Stuck in Relationships
I've spent thousands of hours in counseling sessions with people who are stuck in relationships. It wasn't always a husband and wife in a marriage gone bad; any two people in any type of relationship can find themselves stuck.
Are you in a relationship that has lost its passion? I'm not just talking about marital romance. A parent and child who once adored each other can now live in hostile tension. Two siblings who loved each other growing up can now be separated by anger. Co-workers or neighbors who used to get along so easily can now find it hard to have an argument-free conversation.
I would assume that everyone reading this article can identify at least one relationship that isn't as joyful as it could be. But, if you have a good history with relationships, don't skip over this material. God can use you as an instrument of reconciliation between others.
To begin, let's look at 10 typical signs of a relationship gone bad:
1. Do you struggle to be intimate with the other person? (Don't just apply this to the sexual life of a husband and wife; intimacy can be defined as "closeness.")
2. Do you struggle -- or are you afraid -- to talk about important subjects with the other person?
3. Do you use words as weapons to hurt and tear down instead of using words to build up and give grace? (Ephesians 4:29)
4. Do you spend more time criticizing the behavior of the other person than you do reflecting on the motives of your own heart?
5. Do you continually struggle to solve problems and resolve conflict?
6. Do you ever wish -- even just for a moment -- that you had never met (or had) the other person in the relationship?
7. Do you struggle to serve the other person, or, have you lost the joy you once had in serving that person?
8. Do you find yourself angrily replaying the conversations and interactions you had with the other person?
9. Do you try to make yourself busy so you don't have to interact with the other person? (In other words, do you look for excuses that allow you to avoid them.)
10. As a whole, would you say that the quality of your relationship is worse now than it was ____ months/years ago?
Every relationship is going to experience conflict. After all, you -- a sinner -- are living with other sinners in a fallen world. It's bound to be messy!
So, I want to introduce you to a six-step biblical process for changing a relationship. Before I tell you the steps, you need to know three things about this process:
1. The order of these steps is crucial to the process of change.
2. Don't move on to the next step until the current work is complete.
3. Change is a process, not an event. This process could take months -- even years. Don't rush it.
Here we go:
1. Confession & Forgiveness
If change is ever going to take place, it has to begin with an honest confession of wrongs done, followed by an honest and humble granting of forgiveness. If you're refusing to admit you wronged the other person, and/or refusing to let their wrongs go, you won't get unstuck.
2. Trusting & Entrusting
Now that the past has been dealt with, we need to deal with the present. You need to do everything you can to become a trustworthy person. And then, you need to be willing to be vulnerable. Entrust yourself to the other person, knowing that they're still imperfect people.
3. Uprooting & Planting
This is a very concrete step: what specific things do you need to get rid of in your relationship that interfere, and what do you need to replace them with? Don't just work on your schedule and activities; be specific about words and actions and responses.
4. Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
This is a broad Biblical theme, but you need to make it specific. Who is this person in your relationship, and what do they struggle with? How can you specifically show love to their specific needs and desires?
5. Deal with Sin
I said earlier that change doesn't happen overnight, so you need to determine what you're going to do when the other person sins. How you do this is up to you, but you need to give the other person the right to say, "Hold on, what you just did or said was wrong -- let's talk about it."
6. Watch & Pray
Even when significant change has taken place, you still need to guard your relationship. You're in a war zone, fighting your own sin and the temptation of the outside world. Watch over your behavior and pray for the grace of God to give you eyes that see yourself with accuracy.
There is help and hope for you in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One day, your relationships will be completely free from conflict and strife, but the Bible gives you practical steps for change, right here, right now.