Today's column is a tad different than most as it does not directly relate to marriage. More specifically, our guest columnist, Christy Johnson, brings attention to the fact that many women seem to repeatedly enter unhealthy relationships in the ongoing pursuit of perfect love. I'm certain men do as well, but I haven't yet found an expert in that area. I do believe, however, that many of the principles which Ms. Johnson espouses in her book "Love Junkies" can apply to both genders. Read on and see what you think.
Unhealthy relationships are like a baggage claim
Building a relationship is a lot like building a house. A strong foundation and sound wiring are essential. Many women have issues with one relationship, and instead of taking the time to build a strong foundation for their soul-health first, they cut corners. Building another relationship seems easier than addressing their own issues. Cutting corners, however, will cause the next relationship to go up in smoke as well. Until you focus on the health of your own soul, you will keep running into problems.
The reason is simple: Baggage attracts baggage.
We all have baggage (memories and emotions from past experiences), but if we don't deal with it, our baggage can keep us in bondage.
Janice's marriage of 19 years ended when her husband suddenly walked out. Her marriage to Matt had been far from perfect, but Janice thought a loving wife was supposed to be tolerant. That's how her mother had been. When her father was unfaithful, her mother turned a blind eye. His unfaithfulness was easier to ignore than confront. Being tolerant worked for her mom. Her father stayed. Janice assumed that same pattern of "forgiveness" would work for her marriage as well.
"The first time Matt had an affair," Janice recalls, "I couldn't believe it. I thought something was wrong with me. I tried harder to be the woman I thought he wanted me to be — sexier, more attentive. I tended to his every need. I kept the house perfect, made his favorite dinners and even maintained the yard and the cars so he could relax when he came home from work. I thought if I was perfect he would love me more."
When Matt left, Janice carried the same belief system into her next relationships. Like her marriage, her tolerant behavior only encouraged the men she dated to continue their unacceptable behavior. Dillon was addicted to painkillers. She coddled him more. She thought if she nursed his every need, he would soon want her more than the drugs. Instead, he grew abusive.
When they called off their engagement, she entered another relationship within weeks. On the outside, Jack looked like a great catch. His thriving business and exotic vacation "gifts" made him seem like every woman's dream. After two brief months of fantasy, he became extremely controlling. Janice thought submission would make her even more appealing. Instead, his demands grew. "It took the intervention of some very concerned friends to help me break away from Jack," she recalled. "And even though I knew I needed a break from men, I was on Match.com the next week."
A few relationships later, Janice reached her wits end. "I knew something had to change. After my divorce, I'd been through five serious relationships within a year and a half. It was ridiculous. But God used my pain to make it clear to me. The problem wasn't the men I dated — it was me. I had false beliefs that attracted the very type of men I was seeking to avoid. As much as I wanted to deny the truth, I knew that until I chose to work on my own soul-health, I'd never find contentment in a relationship."
If you're constantly wishing your boyfriend or husband would change, chances are it's time for you to change. If you wonder why you've struggled with so many relationship issues, it's time to consider that the issues may not be with the men you pick — the problem may be you. Issues are inevitable, misery is optional.
Like the baggage claim at the airport, unhealthy relationships are like a constant rotation of luggage full of dirty laundry. As soon as one bag goes by, another appears. They may look good on the outside, but inside they're loaded with stinky socks and underwear. Are you tired of hanging out at the baggage claim? It's time to get rid of your baggage and improve your soul-health.
Experts say that most people gravitate toward friends and relationships within a 10-point spread of their IQ. Likewise, in the realm of soul-health, you also attract those with whom you are most emotionally compatible. That can be a good thing or a bad thing — it depends on how much baggage you carry around! Ultimately, we attract who we are, and here's the bottom line: The health of your relationship will rarely exceed the health of the least soul-healthy partner. When you know who you are in Christ, however, you can let go of excess baggage and stop trying to control your relationships.
Get more from Christy Johnson
Perhaps today's column has struck a chord in the way you orchestrate your life. Please know you are not alone. I once met a man whose mother had been married 15 times. Not to 15 different men — apparently she divorced and remarried some of them, but, folks, that just can't be right and healthy.
Christy Johnson offers an online Soul-Health Profile that she claims "will help you assess your own soul-health and identify areas of weaknesses." "Love Junkies: Seven Steps to Breaking the Toxic Love Cycle" is just that — an action plan and detailed guide to help you eliminate toxic behaviors that jeopardize your soul health and keep you stuck in unhealthy relationships. You'll learn how to change your habits and heal your soul and most importantly, break the toxic love cycle!
You can access this profile at www.christyjohnson.org/love-junkies. You can also learn more about Love Junkies tomorrow when Christy will be my guest on TWOgether as ONE, which is heard each Monday evening from 6 to 6:30 p.m. on KLJH 107.1FM.
One final note: two weeks ago, my guest columnist was Philip Wagner, author of "The Marriage Makeover." I mistakenly referred to him as Peter Wagner. Please note the correction and my sincere apology.Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.