Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Antidote to disappointment in relationships - the Love Dare

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE is eagerly promised at weddings, but rarely practiced in real life. As a result, romantic hopes are often replaced with disappointment in the home. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

A major source of disappointment in a relationship is when our expectations aren't met.

I'm learning that the issue of expectations is one that is often easily fixed by improving communication, if you recognize the real issues at hand and to deal with the other person in love.

My husband used to get irritated with me when I didn't do something that he expected me to do. The problem was that he wasn't telling me what he expected (I know you never have this in your relationships!), or if we had discussed me doing something specific, he often would leave of the little detail of when he expected me to have whatever it was done.

Even simple things could cause a major fight. One example is when recently he asked me to help with the laundry (I'm fortunate that he normally takes care of it) and he expected it to be done in a few hours, taking care of each load right when it finished. That was the picture that he had formed in his mind (his expectation). I had in my mind that as long as I worked it in by the time I got to bed (multi-tasking a dozen things in between), that was ok. In the end, it wasn't the laundry that was the issue, it was how we were communicating. In the past when I would ask him why he didn't tell me what he wanted, he would respond that he "shouldn't have to". Maybe this is a guy thing, but I just couldn't figure out how to transform myself into a mind reader.

Now I'm not usually slow, but we've been married for 18 years and it just occurred to me this week to ask him to write down his expectations so that we can discuss them and both be on the same "page".

The fact is that I love him and don't want to let him down and I especially don't want to be a source of irritation to him. After years of this same issue recurring, combining love and communication was a great way to solve the problem.

Other sources of disappointment in relationships can be lying and inconsistent behavior. I wish I could provide as easy an antidote to those challenges. I know for a fact that dealing with people who disappoint you by trying to extract justice (pointing out their errors according to the law that you've laid down) doesn't work. It doesn't bring about perfection, nor does it instill a desire to change.

We must instead look at the model of hope that comes from serving a God that does not lie and cannot change. His way when we let Him down involves mercy (not getting what is actually deserved) and grace (getting what is not deserved - His unmerited favor).

Hebrews 6:17-20

17Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Anchors hold a boat firm in a storm. Verse 19 of chapter 6 says that our hope in God is an anchor for our soul. The fact that He can't change and doesn't lie is our hope. So even if you have a spouse, a child, or a friend that continually disappoints you, hold firm to your anchor. Mirror His unchangeable nature of love in your dealings with him/her and know that eventually, love and grace will win out.

In the recent movie Fireproof, the main characters in the story were in a dysfunctional marriage. The husband was given a copy of a book called the "Love Dare", which had a 40 day plan of demonstrating love outlined for him.

I won't spoil the story, but if you are in a marriage that has been filled with disappointment and it can't be fixed by simple changes in your communication, try the Love Dare. Give God a chance to fix your relationship. Go see the movie if it is still playing near you.

"Lord God, my heart and mind always vears back to justice and the law when I am disappointed by someone. Your mercy is beyond my comprehension and grace is beyond my nature. Change me to look more like you today and everyday that we get closer to standing beyond the veil with you, our High Priest."

Chicke Fitzgerald

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