How Your Relationship Status is Always Complicated

Perhaps the only good thing Facebook has ever done was to allow the relationship status “It’s Complicated.” And is there ever any relationship that’s not complicated? God built within each person the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy. That means we need relationship. But relationships are frustrating because they involve those pesky things called people.

Maybe you feel a little like Linus retorting to Lucy in the famous Peanuts comic strip, “I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.”

It’s natural to look to others to fill you up. You might approach the world believing that if you could find the right person you could finally be fixed. Developmentally that makes sense; you started out in life totally dependent on others for your very survival. Perhaps now if you can find the right pastor, therapist, friend, spouse, or sexual partner you’ll finally be OK.

But then you find that partner and you’re still not OK, and you feel confused. Wasn’t this supposed to work? Your personality may lead you to either sit back and wait for that other person to make you OK, or you try to wrestle out of them what you need. But you always end up disappointed.

Love them or hate them, you need them. People, that is. How do you deal with your relationship status when it’s complicated?

Assessing Your Relationship Status

And I’m not talking about whether or not you have a ring on your finger.

Although Genevieve would like to be married she’s not completely upset with being single. But several of her closest friends have moved – to another town, to getting married, or to a different set of values. Her relationship with God is growing, but people are a problem. “I’m not sure I know what intimacy is or how to experience it,” she said.

Peter had always felt different and struggled to feel connected even when he was with friends. When he got married in his 40s he was sure his lonely days were over. So when his wife often pulled away from him it was – complicated. He tried talking to her about it but all she would say was, “You don’t know how to love me.” The thing he thought would finally fix him, marriage, became the source of even more loneliness.

Where are you when it comes to your relationship(s)? How is intimacy working out for you? (And I’m not talking about sex.)

If you’re married, lovemaking with your spouse can trigger lots of old stuff. Being fully present becomes a challenge, and when you’re not fully present your sexual satisfaction and general wellbeing is derailed. You might find yourself ashamed for trying to use your spouse, or angry that your spouse isn’t responding. Or you might shut down your heart when it seems your spouse is trying to wrestle something out of you that you don’t have to give.

If you’re not married, your story colors what you look for from relationships. You might always be on the hunt, wondering if this might be the one to finally satisfy you. Wanda had been married twice, and divorced twice. She’s pretty much given up on marriage but she hasn’t given up on trying to find a man to fulfill her. She’s become very good at negotiating sexual relationships but real intimacy continues to allude her whether she “puts a ring on it” or not.

And regardless of your relationship status you might have a closed-up heart that pushes everyone away anytime they get close. You may feel lonely, but may not have a clue how to move toward people to connect.

Relationship with God?

The Christian church now talks about “relationship with God” more than about denomination or church affiliation. That’s good. But that phrase can become overused to the point we miss what we’re really talking about. Your relationship status with God is also complicated. Scripture often talks about our relationship with God like that between a lover and a beloved. So it makes sense that your story around relationships, sexuality, and intimacy affects how you see God and how you feel about Him.

In looking with both honesty and compassion at your relationship with God right now, how would you describe it? A helpful gauge can be to listen to what your prayers sound like. If you were navigating your marriage or your relationship with your best friend the same way you are negotiating your relationship with God, how would that turn out?

Many people tell me their prayers are some version of, “Help me. Bless me. Bless my friends and family. Amen.” How would your friendship or marriage be if your communication together sounded like your prayers to God? What if you or they were always only asking for things? Or always complaining? Or never addressed the hard stuff?

Your relationship with God would change if your prayers sounded more like conversations between good friends or healthy partners. Perhaps our challenging relationship with God is a reflection of our lack of learning how to have decent relationships with others. What would that good relationship look like? It would involve both listening well and sharing deeply, both giving and receiving, knowing and being known. You’d talk about superficial things and deep things, good things and hard things. And sometimes you’d just “be” without talking at all. Could your relationship with God look more like that?

What’s Your Relationship Status?

What is your relationship status? Remember, it’s complicated. So, married or unmarried, how has your story worked itself into your relationships right now? Some further questions for self-reflection:

  • In your relationships with people around you, do you blame others for how you feel? Do you pretend everything’s OK when you’re not OK? Do you expect others to “contain” your emotions for you?
  • How open or closed is your heart toward those around you? Do you expect harm or disappointment and so keep your heart closed?
  • How might you be prone to using others, including your spouse if married, for your own purposes?
  • If you’re having sex, how present are you with your partner? Is old stuff distracting your mind? Is sex primarily about you? Is sex primarily about your partner? How mutual is your sexual connection?
  • How is your sexuality coloring your friendships? Are you often “on the hunt?” Are you hiding, defensive, or aggressive?
  • In your relationship with God what do your prayers sound like? How close or far away do you imagine God to be when you pray? How authentic are you with God?

Perhaps you feel even more alone after considering the state of your relationships with others and with God. Where to go now?

Briefly, pursue authentic intimacy.

And we’ll talk much more about that in articles yet to come.

Your Turn: How is relationship status complicated for you? What do you see when looking at your relationships with both honesty and compassion?   Leave a comment below.

Want more? In this week’s podcast episode I answer some of your tough questions about relationships, sexuality, and intimacy.

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • Relationships involve people. So wearing a ring or not, your relationship status is complicated! And that complicates your relationship with God too. Tweet that.

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