The Draw To Relationship
by Dr. John Townsend
You and I are “drawn” to seek out relationships with others. We have an internal drive that propels us toward others. In fact, we have lots of other drives as well: we go online when we are information-driven. We walk to the kitchen when we are hunger-driven. We go shopping when we are clothing-driven. And we talk to people when we are relationship-driven. This isn’t really an option. We are simply designed this way by God.
Our draw to relationship can be for companionship, business, love, or romance. The draw is strong and compelling. But it is not always well-informed, healthy, or full of good judgment. And so we often make bad choices, or we don’t handle our relationships the way we should. We seek people out, not expecting to have to set boundaries. Then, after a relational struggle and some time in figuring out what happened, we again seek people out — we hope, in a wiser way. It is important to understand how completely drawn we are to finding others.
No one enters a relationship expecting a disaster. We don’t anticipate things to run off the rails. We start off with hope, a desire for something good. We hope that friendship, intimacy, safety, and substance will develop. We hope that over time, the relationship will deepen and enrich our lives and perhaps lead to further commitment. This is where we want the relationship to go. In the beginning, we become interested in a person for many reasons: looks, shared interests, character, values, preferences. And once we determine that there might be potential for something good, we invest time and energy into seeing what can happen. But we always begin by hoping for the good.
This drive is not really a choice; it’s an undeniable part of the way we’re wired up. We are designed to seek out relationship and to hope that it will be a positive thing. We experience a “draw” — a move or a desire — to find someone outside of our own skin with whom we can share life. We want someone to understand us, to spend time with us, to help us find solutions to our problems. We are drawn outside of ourselves. We find this in the first relationship in life, which is an infant’s attachment to her mother. As soon as she emerges from the womb, she immediately searches for a presence to make her safe, protect her, and give her some semblance of predictability in the chaos of her first few minutes of life. It is an innate and instinctual act.
God created this draw toward relationship. The draw is toward himself, and we are told to look for his presence: “Seek the Lord while he may be found” (Isaiah 55:6). It is in relationship with God that we find ultimate connection and meaning. And by God’s design, the draw is also toward others: “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). We are at our best when we are connected deeply to God and to the people who matter most. That, along with a meaningful purpose and task, creates the best life possible.
Human connectedness provides a host of benefits for us. People who have healthy relationships live longer, have fewer health issues, and suffer fewer psychological disorders, to name a few areas. Relationships are simply the fuel for life, and they help power our activities and inner worlds in the directions they are to go. Isolation and destructive relationships, by contrast, are something to recover from, not something that benefits us. Though most of us are aware of all the advantages of connection, we are not drawn to it primarily because of these benefits. We seek relationship because we want it and need it at a deep level that cannot be ignored. It can be pleasurable and fulfilling to love and be loved. And it can be painful and unfulfilling when things break down. We seek out jobs we feel passionate about, restaurants we love, and movies we feel alive in, all because we long for the experience of connection. The same is true for relationships.
The Trust Piece
For the draw to work as it should, however, any good relationship must have trust at its core. If you can trust the other person with your deeper self, the draw has done its job, and you can make a good connection. Most of us can handle relational problems, such as messiness, irresponsibility, or even high control. But when trust is not part of the equation, you simply don’t know who is sitting in the chair across from you. It is the problem that must always be dealt with first. Trust is the ability to be vulnerable with another person. When you trust someone, you feel certain this person will keep your best interests in mind. You believe that they are who they say they are. You feel that the deepest parts of you will be safe with them. You expect that they will be there for you no matter what and that they will love you even when you are not so lovable.
Batach is one of the Hebrew words the Bible translates as trust. For example, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this” (Psalm 37:5, emphasis added). One of the meanings of batach is “to be careless.” It’s not careless as in irresponsible or impulsive. It’s care-less, as in without any cares or concerns. If you have a batach kind of trust, you feel free with someone; you don’t have to edit yourself, be vigilant about what you say, or walk on eggshells. In batach, you open up a vulnerable part of yourself to God or another person without second-guessing or worrying about betrayal. That’s trust.