what makes a close relationship, a close emotional relationship?  How can we define it?

I believe a good definition is that a true and close emotional relationship involves two people being truly and fully themselves to the other person in alliance and communion.  Each comes truly forward, as their true core selves, to meet with the other, to ally for the good of the other, and to remain and dwell in that communion.  This is what God has had with Himself since eternity past in the Trinity -Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And this is what Jesus came to initiate with us as He came into this world as one of us, to live and die and rise from the grave for us.  Granted, real life isn't perfect, but I should hope we can agree that this is the goal of a close emotional relationship.

Then why is it that so many relationships that are supposed to be close emotional relationships, or which we call close relationships, are more like "arrangements"?  Arrangements are action-based.  You act in this way, and I will guarantee this response.  You act in that way, and I will guarantee that response.  The response may be good and healthy.  The may response may be abusive or destructive.

Some people live for years in "close" relationships that amount, in many ways, to an arrangement in which they live to do what the other person wants so that the other perosn will not hurt them, reject them, or abandon them.  "If I do well enough, they will love me," is how it goes.  They may be in abusive relationships, but even if not for whatever reason they prefer to hide behind a wall, believing they are protecting themselves, while they lob gifts of good deeds and actions over the wall, hoping they placate the other person.  Perhaps they were hurt badly or perhaps they just learned by observation and assume that this is what a relationship actually is.

Many people relate to God like this, not realizing how they are sabotaging a real relationship with Him.  Again, maybe they have been in abusive or abandoning relationships in the past, and therefore they have decided to never be hurt like that again.  Their solution has been to wall themselves off in a coffin of sorts while they try to control whoever comes close to them, being preoccupied with their performance and if it is good enough for God or whoever.

Has it never dawned on us that God chose to save us by grace, removing our "good deeds" from the picture?  Religious people don't understand this.  It seems foreign to them.  But I see that God chose to send Jesus to die for our sins, to cover for them, and to bring us back into relationship with Him by grace because that is really the only way.  Otherwise, we would be preoccupied with our "good works" and if we were doing enough to keep Him happy (and many Christians *do* live like that!).  But that sabotages the whole thing.

But there are others live for years in "close" relationships that amount, in many ways, to an arrangement in which they expect all their fantasies and wishes and desires be met by the other person, and when the other person fails to meet those "needs" they punish them in a litany of ways.  They, like many of the other people, are living behind a wall and may have erroneously learned that this is what a relationship actually is.  They consciously or unconsciously believe that having control by force and abuse, rather than by withdrawal and performance, is the name of the game.

This is what I think can be so destructive about "need-based" counseling for marriages.  It promotes the idea that relationships amount essentially to a collection of actions with another person that either gives me what I want or does not give me what I want (or conversely, that a relationship is about me keeping the other person by performing the right actions in the right ways).  But the real issue isn't how these "needs" are met or not met.  The real issue is about the closeness.  If the closeness is there, the rest can be learned or where it cannot be learned perfectly there will still be love and acceptance because actions and performance do not rule the day -closeness does

And you know... ostensibly, some people can and do live in relationships where the actions of the other person are good enough for them, but that doesn't mean they have a real close relationship.

Are your close relationships more like arrangements or true close relationships?

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