Do you struggle with relationships, friendships and partnerships? Is there that one friend that always seems to take advantage of you? Have you struggled with dating and marriage? Are the world’s people just plain out to get you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, have you ultimately wondered is it them or me? If you grew up in a household with trauma or emotional neglect, it’s not surprising to have those questions. Often times someone who has grown up in this type of environment has an “ah-ha” moment after they get older. They look at what they perceive to be healthy relationships around them at work, school, church or community and begin to think, “Hey! Why don’t I have that? I never had that.”
Even when we realize we don’t have “that” or never had “that”, we can still wonder, what is that even supposed to feel like? If you have nurturing parents that helped you feel seen and heard, then you grew up knowing what genuine love was supposed to feel like. But, what if mom or dad was dismissive of you when you needed or wanted attention? What if they threatened you with the belt whenever you tried to speak up but they called you a whiny spoiled child? Kids ultimately just want to be loved and have the approval of their parents. As children, however, we are great at observing but when it comes to filtering all of those messages parents send us, we are terrible at figuring them out. So we do the best we can. And perhaps we learn that vulnerability is bad. And perhaps we really learned that there was no equal footing in reciprocation of power emotionally in these early relationships. What those messages then do is lay the foundation of our belief systems. Early on we begin to learn, am I good or bad? Is the world safe or not? Are people safe or not? The answers to these questions can ultimately lead to how we feel about our self and others, which can then DEFINE the types of relationships we have with self and others.
If you’re struggling with what that healthy relationship should look like, a good place to start is your relationship with Jesus. Our connection to Christ is well known to be the most fulfilling relationship of all time and to be the ultimate path to happiness, contentment and purpose. Consider how compassionate Jesus is and how much he loves us no matter what. It is with him we can be seen and heard. We can seek value through him and define our self-worth through his love and guidance. Consider when Jesus told us -“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). He wants us to lean on him with our struggles and learn from him. This is a great example of someone who will truly be there for you; the Jesus that will validate you and wrap you with empathy and understanding. Remember what he said in John 15:9-17 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Once we can take this to heart then we can be truly transparent and un-apologetically vulnerable in our relationship with Christ. This can take our relationship to self and him to a whole new level. We can then unequivocally learn to love ourselves as Jesus loves us. This can then lay a blueprint for how we respond in our relationships, friendships and partnerships, which will never be perfect, but they will certainly be easier to manage with Christ by our side.
LaNita Proctor, LMSW, EMDR Provider