I was in tears. I'd walked in to find a research book, but instead my eyes fell upon something I never thought I'd pick up. I was instantly engrossed. How come I didn't know this stuff already? The author was talking about her warped perspective going into relationships and marriage, and her transition to a healthy perspective. It was the healthy part I didn't understand. Like her, I also had never been taught--never saw an example of healthy relationships. The book was, "Every Woman's Marriage", by Shannon Ethridge.
When you see something that is right and healthy, something inside you rings true, says, "this is good". I knew healthy existed, I just didn’t know how to get there. As I've written about previously, I didn't grow up with the examples of healthy marriages--the building blocks of strong families. It's been four years since I stumbled upon that book, and four years since I realized that, because I did not have the privilege to see it growing up, I needed to seek out an understanding of how to build healthy relationships and families. I needed to do this intentionally, not just for me, but for everyone I called, and would call, family.
I would guess that a large portion of young people and young adults in the U.S., are in this same position, lacking the practical understanding and experience it takes to have healthy marriages and families. So, how do we build something if we were never given the blueprints?
Here are some thoughts from my experience.
1. Seek Out Mentors
I work for a great Christian company, so I sorta stumbled across mine. Men and women who honored their wives and husbands, who gave selflessly to their families, who put these loved ones above their own needs or desires. Who embraced the great and rich reward that develops from daily giving and daily responsibility. Just watching their reactions to each other changed my little marriage and family world. These people exist, SEARCH them out.
There are some GOOD books out there. Ask your mentors what resources they found helpful in building those most important relationships in their lives. I'm not talking about dating books here, but books that will help you understand what it's like to have a good family, and to build one.
3. Recognize Your Own Self-Centeredness
For those of us who grew up seeing the unhealthy, and watching the romance of TV/film, the scenarios in our heads are formulated around feelings and self. But rich relationships and healthy families are built around the giving of self in support of another. This is hard to do, and often asked of us in moments when we MOST want to be selfish, when we most desire to tend to our own hurts or passions.
4. Be Action
Start applying the principles you're learning to the real friendships and family you have right now. Don't expect landslide changes in those spheres over night, but start acting them out anyway. You're just getting your training wheels removed, so you may fall a lot, get frustrated a lot, but keep getting back up. Eventually you'll notice you've changed, and your relationships will slowly begin to grow (like little parched plants that are FINALLY receiving care and water).
5. Don't forget God!
Last, but not least, having a personal relationship with God changes everything (sometime little by little). Talking to Him about changing your understanding here, and searching out what His Word says, is KEY!
Is it worth it? All this work? From my own experience, and that of mentors, I can say, YES! Working hard to build up real relationships is richly rewarding, and vastly superior to selfish shallowness.
A few book suggestions to get your started, from myself or mentors:
Every Woman's Marriage by Shannon Ethridge (there is an "Every Man's Marriage" as well, though I have not read it)
His Needs Her Needs by Willard Harley
Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson EggerichsMedia: