No matter what type of relationship you have–marriage, family, or friends–to have a functioning, healthy relationship you need three ingredients that are essential to the success of that relationship. Those three ingredients are:
I pastored a church for thirteen years, and I continue to pastor, in various ways, people, and when I do marital counseling, I can tell where a marriage is struggling, weak, empty, or strong all based on these three ingredients of their relationship. Each one of the three areas produces footprints that a knowledgeable counselor can follow to determine the strength of a relationship. A study of relationships in the Bible and in the world around you will make this abundantly clear.
By themselves, they seem rather obvious, but upon closer examination, we begin to see the intricacies of these ingredients to determine behavioral patterns in relationships. For example, it is possible to trust someone you don’t love, or love someone you don’t trust, or even be attracted to someone you don’t trust or love. You can even love someone you don’t like. Oh yes, family members do this all the time.
As you can see, these aren’t simple ingredients that we can simply take for granted. In actuality, there are SIX ingredients. Three for you and three for the other person. If all six of these areas are strong on both sides of the relationship, then you have a very strong and healthy relationship. If even one of these ingredients is missing from either side, you have a problem. The more that are missing, or the more that are weak, the larger the problems you have in the relationship.
ATTRACTION IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP
All relationships start here. Another word for this would be “like.” You like someone is a form of attraction. A young man looks at a girl and becomes attracted to the way she walks, looks, smiles, or behaves. The attraction enabled him to notice her and if the attraction is mutual, she noticed him. This attraction is not limited to marriage or dating. Two men could get along because they share similar interests and values–there is nothing sexual or perverse in that. Two women can find things they like about each other and become best friends.
Your initial step to forming any relationship of any type usually begins here. You like someone and that attraction opens you up to interaction. Without the initial attraction, there would be very little relationship to begin with, or nothing at all.
What makes for strong relationships is when you have things in common, such as sharing the same values, principles, and likes and dislikes. These attractions build interaction, interest and comfort in a relationship. Often this is mutual attraction. It is both parties finding that common ground.
But it is something that can be lost. Married couples who don’t maintain their attraction to each other suddenly develop problems in their relationships. Friends who no longer have anything in common often part ways. Children who can’t find anything to like about their problems often struggle to relate to their parents. The list can go on and on.
Signs that “attraction” is a problem in your relationship:
- You don’t like being around them much.
- You get irritated at little and insignificant things that they do.
- And you feel more comfortable or relaxed when they aren’t around.
If this is you, you need to rekindle the attraction. Find new hobbies, new experiences to share together. Rediscover all that you have in common and enjoy those things together. If you can’t think of any, find new ones.
LOVE IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP
I don’t believe that love is some sort of warm, fuzzy emotion. In fact, I believe that love is a decision and an action that is often demonstrated by personal sacrifice. I also believe that your love is based on who you are, not on the other person.
If you love someone because of what they do or don’t do, your love isn’t love; it is attraction. Love is something that comes from you as a gift. It is based on who you are.
Many people like being around each other, but they don’t really love each other. They aren’t willing to make personal sacrifices when the going gets rough. They love to hang out with you, or do things with you, but they’ll split when things get difficult.
Signs that “love” is a problem in your relationship:
- You don’t like making sacrifices for them.
- You don’t want to be involved with their problems.
- Their problems push you away instead of bringing you closer.
- You feel put upon when they bring problems to you.
- You have no interest in their difficulties or problems.
Interestingly enough, two people who don’t like each other, but who actually do love each other, will find that their relationship is strongest when they have a problem. The problem actually binds them together because they tackle the problem together. But when there is no problem, they can’t stand being around each other.
Ever see a boy who couldn’t stand his little brother? But if a bully threatens his little brother, watch out! Here comes Big Brother. Although he doesn’t like his little brother, he does love him.
TRUST IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP
Trust must be earned. You don’t give away trust like you do love. Everyone agrees that trust is important in a relationship, but you can’t just demand that someone trust you.
This is the final stage of a developing, healthy relationship. It beings with attraction, or liking each other, and it can quickly move toward love as you give of yourself to the other person, but only time can fully develop this issue of trust. Trust is important.
Signs that “trust” is a problem in your relationship:
- You are suspicious of them.
- You question their actions and motives.
- When they are away, you feel uncomfortable, and so you try to control their time away.
- You find it difficult to believe their words.
- You find yourself insecure in the relationship.
MAKING A MESS OF THE RELATIONSHIP
Relationships become even messier when the missing or weak ingredient is different for each person involved. Say a wife doesn’t trust her husband, and the husband doesn’t really like his wife anymore. In this case, she is suspicious, jealous, controlling, and only content when he is where she can keep an eye on him. Conversely, he can’t stand to be around her. He doesn’t find her enjoyable anymore and her suspicion and jealousy make him want to be away from her even more. But because they do love each other, only when disaster strikes their family do they get along the best.
Say that a brother doesn’t like his sister, but he loves her, yet the sister likes her brother, but doesn’t really love him. In this case, the brother only ever feels close to his sister when she’s in trouble. But she, on the other hand, likes to be around him, but can’t handle his problems or troubles. This makes for an awkward relationship to say the least.
Of the six ingredients (three to a side), it is a mess when even two of them are absent. But when more than two are absent, the relationship becomes even more unstable. I’ve discovered that if three or more are absent, the relationship is either non-existent or heading there quickly.
Examine your own relationships and find out which areas need to be improved and built up. We can always improve and build a healthy relationship.
You may also like this
Your acceptance of what marriage is will dictate how you approach nearly every aspect of the relationship. One way to define the term "philosophy
In my years as a marriage counselor, I've dealt with some very real and troubling problems in marriages. But no matter what the extent of the pro
God has much to say on how the family is to function. Children are to obey and honor their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2), wives are to submit to their hus