The 4 Cs
Commitment means to ‘hang on’ during the bad times as well as the good. Commitment gives you the motivation and desire to work at the relationship. Today, we see even family members rejecting and even disowning each other because they are not prepared to compromise their own desires to make the relationship work. It takes determination to turn around a seemingly failing relationship to a positive one and unless the individual is committed to the relationship, they may feel that this requires more of them than they are willing to sacrifice. Most times as human beings, we do not like the word ‘sacrifice’ but this is central to all successful relationships. If we are determined that a relationship will succeed, then we will make whatever sacrifices that we need to in order to make it work. This is why we need to know God’s will concerning our relationships. For example, if you are not supposed to be in that business partnership, you may end up sacrificing your morals to sustain a partnership that God is not even in approval of. In other words do not be committed to relationships that God has not given the stamp of approval.
The marital relationship is one that requires extra commitment as it is the only relationship with no ‘escape’ clause according to God’s standard. In Malachi 2:14, we see that marriage is a holy covenant before God and if broken, our fellowship with God is broken and our prayers are hindered. Therefore, we must choose our spouse wisely with the help of the Holy Spirit, remember that courtship can be broken but marriage cannot. Once the decision has been made and the couple are married, the work has just begun. Romantic movies often lead us to believe that romance never dies but in reality, it takes hard work to keep the fire burning amongst all the mundane responsibilities of everyday life.
Being committed to the marriage is not only about ‘until death do us part’. We should not have to grit our teeth and suffer because we cannot break the marriage bond, rather we should have happy and fruitful marriages and it is this that we must be committed to. Once Jesus is at the centre of our marriage, it will be much easier to have life in our marriages. Remember that Jesus is the way the truth and the life (John14:6), hence wherever He is, there can be no dryness, barrenness or death. He is the one that will keep our marriages alive.
Effective Communication is central to successful relationships. Much conflict arises out of misunderstanding, either due to one or more parties misinterpreting what has been said or not saying what they really mean. Many times when someone is talking, we are so busy planning what we are going to say next that we don’t hear anything else the person has said beyond the first sentence. This is why it is advisable to practice what is known as reflective listening. This is where, when the talker has stopped talking, the listener will repeat back what they heard and the talker will let the listener know whether they heard correctly or not.
The talker also has a great responsibility to help the other person to understand clearly. They need to talk calmly, clearly and concisely. They need to say what they mean and don’t expect the other person to guess. For example, “If you care about me, you would know what I like” is a common statement but how will the other person know if you don’t tell them? Also you cannot expect someone to sit quietly and listen while you talk endlessly for 20 minutes in an accusatory way. Talk in a respectful way and go straight to the point, allowing the other person time to respond. Remember that the bible says, there is death and life in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21) so choose your words carefully.
Understanding how each person reacts during conflict will also help us to communicate better as we will not be constantly frustrated or irritated by the other person’s responses. God has created all of us differently and rather than criticising each other, we should appreciate each other’s differences and work within them. There are four main styles that people use during times of conflict, The Placator-“It’s all my fault”, The Blamer-“You never do anything right.”, The Computer-“I’m fine, I’m not upset”, The Distracter-“Let’s forget about it and go shopping.” There are elements of these four styles that are both positive and negative which we do not have time to discuss here but the point is that we should get to know how each other communicates so that we can make allowances for this.
Most importantly, take time to invest in the area of communication.. As we have said earlier, relationships don’t just happen; it takes hard work to make them succeed. Particularly in marital relationships, take time to ‘touch base’ every day to make sure that you have communicated effectively that day. You can use a tool called ‘The Daily Temperature Reading’. It is suggested that couples take a few minutes at the end of the day and allow each spouse to express something under each of the 5 headings, remembering to use reflective listening. The five headings are: Appreciations, New Information, Puzzles, Complaints with Request for Change, Wishes, Hopes & Dreams. This helps couples to stay in touch with what is going on in each others’ lives and increases the level of intimacy between them.
Change is one thing that is guaranteed in life. In healthy relationships, each person is willing to meet the reasonable requests for change of the other. However, in many relationships, a stalemate has been reached where either one or both parties is refusing to meet the demands for change of the other. In this kind of situation, it is advisable that if you want to see change in the other person, you should be willing to change yourself first. There are four stages that relationships normally go through. Illusion-“I really get along well with this person, I don’t foresee any problems, we will be friends for life”, Disillusion-“This is not what I expected. It seems all that we do is argue, maybe we are too different” Confusion-“I don’t know what to do, he/she just won’t change”, Conclusion-“I think we should go our separate ways”. We can stop the relationship from reaching the conclusion stage if only we realised that if we want the other person to change, we must change first. For example if you feel that your spouse does not talk enough, maybe it’s because you talk too much. Or if your boss is so unreasonable, maybe you have to go the extra mile so that he/she will start to give you extra grace. Perhaps you are married to an unbeliever who refuses to change, shower him/her with the love of Christ and before long the heart of stone in them will become a heart of flesh.
Caring Behaviours make each person in the relationship feel special. These behaviours are likely to be different for each person and can include things like buying your friend their favourite chocolate bar or staying late at work to help a colleague with a project. Take time to find out what makes yourself and the other person feel cared for. Often we make the mistake of ‘blessing’ the other person with the things that would make ourselves happy rather than finding out what makes them happy.
You also need to make sure that you have adequately expressed to the other person which caring behaviours that you appreciate. I am sure that you would agree that no-one is a mind reader. Unless the Holy Spirit reveals it, how will the other person know what you expect from the relationship if you don’t tell them?
There is an exercise that you can do that will help with this issue. This works well with any relationship but is especially useful with someone that you see every day such as a spouse or family member.
1) List 6 to 12 specific behaviours that the other person does or could do that make you feel cared about, special or important
2) Post the list where it will be noticed and remembered every day, maybe on the fridge for example
3) Do at least 2 or 3 behaviours from the other person’s list each day
4) Review both lists each night
5) On your own list, check the appropriate box for each caring behaviour that the other person did each day
6) Thank the other for their caring behaviours towards you.
Let’s not forget that Galatians 6: 7 says “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Therefore whatever we want to reap from our relationships, we need to sow. If you want to reap kindness, you need to sow kindness, if you want to reap compassion, you need to sow compassion and most of all, if you want to reap love, you need to sow love.
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