I ran into the bathroom in a last-ditch effort to gain empathy from my then husband by harming myself in front of him. Maybe then he’d feel guilty for what he was doing, maybe then he would care about me, maybe then he would see my pain, maybe then he wouldn’t stay with her for yet another night.
It didn’t work… it only made him want to leave more. Where did I learn this kind of “love”, the kind that says, “I’ll die without you”. If God has taught me anything, it’s that the only thing we need THAT desperately is a relationship with Him.
The destruction of my first marriage has taught me a lot about freedom that I didn’t know before. I was a major hopeless romantic in the past. I loved all the Disney movies, love songs, and Romance movies like The Notebook. But it all gave me a false expectation of what love was supposed to be.
We romanticize the thought of “loving” someone so much that we can’t live without them and they can’t live without us. We idolize romantic relationships and disappointment is inevitable when we put god expectations on another human being.
God draws us in with his lovingkindness, but never coerces, manipulates, or guilt-trips us into staying in a relationship with Him. He gives us the freedom to leave, even though it breaks his heart.
Loving another person can be a terrifying thing. To truly love someone we have to let down our walls and leave our hearts vulnerable to pain and rejection. This vulnerability can lead to grabbing the reigns and trying to control our relationships in order to avoid negative feelings. Especially if we’ve been deeply hurt already.
I think we all do it if we aren’t intentional about leaving the care and control of our partner to God. It can be as simple as putting the weight of guilt on another person’s shoulders by telling them how devastated you would be if they ever left, how much you need them to survive, or even insinuating that they aren’t following God’s plan if they left because He told you they were your future spouse (cough, cough, Christians…).
This control and absence of real love is most prevalent in abusive relationships. People in abusive relationships are viewed as objects that are owned by the other person. We don’t love objects, we USE them. This is why abusive relationships are most dangerous when the survivor leaves. Loss of control will induce a rage in abusive people that can lead to more extreme abuse and sadly, homicide. Even if the abuse was originally emotional and verbal. Please carefully plan out, pray, and involve a support system when leaving these relationships.
The truest picture of love is God because He is love.
Jesus gave us the greatest example of real love when he was here on earth. He gave up all control and completely opened His heart to pain and rejection. “Real love isn’t afraid to bleed.”
We cannot fully surrender control of our significant other, or anyone for that matter, without having God as our solid foundation and fulfiller of our hearts. When we put God first, and go to Him first for our emotional and spiritual needs, we have an abundance of love to pour into another person. God has been teaching me this through my last year of singleness.
I was deeply wounded in my past relationship; knowing that kind of pain makes it easy to try and take control in subsequent relationships. We won’t perfectly execute real love all the time because we are frail human beings who live in an imperfect world. We will need to readjust and realign to God, we will need to seek forgiveness and start again, but I have found a few things that make this type of love possible.
1. Keep God First.
When my world fell apart and I felt it wasn’t worth living anymore because I lost an important human relationship, that was the first sign that I had let marriage take the place of God. Good things can become bad when we have them in the wrong position.
When we elevate a person to God’s position, we then need them to fulfill us the way God does, and that will NEVER. HAPPEN. We will inevitably be let down with those false expectations. When a person is our #1 everything, we will most likely take control to avoid ever losing our finite god. Some people are only in our lives for a season and that’s okay; grieve the loss, but don’t believe the lie that your life isn’t worth living without them. God is enough.
2. Become Healthy; Seek Healthy.
Past wounds make us want to take control, throw up the walls, and do what we can to control the person we’re with when we think a situation could lead to more hurt. It’s so important that we heal from these wounds and allow God to remove the fear of vulnerability with His perfect love. If we want to find healthy, we have to be healthy ourselves! Unhealthy relationships are ripe with control, manipulation, idolization, and emotional immaturity.
Singleness doesn’t have to feel like punishment… it can be a time of fully immersing ourselves in God’s love, working on our own junk and being the healthy, spiritually and emotionally mature person that we want to attract. I speak from experience, because I have felt both the exciting and positive parts of singleness along with the feelings of loneliness and longing for a new relationship.
3. Surrender to God daily.
Surrendering control takes the confidence of knowing that we have a big God who is always in control and we can trust Him with our lives. Recognizing when we’re trying to take control of a situation, which always stems from some sort of fear (they might cheat, they might leave, they might x,y,z..) helps us to intentionally give it to God and give the person in our life freedom.
We can trust God with our lives. We can trust God with our pain. We can trust God with who remains in our lives and who decides to leave. He loves us and can be trusted with these things. His love is enough to fulfill us. Knowing this love makes it easier to trust Him when we’re tempted with the fear and insecurity that leads to taking control of things and people in our lives.