When we enter into a relationship, we bring certain expectations. Sometimes they are explicit and sometimes they are subconscious. We can’t help it. We have imagined what a relationship would look like, how it would feel, and what it would produce. Whether platonic or romantic, we are looking for relationships to help serve our need for belonging and purpose.
Enemy At The Gates
Where we go from here is vital. Most human relationships take these expectations from each participant and form a sort of competition to see who can get their set of expectations met most effectively.
We do this in all sorts of ways. We are passive-aggressive. We punish our spouse or friend until they say or do what we believe is best for us.
The reason divorce is so prevalent is because we turn our marriages into a competition of us versus them. We do the same thing in our friendships. We come in expecting the other person to fill our needs, to provide some service to us, and when we do not feel this is being accomplished, we rant and rave. Wives complain about lazy husbands. Husbands complain about nagging wives. We are trying to move the needle toward our side of the equation.
What this effectively does is make an enemy out of our partner, which is just as disjointed as it sounds.
The truth is, our relationships are made for competition. There is an enemy that needs to be defeated. But the enemy is not the other person in the relationship. The enemy is falsehood.
If we enter relationships desiring a sense of purpose and belonging, it is important for us to understand what those words really mean. “Getting my way” is not the same thing as purpose. Validation at all costs is not the same thing as belonging.
Purpose and belonging are rooted in the concept of truth. You are important and you are made to participate in purposeful organizations, of which relationships are one form. The enemy in a relationship is un-truth and the two of you are meant to fight it together.
Conflict in a relationship is not about one personality getting their way and the other accommodating (or being beaten down). Conflict is a pathway to truth. It is about talking through expectations, perspectives, and emotions in a way that allows you (as a team) to discover truth and participate in it together.
Your spouse is not your enemy. Your friend is not your enemy. These are partners you are meant to do life with. They are allies. You are on the same team. There is a real enemy in relationships, but it is not any individual, setting, or circumstance. All of these things are tools and opportunities for you and your spouse/friend/community to discover truth together.