The alternative title to this post is: The reality after the hero and the heroine ride/drive off into the sunset. Ha!
Last month for the Marriage Bed series, I wrote on Becoming A Life Partner and the reality that there are no ready-made partners. No one is born pre-configured to be the greatest there ever was at relationships.
Today, I want to go a bit deeper into what it means to work on yourself in the journey to becoming a better life partner.
We learn what to give and receive in relationships from the influences around us right from an early age. From being married, having married friends, and being quite involved in ministry in the context of relationships, I can tell you that many things people grapple with in their relationships emanate from their childhood not even their adulthood.
I’ve written about the power of first introduction before and how that impacts how we interpret everything else we get on the same matter from that point on.
Where did you get your introduction into what relationships look like? Your parent(s)/guardian(s)? Their friends? Your older siblings? Your extended family? Your friends? Media (movies, series, books, magazines, etc)?
The error we make is thinking that for someone to influence us, they have to sit us down, tell us something and we agree it. Hardly. Whoever was around you in your formative years taught you what to expect from relationships whether they meant to or not, even if they never uttered a single word directly to you about it.
This is why it’s imperative to go back to your foundation – mentally, emotionally and physically. As Christians, there’s a fundamental spiritual reality for us as well. The devil is not in the business of allowing relationships to thrive without meddling. There are many generational issues families deal with that need to be addressed in prayer otherwise any other effort made will be counterintuitive.
I highly advocate for this to be an exercise done in concert with the Holy Spirit (because He’s the Chief Counsellor and half the time we have no clue the depths to which certain moments/events have impacted us or how to deal with it); and if need be getting a professional counsellor, whether pastoral or otherwise. There’s absolutely no shame in requiring help to get to a place of wholeness.
In addressing your foundations, one of the key things you’ll need to handle are your expectations and who has defined them for you till now. But having done that, you then need to decide what healthy expectations look like for you moving forward.
One of the major ones in my view is the coming to terms with the fact that relationships work when you work at them. There’s no healthy relationship that doesn’t require active participation and input from those in it.
The work doesn’t stop when once you get to the wedding day; you only shift gears. There are couples that need seasonal or regular post-marital counselling as they continue working through certain things. Again, there’s no shame in seeking assistance where you need it. It’s actually tragic that people wait until the house is burned to the ground to say they need help over something that could have been easily handled with finality when it first cropped up.
Sometimes there’s the temptation to think that another person or couple is better off than you are because they seem not to have the foundational baggage you do, look like they’re further ahead, and/or are having a rosy time. But that’s incredibly relative. What anyone sees of a relationship from the outside is literally just the tip of the iceberg. Only the two people in it can definitively tell you exactly what they have gone through and continue to go through in making their relationship work.
My rule of thumb is always to run your expectations through the filter of the Holy Spirit. There really is no one-size-fits-all template for this. Every relationship is as unique as the two people in it and so is its purpose. Not to mention, different seasons of a relationship and the lives of those in it will require regular adjustments in expectations. The Holy Spirit, guys. Life saver on so many fronts.
There’s a lot of hullaballo about self-made men and women and whether potential is a meaningful quality in a partner or complete hogwash.
On the one hand, I understand the frustration behind those who say not to date based on potential. Many are the times when potential remains just that even years down the line. I’d expand the conversation to active potential; potential that is steadily being worked on in some way and there’s fruit to show for it.
By fruit I don’t mean that every single outcome has been achieved, because let’s be real here. Life isn’t a straight line. It’s full of ups and downs and it takes time to attain certain achievements especially when you’re committed to doing things the right way.
If anything, how you react and respond in the face of setbacks can tell you a lot about how you’ll be when your relationship encounters challenges. Yes, no matter how hard you pray or what effort you put in, you will face challenges. This doesn’t automatically mean you’re doing something wrong. It means you’re two human beings trying to make life work together. How you handle what comes your way is what determines whether they’ll make or break the relationship.
The flip side to this potential debate is that anyone in a divinely orchestrated marriage will tell you that there are things in their life that were in “potential” mode till they got married. And in the context of marriage, God has used their spouse and the environment of their family to awaken and birth these things. This is why I’m very slow to rubbish potential. There are things God deliberately allows to hibernate until a person is in marriage. If you’re not sure what applies here, the simplest thing is to ask God what in your life is to be done before and during marriage and allow Him to guide you on going about the same.
As always, this post is far from exhaustive. It’s merely a starting point to consider as you journey with the Holy Spirit to becoming a better life partner. Godspeed.