I never believed that things would become as rotten as they are,” wrote Janice. “The last three years of life have been a nightmare. It seems like I hit rock bottom. I’ve even considered suicide.
“It began with my relationship with Jim. I thought I loved him. I felt we had something good going. The more we talked, the closer we got. Then we became sexually involved. Before I knew it, I ended up at an abortion clinic. It was supposed to be neat, quick, and simple. But instead I’ve been thinking about it constantly ever since. The mental anguish has got to be the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Where did our relationship go wrong?”
Why is it that so many special relationships turn sour? What happens after we recognize that we love somebody that so often ends up making us so miserable?
Is it possible to know how to be successful in our relationships? Is there a secret to making relationship work?
When we see the impact relationships have on our lives, it’s amazing how little thought we give to them. Let’s focus on some basic principles of how relationships grow into something beautiful.
1. Communication: Every relationship needs to provide the context for open expression. We need to be free to talk about our ideals, our goals, our dreams. And if that’s true about any relationship, think how true it is for those relationships that lead to marriage! Here’s where a solid foundation for communication in marriage is often developed. Most marriage specialists will tell you that the number one problem in marriage is not money, sex, children, or in-laws, but the lack of open communication.
God has given us a simple but complete principle concerning communications. It’s found in the Bible in Ephesians 4:15 “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ” (NASB).*
First, we must speak. We must share our thoughts and opinions as well as listen to others share theirs.
Second, we must speak the truth. Honesty and integrity must characterize our conversation with our partner.
Third, we must speak the truth in love. A thoughtful gentleness should mark our speech, not critical and self-centered language. The relationships that are most successful are those that develop this communication basis.
2. Selfless Giving: People have tendency to put their best foot forward early in the relationship. But the most lasting contribution is in giving kindness, love, and deep concern over the long haul. Instead of insisting on “what I want” and “what I feel,” there should be a growing sensitivity to the feelings, ideas, and opinions of the other person.
Selfless giving shows itself in every aspect of the relationship—leisure time, religious views, principles, and morals. A truly selfless person has genuine love for his or her partner. One won’t try to force his desires on the other person (see 1 Corinthians 13).
3. Physical Restraint: There are different levels of physical expressions of affection. Simply touching. Holding hands. Embracing. Kissing. Fondling. And finally sexual intercourse.
In a relationship worth keeping you should set limits and stick by them. If a couple can’t maintain their agreed standards of morality, they should be willing to break off the relationship. This attitude says “We respect each other too much to violate our standards.” And more important, this shows respect to God, who asks us to reserve the more intimate forms of physical expression for marriage alone.
What do you do when the desire makes it difficult to wait? For those who determine to resist temptation and claim His promises, God offers a ready way of escape (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).
The most lasting relationships are those in which limitations on physical expressions of affection are set and held.
4. Activity Inventory: Spending time together and being active together are such an important part of a growing relationship. So let’s take a look at a few simple guidelines. They can help your time together be as stress-and pressure-free as possible. The following statements are based on the premise that each partner is willing to act in a sincere and straightforward manner (Philippians 4:8).
Guidelines like thee are worth just as much as you make them. Are you willing to commit yourself to them?
Remember, the basis of true commitment is found in a relationship Jesus Christ. The greatest contribution you can make to each other is to invite Jesus to be Lord of your lie and your relationship. That’s the secret of a growing, lasting relationship.
* Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible. © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977.
Copyright © 1996, Published for NAD Church Ministries Department