He was late again. One more late night at the office, one more round of drinks with his clients, one more dinner missed. When he walked into the kitchen all he found was a plate sitting on the stove.
As he opened the door to the bedroom, he noticed the lights were still on. His wife was simply sitting in her reading chair, waiting. Waiting to ask him where he had been? Waiting for an explanation as to why he was so late. Waiting to tell him how tired she was of spending every night alone. She needed him to know that he was selfish, that he didn’t love her, that he truly didn’t care. With each phrase, her voice got louder, her heart beat faster.
Things had been like this for years. No matter how many times she told him, he still found it impossible to make time for her or the family. He would apologize. He would promise. But within a few days, things were right back to normal.
He couldn’t see what she was so upset about. She had to know how important his career was to him, to the family. Couldn’t she be a little more supportive? Couldn’t she show a bit more gratitude and understanding? She was always so dramatic about everything. Her head was forever in the clouds. Didn’t she know that they needed his career to take care of the family? Didn’t she admire him for working hard to save for his children’s college education, their retirement? All he wanted was a little respect.
Sometimes we all have moments like these in our marriages and relationships. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to get on the same page. We feel caught in a vicious cycle where nothing is really resolved. Where few feelings are heard, understood, or respected. Where emotions erupt and overwhelm any safety or togetherness. Where the silent treatment and isolation make the distance between us even deeper, even wider.
Knowing how to deal with any kind of drama in our relationships can be challenging. I’ve found five ways we can increase the satisfaction and decrease the drama in your relationships.
We’ve heard this, we know this. Yet somehow when feathers are ruffled and disagreements brush us up against the jagged edges of another person’s humanity, somehow respect is the first thing that flutters quietly out the window.
We’ve been socialized to believe that we are only required to show respect to someone else if they respect us first. True respect flows from the core of our identity. Respect is not based on outward circumstances, respect is based on inner character. I show respect because at the deepest part of me, that’s who I am. I am a person of respect.
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Our relationships will thrive as we learn to cultivate respect in them. Screaming, name-calling, belittling, criticism, sarcasm – these behaviors are not respectful and they will destroy the safety and connection in any relationship.
I Peter 2:17 (NIV) states that we should, Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
We cannot have healthy relationships if we’re not willing to be honest. When we withhold what we are thinking and feeling, there is no safety, no trust. We can rationalize our deceit in many ways, yet dishonesty of any kind will undermine the foundation in any relationship.
Healthy individuals are never rude or disrespectful, they simply learn how to be open and honest on a consistent basis and to use their voice to calmly speak their thoughts and feelings instead of acting them out.
Colossians 3:9 (ESV) commands us, Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.
There are things that are reasonable to expect from a relationship, there are things that are not. Many people come to a relationship with so many unconscious expectations for what the relationship will mean to them, what it will do for them. They believe that a relationship will fill them, fix them, save them. Yet when it doesn’t (as no relationship can do), they are left feeling abandoned, rejected, wounded.
We have to be realistic in our relationships. We have to know what that relationship is about, we have to understand where we end and the other person begins. To accept, celebrate, embrace the people in our lives for who they are, not for what we need them to be.
A relationship should never give us an identity, nor should it save us or fill us or fix us. Healthy individuals get those needs met through God and themselves. Relationships were meant to be enjoyed. They were meant to bring deep satisfaction and joy. They were not meant to carry the physical or emotional weight of another human being.
David tells us in Psalm 103:2-3 (ESV) that it is the Lord who forgives and heals in ways people and relationships cannot. He sings, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.
If we want to reduce the drama in our relationships, we must be able to effectively work through misunderstandings and potential conflict. Every relationship has them. We can’t escape them. Some people flee a relationship if there is a disagreement or problem. In doing so, they all miss out on the possibility of a deeply meaningful relationship as well as the increased confidence in the relationship that comes from working through a difficulty, rather than bailing when one appears.
When there is a disagreement or conflict, healthy individuals are willing to be accountable. They are able to look inside themselves and see how their words or actions may have contributed to a hurt or fracture in the relationship. They can consider the other person’s perspective.
Healthy individuals are simply open to accountability so they can effectively work through problems in their relationships. This quality makes the relationship a much safer place to be, it makes it much more calm and solid and strong. It can handle the stresses of life.
Proverbs 12:15 (NASB) says, The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
We will never find the solution to a problem in our relationship outside of our relationship. Pouring ourselves into our children, our careers, other individuals and activities to avoid dealing with the problems in the relationship is misdirected energy. Though it may resolve tension in the short term, it exposes the relationship to enormous threats and greater distance.
Stay present in the now. Even if the now is painful, face it. Do your best to address issues respectfully, head-on. Deal with the here and now. You may find many issues are resolvable if they are simply addressed. The issues that are not resolvable will become less intense and divisive when we can stop avoiding them and simply create a safe space to face them – together.
Matthew 6:34 (NIV) tells us, …not (to)worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Be respectful. Be honest. Be realistic. Be accountable.
Though we can never change another person, we are powerful to change the way we choose to engage a relationship. If we choose emotional abundance, we will find abundance, we will experience abundance, and our relationships will be blessed with abundance.
We will cultivate deeply satisfying relationships that have much less drama, much more calm, much more stability, much more – peace!