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How to Find Your Way Out of Relationship Dysfunction

How to Find Your Way Out of Relationship Dysfunction

Relationships are hard.

Relationships can be a great source of comfort, or a great source of pain. How we interact with others has the potential to leave an indelible mark—for better or for worse.

Reflecting on all of my current and past relationships with family, friends, significant others, and acquaintances, there was a lot I learned along the way. Not all of the learning was pretty. Sometimes experiences were downright uncomfortable. Nonetheless, one lesson has held true for me.

No relationship is free of dysfunction, whether from conflict, misunderstandings, or assumptions.

How we handle these problems determines whether a relationship survives, thrives, or dies. Instead of giving up, there are ways to manage our relationship dysfunction. If you know where sin is leading you and your loved ones to struggle, you can make a plan to turn things around.

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1. Communicate

Communication is key to problem solving. Since God didn’t bless us with mind-reading powers, we have to voice our ideas aloud to others. That means expressing how much we appreciate them, and also letting them know when something hurtful happens.

Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

People sharpen one another when they can reason out their differences. Chances are with any conflict, there are ways in which both parties can grow. If you can work together, you will both grow in the process.

One common mistake I have seen and made is being too brief when saying good things about others. Alternatively, when I have a complaint, I have many more words to speak. As a Christin that should be reversed.

Now, instead of simply saying, “Thank you,” I can tell someone why I am thankful for them.

A lot of psychology and relationship research has shown too that communication is the primary reason for relationship dysfunction.

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couple holding hands across table, relationship dysfunction

2. Compromise

Never tell someone the old saying, “It’s my way or the highway.” Don’t even think about it.

Relationships are forged between two people. Thus, relationships function when both people function. If the relationship is dominated by one person’s perspective, then there is no relationship, just one person’s thoughts and feelings projected onto another.

Scripture encourages us to reconcile, reason, and otherwise respond well to each other.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)

Pleasant words don’t dictate, they make someone else feel good. When both people feel good in a relationship, good things are bound to happen.

3. Commit

The second great commandment from Jesus was to love others as we love ourselves. Jesus knew the human condition, he knew that people are naturally inclined to take care of themselves. Imagine a world where all the love we show ourselves, we gave to our neighbors.

In relationships, especially a marriage, God has asked us to unify ourselves with one another.

“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

When we decide to commit ourselves to any sort of relationship, whether in the form of fidelity to a lover or loyalty to a friend, we are making a promise to that person to love them as we love ourselves.

If we can take care of our needs and wants day to day, we should strive to do the same for those we care about.

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4. Forgive

In my own bouts of anger when interacting with family or friends, I have to remind myself that holding onto anger is counterproductive to my life as a Christian. I can’t ask God to forgive me of my sins as though I am not holding on to the offense someone left me with.

“But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.” (Matthew 6:15)

Forgiveness is essential for reconciliation. Reconciliation is needed whenever we have conflict. Unless we sweep our problems under the rug. At some point though, that lump in the rug will trip us.

5. Trust

Trust is best reserved for those closest to us. Even still, relationship dysfunction may lead us to second guessing our trust in a particular person. Whenever you experience this confusion, there is one person you can turn to for guidance.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Whenever trust comes into question, we can count on God to help us make the right decision.

God is the only entity we can trust without any reservation. With people, who inevitably fail one another, trust must be built.

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upset couple sitting on steps being gentle talking together serious, relationships dysfunction

6. Be Gentle

This was an important lesson I learned this year when striving to improve my communication. Gentleness can turn an argument into a casual conversation.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 4-7)

An elderly woman from church constantly reminds me, “Be gentle.” If I am gentle, people will not be offended. If people are not offended, then they are more inclined to listen.

Misunderstandings are less likely to occur when both parties are heard.

7. Love, Love, Love

There aren’t enough television shows, songs, or Lifetime movies to discuss the subject of love. Everyone has their right or wrong idea that guides them in relationships.

The hardest part about loving others, is not just the dysfunction we may partake in, but potentially losing a person we cared so much about.

My father once told me, “If you love a bird, sometimes you have to let it fly away. And if it is meant to be, the bird will come back.”

Well, what does the Bible say about the subject?

“And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: ‘Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?’

He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.’” (Matthew 22:35-40)

“Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

These passages remind us that at the end of the day, the best we can do to honor God, others, and ourselves is to express an unending and unyielding type of love. Love is considered greater than hope, and faith.

Clearly, love is something we should strive to perfect everyday.

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Functional Relationships Are Possible

I want to be honest with you. Relationship dysfunction can be overcome, but sometimes relationships are only in our lives for seasons, not for lifetimes. Only God knows the true purpose for those who come in and out of your life.

What I can confidently share with you is that if you are trying to increase God’s presence in your relationships, then heed these lessons from the Bible.

Love is sure to improve your circumstance, leading you into something better than what you started with.

Our relationships change when we change. If you find yourself arguing with the same person about the same issue, then change how you respond. If you can change your response, then maybe there will be a different outcome.

Remember that you cannot control anyone else, but only yourself. However, you can pray for others and trust that God will work in their lives as He sees fit.

In the meantime, communicate, forgive them, and love, love, love.

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headshot of author Aaron BrownAaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.