I wonder how many of our relationship struggles really start within ourselves.
Being a daily Facebook troller, I daily see memes posted about what “real” women want, and what “real” men, do. Real women love football. Real men cry. A good woman won’t want fancy things… And while some are meant to be humorous, I can’t help but reflect on times in my life when the expectations of others with regards to who I am, and who I am not, have brought about dissension.
When I was younger, I read a book by Dr Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages. Basically, he suggests that there are 5 distinct languages through which we are each wired to give, and to receive, love; gifts, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation and physical touch. The greatest value in identifying your loved one’s language is that you won’t work overtime loving in a way through which they don’t feel filled up by.
My husband and I had been married for several years before we decided to go through the book together. Upon reading, we were both able to see where roots of bitterness had been planted. I long for words of affirmation, so I had showered him with lovey sentiments that truly were more irritating than anything else, to my strong-but-silent-type husband. Meanwhile, I was feeling an emotional void as his gifts just frustrated my desire for frugality with our budget.
Both of us were giving all we had in our own language, but we were each missing the mark.
Similarly, I think it is really easy to have preconceived notions about how others should act, and interact, in the other spaces of our lives as well – family of origin, workplace, church, friendships… While we each long to be graced and accepted for who we are, it can be a considerable challenge when doing life with people who simply do not respond to life in the same way we do. Differences in communication styles, the priority of values, and even lifestyle choices can move us from irritated, to a complete shutdown in willingness to work on a relationship with someone who does life so differently. And yet, isn’t that exactly what life is all about??
In today’s culture, we seem to have come to a place where we love to label, polarize, and even attack, based on personal preferences and ideologies. Sometimes we even feel better about our self worth when we can devalue another. Our personal real estate, however, should never be elevated at the expense of our fellow man.
Today, evaluate where breakdown in relationship based on personal expectations may exist – where perhaps more authenticity can be birthed by the full acceptance of loving others right where they are. Discover how much more freedom you yourself experience, in setting those around you free.
Free to just be.