By Gary Moore
Remember back to your high school days. For some of us, that’s a long way back. Most of us took Algebra 1. And, one of the things we learned in Algebra 1 was that you can take two negatives, multiply them together and get a positive result. You remember: ( -2 X -1 = +2).
But that’s Algebra 1, not Relationship 1. You can’t take two unhealthy people and put them together and get a healthy result. And yet, that’s exactly what many people try to do. Instead of realizing that the best thing they can do for their relationship is to become whole themselves, they are looking for that “special someone” to “complete them.” Or, if they are already married, they are looking to their spouse to be that person.
Not long ago I posted this question on my Mutual Understanding Method Facebook page: What’s the single most important thing you can do for your relationship? Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott say, and I agree with them, get healthy.
In their recently released book, “Healthy Me, Healthy Us,” which many of these ideas are taken from, they make this statement: “If you try to build intimacy with another before you have gotten whole on your own, all your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself.” And guess what? These relationships will fall flat. Why? Because nobody was designed to complete you. Not a friend, colleague, family member, or even your soul mate. Nobody can do that work for you. Nobody in your life is a shortcut to personal wholeness.
You can solicit input (even from professional counselors), read, and research the subject. But ultimately you are the one who must do the work on your own to become psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually whole. The reality is that your relationships can only be as healthy as you are.
If you want to have healthy relationships with other people, particularly your spouse, you’ve got to be healthy yourself. Your relationships don’t necessarily need more skills, tips, or tactics – although those do have their place. What your relationships need most is something deeper, something stronger, something that has more to do with your being than your doing. Your relationships need emotional health.
According to the Parrotts, there are three hallmarks of health and wholeness: (1) Profound significance; (2) Unswerving authenticity; (2) Self-giving love. Another way of saying it: (1) Getting right with God (significance); (2) Getting right with yourself (authenticity); (3) Getting right with others (love).
Let me clarify a popularly held misconception: being healthy is not the same as being happy. But you can’t be happy without being healthy. Emotional health is more than the absence of dysfunctional emotions. Healthy people contend with depression, stress, anger, anxiety, and all the rest. But they don’t let their feelings determine their destiny. They manage their emotions. They don’t let their emotions drive them.
Healthy people are far from perfect, but they are committed to being honest with themselves – to seeing themselves as they really are. They own their dark side, their ugly parts. Not content to accept their shortcomings and limitations, they move toward growth. They use their pain to make progress, their hurts to heal.
You may be single or married, young or old. You may live a charmed life or suffer unthinkable challenges. Whatever your baggage or background, each moment of every day you are moving either away from or toward the person God designed you to be. As a result, either your inner self is deteriorating into something unattractive or it is quietly becoming a work of art. You are either maximizing your moments or allowing them to slip by without notice.
As the Parrotts so succinctly put it, “No matter your age, stage, faith, or career, all of us, if we choose, are on a journey of wholeness. It’s a process that never ends.” Enjoy the journey.
Remember, your marriage relationship isn’t Algebra 1.
Gary Moore served as associate pastor at Cloverdale Church of God for 15 years. He does couples’ coaching and leads couples’ workshops and retreats called MUM’s the Word. He does a weekly radio program called Life Point Plus on KBXL 94.1FM at 8:45 a.m. on Fridays. Monday mornings at 10 a.m. he does live relationship teaching called MUM Live on his Facebook page Mutual Understanding Method. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.