Colossians 2, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. It goes on to say, "For the entire fullness of God's nature dwells bodily in Christ and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority."
Lately, several things have surfaced in my life that have made me question some of my views on relationships. My whole life I have lived in the US. I grew up in a small town. Life was simple and my concept of love was strongly forged by my surroundings. Lyrics to mainstream songs included, "What am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you" (The Script), "Please remember how I feel about you, I could never really live without you" (the Beatles), and "Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can't help falling in love with you" (a UB40 remix). Movies frequently portrayed a female lead in some sort of distress or seemingly lacking in some area when suddenly she meets this man and life is forever better. Even at church, I was encouraged to be a lady and wait for the man to come along whom God would send and who would take care of me and be the supporter of myself and my children. As I matured into...well independence from my parents, I left with more of those core beliefs than I realized.
Moving to D.C. was a bit of a shock when it came to my views on relationships. Women's rights advocates and progressive movements discourage the more "old-fashioned" approach and made my head spin as guys would make comments like "well aren't you going to get my number?" or "I thought you weren't interested because you didn't ask me out!" It was so backwards to what I was used to.
A Partial Person?
As I began to consider all of these things, I realized that growing up, I was submerged in a culture that preached an "incomplete-ness" that would only be filled by a significant other. There was the occasional outlier that encouraged finding yourself in God, but the popular belief was much to the contrary. A similar mindset exists in D.C. although it uses a different and more politically correct approach.
I will stop here and say I am not accusing my teachers, mentors, or parents of doing a poor job raising me. I am merely pointing out a popular idea in our culture that I believe permeates our mindset and can sabotage our expectations of relationships.
An idea is that you roam around aimlessly doing your thing and one day something happens and you meet this person who changes your life and makes you whole. You realize you cannot live without them and you realize how dull your life was prior to them. Essentially, the prior life you lived devoid of this person was simple preparation for this one moment and these new chapters of your life with this person.
In returning to the opening verses the Bible says, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception." I believe these ideas have held generations captive-especially the female side of it. I believe the Bible is very clear on the fact that only Christ can "complete" us. We have significant and unique needs that no one individual can fully satisfy. We are all human and that one individual who we commit to will fail and be unable to fulfill us every time. In addition, the added stressors of a relationship (i.e. kids, bills, work) will again distract them from satisfying or completing us. When this happens repeatedly, discontentment will set in and the temptation to look elsewhere for completion begins.
At the stage of discontentment, society allows us to believe we as individuals have "grown apart" or lost commonality. The escalated divorce rate demonstrates society's acceptance of realizing the relationship was good while it lasted, but now it's time to move on. Therapists push ideas like, "You deserve to be happy!" Perhaps we do, but is it happiness we are pursuing or joy?
"LightBulb" (Despicable Me)
I offer an alternative. I have not had extensive experience, but what I see based on reading and observation is that the happier people are those who are complete without another human. They don't scour the earth looking for their soulmate and carrying a load of expectations to dump at their feet. Instead they take the initiative to be complete in something that does not change (Jesus). They then find someone with whom they share that commonality. In so doing, when hard times happen, they are shaken but their foundation is not shattered because it is something that humans cannot touch. Your relationship with Christ is like nothing else in life. People can hurt your family, your reputation, your feelings, even your physical body, but they cannot touch you and your God.
The encounter with this person that I found myself subconsciously waiting for...it isn't realistic. I expected this encounter, the following emotions and moments of passion to fulfill me, however feelings are up and down. As a wise person said, "Feelings are like the tides of the ocean:they come up and go back down. However commitment is like the ocean and is always there."
When I stop waiting around and work on completing myself in Christ, I am able to bring my "whole" self to a relationship instead of a person with gaps. From there I can choose to love freely. Society pushes the idea that love is something we have no control over and that we fall in and out of. With this new-found freedom, I am able to leave the details of the person to God. The best part about this mindset it that I will not walk into a relationship looking for what someone can do for me and what I can get out of it. Instead I will be loving the other freely with no expectations. Of course I would hope to be loved in return, but if they were to stop loving me, it would not leave me a broken and defeated person. Instead of "needing" the other person and being "unable to live without them" I am free to fully enjoy my moments with them, and still enjoy life when they are not around. Instead of fearing their death and wondering what I would do without them, I could enjoy our time together and realize that if they were to die, I will continue to live because I am "whole".
I will offer another alternative as I realize many readers may not believe in God or a higher power. For those, I offer that you still work to better yourself and make yourself complete without waiting for another. Learn who you are, your weaknesses and your strengths. Identify what you want out of a relationship and acknowledge what it is you are willing to sacrifice. In the event you are unable to find yourself complete, perhaps you might consider the possibility of a God or Creator who has a higher purpose for you. The best way to identify what our purpose is here on earth and who is meant to complete us is to find out where we came from.
Something that really bothers me about relationships is this idea that we always have to be focused on/thinking of that person. I am very independent and the thought of being so attached to another turns me off of the whole idea. With a "whole individual" approach, imagine all of the potential we would have to help others or better ourselves instead of spending every idle minute away from our lover thinking of them or wondering what they are doing. Those idle moments are when the "crazy" comes out and when temptation to cheat or thoughts of "what is he really doing?" begin.
Finally, imagine what two whole and complete people could do if they joined forces. Think of superheroes. Those guys and girls who are singlehandedly saving the world. Then suddenly they get together with another who has superpowers and has been on their own doing just fine. Each understands that they have this "saving-the-world" gig going on, but each longs for the love and affection of another. Does it mean they lose their power? No, but together they are even stronger because they compliment each other.