Are You Lying to Yourself about Relationships?
by Dr. Chris Thurman
The deepest longing of the human soul is for intimate relationships. It is how God designed us when He made us in His image. The world we live in will tell us that our deepest longings are for wealth, power, and sex, but don’t be fooled. We are here for one thing and one thing only—to have an intimate relationship with God and with other people. Loving God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27) is the purpose of life and what gives life meaning.
Unfortunately, we have an enemy who is out to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10) our relationship with God and the people we love. This enemy is called “the father of lies” (John 8:44) and is constantly on the prowl, trying to get us to believe things that are not true about God, about ourselves, and about what it takes to have a healthy closeness with others. To say it more directly, to believe lies.
All of us fall into faulty ways of thinking about relationships with others. We all have distorted beliefs about intimate relationships that not only are false but end up causing a great deal of harm to ourselves and others as we go through life. Sadly, there are times when the lies we believe about relationships ultimately lead to a relationship being so damaged and broken that it is beyond repair.
One of the lies about relationships that is common in this day and age is the belief that “The purpose of a relationship is to make me happy.” I’m not knocking happiness here—I truly believe God wants us to be happy and joyful in our intimate relationships. My concern here is that we get fooled into thinking that the purpose of a relationship is to make us happy and that something is seriously wrong if we are ever unhappy.
This particular relationship lie typically leads people to do one of three things. Some people who believe this lie will leave a relationship when they are unhappy and go look for someone else to “make them happy.” Others who believe this lie will stay in a relationship but depend on their partner treating them well in order to feel happy. Finally, some who believe this lie will stay in a relationship but take their unhappiness out on their partner by being hurtful and unkind. All three of these paths in intimate relationships work out badly for everyone involved. Leaving doesn’t change anything, given that happiness is an “inside job” and no one else can “make you happy.” Staying and depending on the other person to make you happy by treating you well doesn’t work because even the most loving person will mistreat you at times. And, staying in the relationship and mistreating the other person because he or she mistreated you doesn’t work because “two wrongs never make a right.”
So, if being happy isn’t the purpose of a relationship, what is? I believe that the fundamental purpose of a relationship is to allow God to help us mature into fully whole, fully loving human beings. God uses our relationships with others to graciously remove the flaws and defects all of us have as people who “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us are a pretty big mess as we go through life, and God uses our most intimate relationships to help us become “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). Sadly, in a day and age where personal happiness is an “idol” that is pursued at all costs, this isn’t the message that most of us want to hear.
I personally identify with the lie “The purpose of relationships is to make me happy.” Throughout my life, I focused way too much on whether or not I was happy in a relationship rather than whether or not I was growing into a more loving man. When my wife, Holly, and I married thirty-five years ago, being happy was my focus rather than allowing God to use my marriage to help me “put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11) and mature into a Christ-like human being. I’m far enough down the marital road now to genuinely appreciate that God gave me the wife that He did so that the two of us could become an “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) couple who changed into the kind of people God wanted us to be.
Again, don’t hear me knocking wanting to be happy in a relationship. I would worry about you if you didn’t want to be happy in your marriage, friendships, or work relationships. I’m simply trying to tell you that the surest path to being happy in a relationship with another human being is to turn yourself over to God to use your relationship to help you grow you into a mature and loving person. If you will allow God to do that, you will be as happy as you can be on this side of heaven.
The major take-away that I want you to have from reading this article is that “attitude is everything” in determining whether or not your relationships with others are healthy or sick, growing or dying, loving or abusive. If you believe things about relationships that are untrue, you are going to be wounding and hurtful to others and others will be wounding and hurtful to you. If, on the other hand, you believe “whatever is true . . . noble . . . right . . . pure . . . lovely . . . admirable . . . excellent or praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8), your relationships stand a much better chance of being loving, gracious, kind, forgiving and joy-filled places of closeness and healing.
I want to challenge you to take some time to think about what you believe about relationships and allow God to show you which beliefs are false and which ones are true. Please, don’t allow the enemy to keep you in bondage to unbiblical ways of thinking about intimate relationships, lies that insure a lifetime of hurting others and them hurting you. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1), and I am absolutely convinced that God not only wants to set us free to love others more deeply by showing us the truth about relationships but has the power to make it happen.
Dr. Chris Thurman is a psychologist, author, and popular seminar speaker. His book, The Lies We Believe, has sold over 200,000 copies. Dr. Thurman’s new book, The Lies Couples Believe, is now available from David C. Cook Publishers.
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