“Those who don’t know history- are destined to repeat it”. — Edmund Burke
Let that quote sink in for a moment. While that may not have been written with relationships in mind, it totally applies. Oftentimes, we go into dating relationships year after year continuing to behave in the same ways and repeat the same patterns. Whether it’s rushing into relationships, saying “yes” to the wrong ones, or simply not knowing enough about ourselves- many times, these patterns leave us with a lack of progress, feelings of frustration, and shattered pieces to pick up along the way.
This is why our history is so important. Because if we don’t take the time to look back and learn- our past patterns and relationship history will continue to determine the kind of relationships we will choose to engage in our future.
It’s important to look back and learn from our both our successes and mistakes in relationships. As a professional counselor, I understand full well that for some of us, these patterns of relationships are a combination of ingrained and learned behaviors that aren’t always easy to identify and sometimes need the help of a professional.
But for most of us, with a little bit of looking back combined with a little bit of planning ahead, we can really make some major changes in the area of relationships this coming year by doing just a few things differently:
Own Up to Your Baggage: The biggest game-changer when it comes to our relationships has everything to do with ourselves- because you are the most influential person you will ever know. We’re all human, and we enter relationships with fears, insecurities, flaws and weaknesses. Understanding our unique struggles and taking responsibility for them is the greatest thing you can do for your love-life. As you own up to your baggage, continuing to bring it before the Lord in confession and for healing – you will inevitably impact the health and quality of your relationships in a really positive way. Because the best thing you can do for a relationship is leave as much of the baggage as you can at the door by learning the value of confession, healing, and transformation.
Say No to One-Sided Relationships: Maybe you’ve found yourself stuck in a pattern of give-give-give, all the while receiving little to nothing from the other side. One-sided relationships are draining, because they’re not what God meant for relationships. And behind every one-sided relationship there is a person that is giving too much, but also expecting too little. If you find yourself stuck in one-sided relationships, it’s time to dig deep and ask yourself why. Why is it that you allow this kind of interaction to be a part of your life? Why don’t you believe that you deserve better? What is it that you’re afraid of? At the end of all these questions, the truth is that you have the power and the responsibility to teach people how they can or can’t treat you. This year, resolve to believe for God’s best by saying no to one-sided relationships.
The truth is that you have the power and the responsibility to teach people how they can or can’t treat you.
Be Willing To Take Risks: One thing I’ve noticed when it comes to life-choices and relationships in particular, is that many of us are so afraid of making the wrong decision, that we don’t make any decisions at all. We remain passive, because we’re driven by fear in so many things: fear of failure, fear of commitment, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, and on and on and on. For a time in my life, I too was driven by fear- the fear of letting people down. I stayed in a relationship for far too long that I knew wasn’t right, and wasted a lot of precious time along the way. But what if this year, we resolved to live out of hope instead of fear? Hope that says that we aren’t walking this road alone. Hope that believes there is a God who will help us make better choices. Whether it means ending a relationship or starting something new, let’s remember that we do not have to make these difficult decisions on our own.
Learn to Love Here and Now: So often we wait for a relationship to teach us how to love or to pour our love into. While there’s a lot to be learned about love within a relationship, there’s also a lot to be learned about love before a relationship ever comes our way. Seeking to enhance our love-lives starts with learning how to love the people God has put in our lives here and now. As we learn to love our family, friends, coworkers and neighbors with selflessness, forgiveness, grace, and healthy communication- we ultimately learn the art of romantic love as well. Practice the art of loving by believing that God loves you no matter what you’ve done, and by intentionally loving the people in your life. Your future love-life will benefit, as well.
I’ve learned to stop seeing my life through the lens of the destination, but instead savoring the journey.
Keep Sight of the Big Picture, But Savor Every Step: I’m a very “destination-focused” person. I guess I’m sort of wired that way. I have a tendency to see life as a series of “significant” moments: birthdays, graduations, career, marriage, and children. But the unfortunate part of that mentality is that I’ve missed a lot of really meaningful joys along the way. Through the past few years, I’ve learned to stop seeing my life through the lens of the destination, but instead savoring the journey. Each and every step along the way is more meaningful than I could ever even know because each day is numbered and accounted for. When it comes to relationships, it’s important to look at your love-life in a similar way- not as one momentous box to check off the list, but instead, as a series of really meaningful moments along the way.
God is creating a bigger picture in your life (that may or may not include a relationship at this point in time), that is created by a series of smaller brushstrokes. Each one adds something unique, something special, and something meaningful. Learn to savor the baby steps along the way, because the journey toward love is just as meaningful as the destination.
Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life. You may also recognize her voice from over 150 articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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