No More Manipulation
By Fred R. Lybrand
How do you find the right person for a romantic relationship? Once you’ve found that individual, how do you figure out if he or she is the one God ultimately wants you to marry? And for that matter, how do you learn to relate authentically so you can actually get to know each other and decide whether you belong together?
These questions have eternal implications. If you get married, so many major elements of your future—your place of residence, work, children, and grandchildren (not to mention the dreams, joys, suffering, and hopes you’ll experience) are all connected to this one “simple” factor: the person who will be your partner in building a life together.
Since the stakes are high, it’s no surprise that for many, the focus of dating (or courting) as well as prayer about a future spouse tend to be on trying to secure guarantees, even from God. You might find yourself hoping that compatibility on personality tests, family background, and degrees or jobs, along with a by-the-book courtship and engagement will insure the success of your marriage—and that it will be better than other marriages. Or, because you’re so focused on guaranteeing the future with the person you feel is “the one,” you begin to treat dating like marriage. This presumes a depth of commitment and relational identity that isn’t appropriate and, in turn, invites jealousy and possessiveness.
I’ve known far too many people who focused on doing all the “right” things but whose courtship or marriage didn’t work out. The truth is, no one formula comes with a surefire guarantee. And that’s because relationships, contrary to what many would like to think, aren’t built on formulas.
The way to counter such misconceptions is to focus on truth. If you’re sincerely open to what the Lord wants for your life, you can relinquish trying to be in control. Then you’ll be free to relate genuinely to others and will enjoy healthier, more authentic relationships. You’ll also experience greater freedom as you walk on the path God opens up for you.
LIE #1: If you follow the right process, you’ll have a successful marriage.
TRUTH: When you fall into the trap of trying to guarantee how your partnership will go, the future becomes the focus in everything you do. But then you stop living in the present, where relating really happens. This is not to say that thinking about the future is bad; it’s actually important. But if it’s the main focus, and you spend all of your energy planning and scheming, you’ll likely miss out on truly connecting.
Married couples can actually do the same thing in a different way. If they concentrate all their energy and time on securing their future retirement, it’s easy to miss out on enjoying and working on their relationship in the present. If something doesn’t go as planned (like a health crisis or collapsed investments), they might not even get to enjoy their saved wealth or free time—and nothing can buy back the years they missed out on each other.
Only the Lord knows your future. By coming to terms with that truth, you can start to rest in Him and give up on manipulating the outcome. You may even start to enjoy the friendship as it is in the present!
LIE #2: If we act just the right way and say just the right things, we can get others to respond the way we want.
TRUTH: Control-free relating derives from simply speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), with no agenda. Truth is the lifeblood of real relationships. When you’re not preoccupied with what to say next or how to elicit a certain response, you can start connecting effectively and actually get to know each other.
Often, people chain relationships to personal goals. When this happens, you are motivated by an agenda that is self-serving, and the partnership is no longer balanced. Furthermore, if you use the other party to achieve a personal goal but don’t admit it to yourself or that individual, your friendship becomes dishonest. This is fertile ground for problems.
Manipulation occurs when you’re not acting truthfully and as a result aren’t supporting the other person. If you insist that he or she act or react a certain way, you harm the possibility of genuine connection (something which can occur only when you both speak truth).
It takes two people for manipulation to happen, though. Even if only one person is overtly controlling, the other is enabling. Both types of dysfunction are serious hindrances to a healthy union.
In order to connect genuinely with someone else, it is essential that you communicate what you honestly think, and that you act without any pretense. And allowing the other person to do likewise produces trust—which is the key ingredient for healthy love. Truth, love, and freedom are the basis for strong, successful relationships.
Are you inadvertently derailing healthy relationships? In his book Glaen: A Novel Message on Romance, Love, & Relating, Dr. Fred Lybrand offers insight and advice in this unique and fun-to-read story. To purchase, visit our online bookstore or call Customer Care at 1-800-789-1473 (US) or 1-800-323-3747 (Canada).
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