If you haven't read the first three installments you can find them here.
Relationships were the hardest thing to master in my life. I was so deceived. I thought I was an excellent friend. In some ways, I think I really was a good friend. But in most ways, I wasn't.
You see, underneath all of the junk there were treasures and gifts and even good characteristics. Those characteristics would surface in the initial stages of the relationship, but the junk was lying right below the surface. Whenever the relationship started going deeper, my issues would be triggered and the negative traits would swim to the top. Therefore, my relationships were always volatile.
I was - and still am ::wink wink:: - a good person. I respected others. I was kind. I was helpful. But I was broken and I didn't know it. My heart was wounded and I viewed life through a very tainted lens. My issues would surface in the relationship and instead of acknowledging them and working on them so that I could be a healthier person, I just acted out of them as if they were my personality and my lot in life.
Looking back, I acted as if it was every one else's fault when the relationship would tank. No one could conform to my demands, spoken and unspoken, long enough to have any length of relationship. Those people who kept coming back around either saw the good in me or were just gluttons for punishment. All of my friendships were surface and if I chose to share something deeper, it usually came back to bite me in the butt.
Even now as I write this, I can feel the emotion attached to that desperate desire I had to be connected with someone, to be fully loved and accepted for who I was. I couldn’t see that I was creating and living out my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I was afraid of being abandoned, so I would put up this wall that only allowed you in a little bit, which, in turn, caused you to actually abandon me. That just affirmed my ungodly belief that I was going to be abandoned. I wanted to believe that people were loyal, trustworthy, capable of really loving me, but I had yet to see it.
I don’t recall anyone ever explaining how relationships work. That’s not a slam on my parents, siblings, pastors or anyone in any type of authority in my life. It’s just a fact. No one talked about how much work relationships were and how difficult they could be. I just assumed that all of the fluffy stuff I saw on TV, read in books and seemingly saw in real life was what relationships looked like all of the time.
No one said love was a verb.
I just thought it was an emotion. One that you had to feel all of the time or something was wrong.
I brought my baggage into the relationship and you brought your baggage – all of that baggage and nowhere to store it. Since there was no where to store it, we did the next best thing - we unpacked it. We wore it, hung it up in our closets and even washed it and cared for it. No one said to me, “Hey! You don’t have to do that. That’s old baggage. Get rid of it. Deal with it and move on. No need for that stuff here.”
So from every relationship (including a failed marriage and my current marriage), I carried all of my baggage into the next relationship, without really knowing it was there. I thought all of that junk was just who I was and everyone needed to live with it. I thought that if I gave up all of that stuff then who would I be? A different person? I couldn’t imagine that thought. I couldn’t imagine not being all the things that made me me. I mean, in my mind, that was my personality.
I didn’t even know I needed to be “fixed.” How’s that for real? I honestly believed those negative things were my quirks and were with me for life. I was just doomed to have to deal with people who misunderstood me. Therefore, all of my relationships at some point would end. I thought it was everyone else’s problems that ended our relationships. I had no idea that I contributed.
What. A. Martyr.
What. A. Victim.
It’s embarrassing and exhausting just writing it all out. I didn't see how I contributed to my failed relationships.
While I could go into major details about things I learned from being married at 19, divorcing, living a crazy single life for a few years then marrying again, I won't. For now. That would be a whole post by itself, cause YALL. I learned so much from all of that.
But I will tell you about a friendship that meant a lot to me but tanked in a big way - a catylist of sorts for my journey to getting rid of all that excess, unhealthy baggage I carried around with me like a prize.
I had two very close friends. Our relationship was rocky but it felt steady, normal, as far as I knew. I was willing to deal with the hard parts of it if it meant I had friends. This relationship felt like a triangle - we could be friends with one another, but not all together. That was too much. It was divisive. Because of all of our own baggage, the relationships were high strung, volatile and inconsistent. I wanted for all of us to be close (I think we all did, really), but it was obvious fairly quickly that we weren’t going to be. There was too much mistrust with each other, too much deception and too much competition.
We all just needed to let down walls and deal with our own issues. But no one ever told us that. No one ever shared how to do that. All we knew to do was point a finger at someone else.
There we all stood – pointing, blaming, accusing. Not one of us said, “You know what? I think I may be contributing to some of this mess. Let me work on me and you work on you and then let’s reconvene, shall we?”
Wouldn’t that have been a lovely thing?
Instead, the relationship imploded, in a very nasty, humiliating, ugly way. But looking back? I'm thankful for that blow up. It was a major wake up call to re-evaluate my life and the cycles I was living in.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Jesus gave me an invitation to walk with Him like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. He set me up (He’s sneaky like that!) for a journey that continues to rock my world even 10 years later. It changed the way I do life. It changed the way I manage my relationships. It changed everything.
How are you with relationships? Not just your marriage or your parents, but your friendships, your business relationships - all of them? Your relationship with God? Do you notice areas that seem to be cyclical? Do you find yourself acting out in the same kind of ways over and over?
Take some time to ask God - and if you're brave enough, ask someone really close to you that you trust - "What am I like in relationships? What are my triggers? What baggage am I carrying around, acting as if it's my "personality" or "who I am?" How can I get rid of it?
And that relationship that tanked all those years ago? God was faithful to allow me to restore that friendship in a healthy way. Isn't that amazing?! He can do that for you too!