Answering Your Questions About Relationships

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Young couple each on their own devices. Here I answer questions about relationships.

There’s little, if anything, that makes a bigger difference in your sense of wellbeing than the quality of your closest personal relationships. If you’re married, that’s your spouse. If you’re not, it’s the handful of people closest to you. Every day I’m asked questions about relationships, and most of these questions come from people who are deeply distressed.

I’ve picked up some common themes in these questions. Perhaps you’re wondering some similar things.

  1. Do all couples struggle this much?

One wife feeling very disconnected from her husband of 10 years asked me, “Do all couples struggle this much? I don’t see my friends struggling like this.”

YES!

The more complete answer is that every couple struggles deeply, though some have learned more effective relationship tools than others. Every marriage is the union of two sinners. Whether before or after “I do,” the coming together of two sinners is a setup for disaster. The butterflies and fireworks in early love can obscure the problems for a time, but sooner or later all relationships struggle.

The difference is in what you do next.

Your personalities and backgrounds are different. You each came to the relationship with different baggage, expectations, and desires. The templates in your brains about what this should look like are different. Of course these differences cause friction, conflict, and disappointment.

Communication is always a challenge. Misunderstandings. Man-speak and woman-speak. Struggling to feel heard, to stay engaged when it gets complicated, to come out of hiding long enough to try, or to get over yourself enough to truly listen.

Pursuing intimacy, real intimacy, feels terrifying. Once the feelings are no longer fueling you, can you both find the courage to keep bringing down the walls between you? Coming together to truly see and know each other (including sexually if married) is both hard and satisfying.

  1. Should I keep trying even if my partner isn’t?

It depends on what you mean by “trying.”

A better way to ask this might be, What does loving well look like in this relationship?

God always calls us to love well. Marriage is one of God’s best laboratories in which we learn to love well. Other close relationships offer some of the same opportunities. But how do you do that?

No relationship can thrive if you’re only in it for what you can get. If you’re married, ask yourself, What’s it like to be married to me? Close relationships show up the prickly places in your own character if you’re paying attention.

But if by “trying” you mean codependency, then stop now. If you feel you’re putting more into the relationship than your partner, check yourself for codependency. You are responsible to your partner, but you are not responsible for them.

Who is God calling you to be to this person in this season? Sometimes that means taking your grubby hands off so that God can do His work. Sometimes it means setting up difficult but firm boundaries. Other times it means dealing with your own bitterness or refusal to forgive. It might mean staying engaged in hard conversations or learning other new skills.

There are times you walk away. Jesus did. If your marriage is toxic there are times God releases you.

So do you keep trying? As Andy Stanley phrases it, What does love require of me?

  1. I’ve prayed. Why isn’t God fixing my relationship?

God, why isn’t this working? Why aren’t You fixing my spouse? Why aren’t You saving my child? Don’t You care that I’m suffering?

Yes, He does care. And don’t stop praying. But there are two additional perspectives that are super important.

First, God values freedom more than “obedience.” He wants a human family that loves Him in response to His love. And love cannot be coerced; if you try, it’s not love. Love can only be freely given. So He created humans with a free will, and even He will not override your partner’s free will. Not every relationship can be saved.

Second, what step is God inviting you to take next? With anything we care about the two-part prayer is applicable: Jesus, come. HELP! And, what step do You have for me to take next?

Often that next step involves learning something new. That might be replacing some lies you’ve come to believe, seeking healing for some wounds you’ve experienced, and/or learning how to feed yourself in filling up your empty places. A more mature mindset, some better relationship skills, and ongoing practical investments in the relationship can transform any marriage or even close friendship.

What Now?

I’ve talked with more troubled couples than I can count. And the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is that those who buckle down and do the work to learn and practice what they need to do almost always become stronger and more Fully Alive than ever before.

If you’re distressed about your own closest relationship, do something about it.

If you’re married (or even considering marriage), our Fully Alive Marriage course will give you a pathway to do that. This is not a marriage enrichment course. It’s about developing the mindset and skills you need to solve real problems. This course exposes the expectations and beliefs that set your marriage up for failure and equips you to replace them with the understanding and tools you need to build a Fully Alive relationship that lasts.

I’d love to have you join us!

CHECK OUT THE COURSE

Your Turn: Do you have questions about relationships that you’re wondering about? Have you had any of these questions? What else would you like to know about relationships? Leave a comment below.

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  • Do all couples struggle this much? Should I keep trying if my partner isn’t? I’ve prayed; why isn’t God fixing my relationship? These are some of the questions I’m often asked. And I answer here.   Tweet that.

 

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