My body tensed, face warmed, and eyes began to tear. As I listened, I tried “locking” my mouth by inverting my lips, and gently biting down with my teeth. It didn’t work: I had one more frustrated outburst and then…silence.
He’d hung up on me. It wasn’t the first time, but I was resolved to make it the last.
Moments later, the incoming text messages began: He was sorry. There were several of them, and most included a “but you” – like punchlines to jokes that weren’t funny. I didn’t reply to any of them. I was too exhausted to care anymore.
Instead, I began talking with God. I tearfully pleaded for His affirmation:
This can’t be it, I thought. This can’t be the best there is for me – or for him. Am I even capable of a relationship that isn’t such a roller coaster? Why do I keep choosing guys like this – even Christian ones? This kind of dysfunction can’t be normal…can it?
I cried at the thought that it might be normal. After all, when I considered what Christ endured all the way to and through the cross, did I really have a right to complain? Was it a sign of selfishness, or immature faith, to think I deserved better?
Or maybe it meant I was failing to live out Scripture like 1 Corinthians 13?
I had to ask Him because I wasn’t sure. I felt so confused, especially since I cared about the guy who had just hung up on me. All the more reason I needed to hear God’s voice of Truth. For too long, I believed dysfunctional relationships were normal.
And I believed it because, in my life and family, dysfunction was the norm.
Now, I know no relationship will function perfectly this side of Heaven. We’re humans with hearts that can be wounded, fleshly desires that can mislead and an enemy with whom we’re spiritually at war.
We also go through seasons, some of which take us through trials in relationships.
But at a certain point, it becomes about more than just wrongfully expecting perfection. Some relationships are toxic. Some are outright sinful. Some are even emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive. (On the other hand, some are healthier!)
If you’re in a dysfunctional relationship – be it with a friend, a family member, spouse, boyfriend or fiancé – there are steps you can take. Based on my experience, let’s focus on the dating/premarital context:
Reflect. Invite God, through prayer and Scripture, to reveal what’s really going on, including with you. Few people can see and articulate what’s really creating or fueling dysfunction. But I’ve been amazed by His insight when I ask, listen, and am willing to take responsibility for myself, too.
Repent. Dysfunction is humanity having a malfunction. And humanity often malfunctions in sinful ways. If you’ve spoken or acted sinfully, don’t be afraid or ashamed to repent. Repentance has consistently been one of my best decisions – liberating and life-saving.
Release. Dysfunctional relationships are draining and damaging. It’s easy to use resentment or anger like bricks, building protective walls around our hearts. But harboring either will only breed bitterness and skepticism that inhibits you. Choose to forgive the other person – and yourself!
Rebuild. Rebuilding does not necessarily mean rebuilding a relationship with a particular person. Especially if you’re not married to him. Rebuilding does mean inviting God to construct a new heart and mind – foundational for healthier choices. (For me, sound Christian counseling has been beneficial.)
If you’re thinking of ending a relationship, I can’t give you the answer that’s right for you. But God can, and I’m confident He will. Tune your ears to His still, small voice. Pray for courage to take the steps He’ll recommend. Seek wise counsel.
And know that you deserve a healthy relationship (not a toxic or abusive one). This includes being healthy. The right man is not a magic pill for your problems. That’s why I continue working on my own dysfunctional thinking, habits, and memories.
But God, through prayer, the Bible, and periodically consulting with a Christian counselor, is healing me. Thanks to Jesus – the least dysfunctional man you’ll ever meet – I’m continuing to cultivate a new normal.
Rebecca Halton is the author of Words from the Other Woman: The True Account of a Redeemed Adulteress. Currently, she also co-leads TeamRedeemed.org with fellow Author and Speaker Shelley Hendrix. In her spare time, Rebecca likes hiking, having coffee with close friends, or volunteering in her community. To learn more about Rebecca, visit www.RebeccaHalton.com.