Friday, February 03, 2023

Getting Into a Relationship Won't Heal the Wounded Heart

Linda and I, in Cancun (the sun was bright!)

Every heart has its wound. 

Some have multiple wounds. What can mend a broken heart? Not: getting into a relationship. Not: getting married. And not committing emotional adultery. (See here, and here, and here, and here.)

The person with an unhealed, bleeding heart brings their bloody mess into every relationship and, if the other gets close enough, they get bled on. Probably they are wounded too, and that's why, unknowingly, they are attracted to another hurting person. Misery loves company. People that bond in their misery form dysfunctional relationships.

Who a person is pre-maritally is who they are maritally. Unless, of course, they change. But just being in a relationship doesn't bring healing. Often the opposite happens. Old, oozing scars get re-opened. We cannot restore the souls of others.

God, on the other hand, is the Soul-Restorer (Psalm 23:3). Therefore, know and be known by him. I've seen this work, in my own life and others. In relationship counseling Linda and I attempt to bring people back to this.

After countless hours of counseling couples, pre-counseling them, post-marital counseling, and wedding-doing over the past forty-five years, we have seen marriages get restored. This happens when husband and wife stop viewing each other as either "savior" or "destroyer," individually look to God, cry out "Change me, God!", and respond to God's counsel.

Can God use a partner to mediate healing? Of course. But that's God, not the partner (who gets some credit for being a vessel of God, like a mug is to be affirmed for containing a great blend of coffee). God has mediated much healing to me through Linda, and she would say the same about me. But neither of us is The Great Healer. It is bad news relationship-wise if one is viewed that way, or views the other that way. What happens is big-time disappointment.

If you are hurting and lonely, even while married, the answer to your personal hell is not "I need to find someone!" Way too many mistakes are made at this point. Someone dates as a cure for their inner tragedy. Two unhealed people "fall in love." Never date or marry as relief for tragedy. Unless you want to experience hell on earth in a failing marriage, with children.

Every person's story is different, especially in the details. Here's part of mine. I was twenty-one years old. I had just become a Jesus-follower. I tried to get back into a previously failed dating relationship with a girl who was not a Jesus-follower. Eventually, she broke up with me. I thought, "I am messed up." God told me to take a year off from opposite-sex relationships and work on my own self. I did. It was a wonderful year! I thought, should God ever bring someone into my life, and should we get married, and should we have children, I want to be healed of a lot of stuff inside me.

Every person is healable. None of us have it all together, inwardly. Getting in a relationship is not the cure. Success in acquiring a life-partner does not equal a life of emotional flourishing.

In this regard Miroslav Volf, in A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good, writes about how "success" fails to bring lasting satisfaction. 

"God delivers us from the melancholy emptiness that sometimes accompanies our very success. We’ve achieved what we wanted—we have gotten the corner office—and we still feel empty. We are like a child who wants a toy and, when she gets it, plays with it for a day or two and then craves another. Melancholy inevitably sets in when we forget that we are made to find satisfaction in the infinite God and not in any finite object." (Kindle Locations 574-578)

We achieved what we wanted. The thrill dissipates. We still feel empty. Bill and Lynn Hybels wrote about this pattern in their still-excellent book on marriage, Fit To Be Tied.

The answer that heals was never meant to be found in another person.

My book on prayer is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

My book on leadership is Leading the Presence-Driven Church