Fixing People is a Full-Time Job


The past few weeks, I've been reading a lot of marriage books. I'm engaged, so I figure that right now is the most socially acceptable time to do this. But, if I'm being honest, I love any book that takes the time to analyze and break down human behavior, especially through the context of relationships. One of the most common realizations I've had throughout my reading has been the fact that who you are in your relationship with your significant other is just a magnified version of your best and worst qualities that you share with (or hide from) everyone else.

Most people believe that their dating, engaged, or married relationship looks drastically different than their relationships with their family and friends. In some ways, this is true. You aren't romantically attracted to your other relationships (I hope), and you probably call your significant other first to share good news or heartache. They take a certain priority in your life, and as your best friend, that is irreplaceable. They make you "the best version of yourself", but, if we're being honest, they also see the worst.

In Justin and Trisha Davis's book, Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just isn't Good Enough, they write, "Over time, the strengths we saw in our spouses that complemented our weaknesses become weaknesses that complicate our strengths."

We are all drawn to other people that we think will complement us, make our lives happier, or make us look better in the eyes of others. Maybe you look to your significant other or friendships to fill your need for words of affirmation. If you're having a bad day, you call the people in your life that you know will build you up. Maybe you look to your relationships to give you a sense of status. If you're associated with their activities and run in their circle, you feel more popular, more spiritual, and more worthy than you could have by yourself.

In theory, these things sound fine. After all, aren't we told to surround ourselves with people who make us better, who help us live more like Jesus? The problem comes in when you start to look to your relationships to be Jesus in your life. When they fail, this person who used to "complete you" and complement you in every way becomes someone who is constantly bringing you down.

If you look to a friend to boost your confidence after a bad day and they don't say the right words, you might hang up the phone with a heavy heart and the need to go eat a little bit of extra ice cream. You feel offended - didn't they know you needed to hear their words of encouragement? This same quality of dependence will manifest itself in a worse way in your romantic relationships. If you depend on your friends for encouragement, you will probably suffocate your significant other with your need for it. All of the sudden, your partner's independence and strength that you were so drawn to in the beginning of the relationship becomes an inability to open up and really listen to you. You've turned a quality that you originally admired into a weakness that is "hurting" your ability to become your best self. It's all about you, you, you, after all.

What I'm learning over and over is that looking to other people to fill the needs that we should look to God for will always leave us empty handed, and the resentment that breeds from unmet expectations is the poison that kills our greatest relationships. Justin and Trisha also wrote, "None of us has the capacity to change a human heart. We think that by changing our spouse's behavior we are changing their hearts, but that isn't true. By trying to change our spouses' behavior we are actually damaging their hearts."

If you are looking to a relationship to carry you, you will be left with a desire to fix the people around you and a feelings of insignificance in your ability to do so. If you are quick to judge in your friendships, you will be even worse in your dating or married life. If you harbor hurt feelings when others don't meet your emotional or spiritual needs, you will continue to do so with your spouse. Your significant other has the ability to bring out the best in you, and they also have the potential to expose your worst habits.

"When we take our eyes off God, we lose sight of the gift that our spouses are and focus on the gifts they aren't giving us," (Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage isn't Good Enough). Being vulnerable in your relationships will always reveal both your greatest qualities and biggest weaknesses. Instead of looking to your friends and loved ones to complement your strengths and fix your problems, allow them to help you learn who you really are, and leave the change of heart to the One who can. Fixing people is a full-time job that you were never cut out to do.