What is the purpose of having romantic relationships? Why do we tend to pair up with other individuals?
I believe the answer is to “experience a little piece of heaven.”
Heaven is fully knowing each other and your Creator. No sin. No fear. No shame. No hiding. Nothing that gets in the way of being connected to each other.
I believe that here on earth it takes so much energy to overcome all the fear and shame in being vulnerable that we really only get to experience that with one person at a time. And even then, it takes a life time to learn how to do well.
But if you get to experience being fully seen and intimate, you’ll realize that there really is nothing better. It’s what we’re built for.
In this podcast episode I shared several quotes from Timothy Keller’s book Reason For God. I think it’s important that you be able to read them for yourself, so here they are.
“In many areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions. Those that fit with the reality of our nature and the world produce greater power and scope for our abilities and a deeper joy and fulfillment.”
“One of the principles of love… is that you have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy. If you want the “freedom” of love—the fulfillment, security, sense of worth that it brings—you must limit your freedom in many ways. You cannot enter a deep relationship and still make unilateral decisions or allow your lover no say in how you life your life. To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up your personal autonomy.”
“For a love relationship to be healthy, there must be a mutual loss of independence. It can’t be just one way. Both sides must say to the other, “I will adjust to you. I will change for you. I’ll serve you even though it means a sacrifice for me.” if only one party does all the sacrificing and giving, and the other does all the ordering and taking, the relationship will be exploitative and will oppress and distort the lives of both people.”
This one’s from C.S. Lewis
“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. the alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.”
The Practical Stuff
These are some of the things that are necessary for healthy romantic relationships:
- Time & Intimacy—Time is a great filter. The more time you spend with someone the more facets you get to see of their lives. Relationships that take things slowly and move deeper in intimacy at a moderate pace tend to have safer relationships.
- Equitable & Shared Values—Both people have to have a shared investment in the relationship. That equity and balanced commitment level means each person shares the load of responsibility for the success of the relationship.
- We-ness—“We only become ourselves in love, and yet healthy love relationships involve mutual, unselfish service, a mutual loss of independence.”
- The 2 ‘S’s—Men’s primary need is significance. Women’s primary need is security. 99% (if not more) of all relationship conflicts center around one of these areas.
- Men Set The Tone In The Home—For some reason, men have a greater responsibility of setting the emotional tone in the home. This is part of the leadership role for men. A spiritual man is someone who recognizes that HOW they do things is just as important as WHAT they are doing.
- The #1 Thing To Look For In A Romantic Partner—The desire to grow, improve, and change.
Warning Signs Of Bad Romantic Relationships
- Physically or emotionally making promises they can’t keep
- Power struggles and controlling behaviors
- Avoidance and emotional unavailability—Romance is inherently vulnerable by design
- Reactivity instead of proactivity
- The Four Horsemen (that predict divorce)—Gottman
- Criticism: Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong
- Contempt: Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her
- Defensiveness: Seeing self as the victim, warding off a perceived attack
- Stonewalling: Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Partners may think they are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness