I wish I could cite this amazing resource… but all I know is that our counselor had it and he’s not sure where he got it.
I wish this information wasn’t so incredibly useful… I could keep it to myself and not share this laundry list of exactly what’s wrong with the marriage Matt and me are building and rebuilding.
I wish that one or both of us didn’t fulfill every single item on this list in our marriage, but right now, we do. That’s going to change.
I wish these things weren’t killing and poisoning your loves too. Take heart. We are there with you, and now you know that about us.
I wish these didn’t apply to all relationships – parenting, friendship, family, work, community. But these poisons and killers can infiltrate anywhere.
I wish a lot of things. Time to reflect, confess, and then act to make change. Here’s the list and a summary of each one. If someone knows the source, please share it in a comment!
Self-centeredness/Ego-centricity: “Self-centeredness” is closest to a real description of a truly selfish person. Self-centered means someone basically experiences life mostly in terms of him or herself. When one is self-centered, he guarantees the failure of love, for love is an attachment between two people. The self-centered person denies the reality of the other. He only sees others as extensions of himself. Others exists to make him happy, serve his needs, and regulate his feelings. When others fail to do that by having an existence of their own, he has some sort of negative reaction, such as anger, withdrawal of love, controlling behavior, or rejection. This orientation to another person being more of an object for self-gratification than a person makes a true attachment impossible; love requires two people, not one person and an “object.”
Lack of Observing Oneself: Psalm 36 says the following: “For in his own eyes, he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.” I John says it a different way: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” The inability to see one’s own behavior, especially when one is wrong, is one of the most frustrating qualities that anyone can have in a relationship. If you have ever had that experience, being in a relationship with someone who could not see when they were wrong, you know there is very little hope to get past any conflict that you might be having. No relationship or person is perfect. And any kind of conflict can be worked out, as along as both people involved are able and willing to look at their own behavior and own it. Taking ownership of our wrongs makes moving past the conflict and getting to a deeper connection possible, and when someone cannot see their wrong, the relationship gets stuck. The injured party feels helpless, and there is little chance for comforting them by the one who hurt them, because no apology is forthcoming. The conflict cannot be solved without ownership. This is why God is so committed to our confession. It brings us to a better place. Look to yourself first in any conflict to see where you might be wrong. That will enable you to see the truth of the situation more clearly.
Inability to Validate Another’s Experience: Being understood is one of our deepest needs. We don’t need to know that we are right as much as we need to know that someone understands how we feel and what our reality is. Making this connection in relationship is called empathy. When we feel a certain way, we need to know that others validate our experience. We need to be listened to and understood, not quickly negated for how we feel and what we think. For instance, how do you feel when someone says, “Oh, come on, that didn’t hurt!” or “Oh, that wasn’t so bad.”? We immediately go further away inside our hearts and feel a breach with the person. On the other hand, when someone says something that shows their understanding, we are more open to input about our reality. “Sounds like that was very difficult for you” is an example of an empathetic statement that draws people closer together. Taking the time to understand how someone feels or thinks or how an experience was for them is something that builds bonds and connections between people. The inability to do that destroys connection and alienates the parties.
Play Fair: It seems that playing fair would be a good thing. The problem is that fair is what the Bible calls the Law. In other words, it means returning “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” It means that we treat others as they treat us. If they are kind, then we are kind. If they hurt us, then we hurt them back. But Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. But to you, I say Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6). It is easy for us to be good to those who earn it. The problem is that no one earns it all the time, and every relationship has problem behavior. This is why simple fairness cannot work, for then the worst behavior in the relationship becomes the common denominator. To transcend this pattern, we cannot play fair and return evil for evil. The only way for a relationship to overcome the imperfections is to return grace and truth instead of the injury.
Emotional Detachment: To be emotionally detached is to be out of touch with one’s feelings and unable to be emotionally present in a relationship. It can be a killer to intimacy, because it feels to the other party that they are alone, even though someone is there. The Bible says that to love God involves the heart as well as the mind. When we are out of touch with our feelings and cannot express them to one another, then intimacy is blocked and our experience is of the other person’s heart being far away. To feel close, we need to be emotionally present. Our needs, vulnerabilities, fears, pain, and tender feelings must be communicated and expressed. Intimacy involves our hearts and our minds. If someone is out of touch with their deep feelings and innermost parts, then shallow relationships follow.
Control and Denial of Separateness: In Galatians 5:1, we find that freedom is so important that Jesus died for it. We are not to be under slavery ever again. But the reality is that many people do not honor freedom in their relationships. They do not see the other person as a free person from them, able to make their own decisions and have their own desires. Instead, they see the other as an extension of themselves, and make strong attempts to control the other’s freedom. Love can only exist where there is freedom. Our attempts to control what another person thinks, feels, wants, does, values, and believes are destined to drive them away and ultimately destroy love. Love only exists as we see another person in their own right as a separate individual who is free to do what they want to with what is their own. When someone says “no,” we are to respect it. When they have choices and wishes that are different from ours, we are to respect that as well.
“I know Better” and other Parental Dynamics: Adults in significant relationships are meant to be equals and share the reality of who they are in a spirit of mutuality. Some people, however, do not want to be equals. Instead, they one-up the other person and prefer more of a parent-child type of connection where they are in charge. They have expectations for the other to be in subjection to them and are dominating in their style. This blocks love in a horrible way, as the person who is subjugated feels belittled, controlled, dominated, and disrespected and the person who is dominating acts as a so-called “benevolent dictator.” One person dominates with “you should’s” and freely tell the other how to think, live, be and do. The other person becomes resentful and is driven to become independent from the dominating one.
Lack of Boundaries: This is a person’s inability to take a stance of self-control and to have a proper relation to the word “no.” Boundary problems usually show up as someone’s inability to say “no” or to hear “no” from others. This disturbance either allows people to walk all over us in a way that destroys respect or we walk all over them and trespass against them. Either way, love is destroyed. True love respects each other’s boundaries, says “no” when needed, and respects “no” when it is heard. Another aspect of boundaries involves requiring responsible behavior from each other in relationships and taking a stance against evil when it occurs. True love cannot grow when evil is allowed to triumph. When we have the boundaries to abhor what is evil and take a stance against it in our relationships, we preserve the good and help the relationship grow by solving problems.
Summary: Love is not easy to accomplish. It is particularly difficult because of our inclinations to do each of the behaviors on this list. There is a part of all of us that tends to try to please ourselves instead of accomplish love, and in the process, we lose the love that we wanted in the first place. Love does not just happen; it takes work. And part of that work is avoiding these love killers and poisons.
Sweetie, I recently heard this song and thought of us. We’re not broken, just bent, and we can learn to love again!