Would you agree that human relationships were complicated - even before COVID?
Expectations. Preferences. Feelings. Insecurities. Fear. Personal Histories. Past Experiences. Hopes. Dreams. Passions. Convictions. And then there are beliefs about mandates, economics, politics, and religion - whew!
If you put all of this together, even the most simple person can become complicated.
Add another human with the same complexities into the mix and we discover that some of the most significant earthly relationships we may ever have - our spouses and significant others, can be incredibly complicated.
Here are three ways you can build a deeper and stronger bond with anybody - especially your spouse or significant other in this complicated time and life.
1. Embrace your fear.
Connecting with ourselves on an emotional level is an important place to begin building deeper and stronger bonds with other human beings.
Relationships are scary. We become exposed, known, and vulnerable. We so want to be seen, heard, and belong. At the same time, we’re afraid of rejection and being alone with our thoughts and selves. That’s why isolation is such torture.
You can begin building a deeper and stronger bond with someone by saying it’s OK for you to feel the need for love and feel the fear of being hurt, rejected, and alone if it doesn’t work out.
Jesus reminds us that He is always with us (Matthew 28:19-20) and that we are never alone (Romans 8:31-39) - which means we can be wrong without the fear of rejection from God or the grace of others.
2. Learn to dance.
Right after we were married, Beth and I gave ballroom dancing a go.
She excelled at it.
I have two left feet.
The point is, we learned the awkward moves together. She was better than me and I had to swallow my pride of looking foolish and messing up and trust her lead.
In our relationships, at times we need to trust each other’s lead because the other person has insight that we need to hear and consider or we have two left feet and need to simply learn something from the other person.
I remember that in order to learn the moves, I had to just be quiet and move with her. . . which required trusting that she knew the moves (which she did).
This principle helped us both on the dance floor and in our marriage.
As Jesus followers, we are given both the example and power to not live in our own pride, but trust in both the Lord and the grace God gives to each person.
There are certainly situations where sin has broken trust and amplifies pride to the point where we need much more than a dance instructor. Realizing that there are people all around us who want to help us dance together is a huge confidence booster to say, “let’s get help” and continue dancing.
3. Practice Jesus-Centered Empathy
Right now, our culture is all about empathy. And rightfully so - we need more of it!
Brene Brown defines empathy as “connecting with people so we know we're not alone when we're in struggle. Empathy is a way to connect to the emotion another person is experiencing; it doesn't require that we have experienced the same situation they are going through” (BreneBrown.com).
Here’s something to consider - human empathy alone may connect you with someone else’s emotion in a particular moment or situation. It’s needed. And it’s a way that God has created us to be in common unity (community) with each other.
However, human empathy only provides a greater human experience. In other words, we can only empathize to the point of where our human emotions allow us to go. That’s Human-Centered Empathy. It’s good and necessary. And it’s incomplete by itself.
Jesus-Centered Empathy places Jesus (the human of all humans) as our shared empathizer - not only ourselves.
When Jesus centers our empathy for each other, we can grow deeper and stronger beyond ourselves - more like Jesus.
I think that deeper and stronger bonds or relationships with other people are challenged when overwhelming emotions take over our thoughts, words, and actions.
This is why we admit that “we have sinned in our thoughts, words, deeds and cannot free ourselves”. Asking God to “forgive us, renew us, and lead us so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways” to the glory of God and the blessing of others is a wonderful place to begin building deeper and stronger bonds with anybody.
Why? Because the strongest and deepest bond that we share with each other is the bond of peace through the unity of the Spirit which we have in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism - one forgiveness, one hope, and one source of truth and love (Ephesians 4).
The OSLC ministry team is a growing collection of women and men who live as a family on mission, leading the OSLC family in connecting an unchanging God with a changing world by loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus.