Many of you will remember the Three Dog Night song, with the single piano chord repeating… “One is the loneliest number, that you’ll ever do… Two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number one…
I talked with a divorced woman at the fairgrounds the other evening at an event Linda and I were attending for the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. The topic of writing came up and I gave her one of my cards. She was about my age, and I told her I was writing on loneliness, even in marriage.
She remembered the song, agreeing how painful it can be to be married to someone, yet unable to connect, and experience loneliness. “Two can be as bad as one..” She then shared as much of her story as time permitted, before we all went to feed the goats in the petting zoo.
This is for all the lonely people,
No stranger to loneliness, I spent nine years in a “faith” wilderness of legalism, waiting for the restoration of my first marriage, that wouldn’t come. It was a wilderness devoid of grace, and I had yet to meet the “God of the second chance.”
“Having faith,” pursuing God, and holiness with everything I had, only reinforced legalism, and a distorted image of a perfect Father from whom I was trying to earn love. I was also trying to convince Him how much I loved Him, by “proving my love.”
Inner healing hadn’t arrived on the scene yet, and counseling wasn’t an option since it would be “trusting in man, rather than God.” The healing I’m talking about is where lies are broken over you concerning false beliefs and distorted images of who God is. These images keep you from receiving the unconditional love grace offers.
I remember the first time, in a Vineyard church, hearing of the Father heart of God, being introduced to grace, and the tenderness of the Father. I’d not known that before, and it seemed too good to be true.
I stood up front with many others during “ministry time,” tears streaming down my face, as the love of God was proclaimed over us, and the embrace of the father. He was beginning to heal my Father’s image and this healing continues.
I ‘d lost so much, and the only model I knew looked like works and striving for self-redemption. The family model at home was “them that does gets.” Works will get you rewarded. It’s an easy thing to bring that model into religion, where performance gets reinforced.
The thing about performance, and working for God’s love, is that it’s never enough. It also creates distance. The harder we work for God, the farther we feel from Him. He doesn’t want our work, He wants our heart. Matthew 11:28
The same thing happens in relationships. If I ‘m performing for Linda’s love, or she for mine, it creates distance, and we can’t feel each other’s love. Trying to gain love or approval through works or striving is false love, coming from our perfectionism, and people-pleasing validation needs. It makes us fake, blocking our deep heart.
We still have to battle those patterns 33 years married later. I think it’s a “works DNA” that came from the fall. We feel like we need to do penance and work off our shame an impossible task.
Performance creates striving, and anxiety as we try to work off feelings of distance, instead of talking honestly about them and why they’re there,
We’re able to discover these dynamics when there’s safety, and we make a covenant not to judge or invalidate each other. I can risk vulnerability if I have a safe partner. We tell each other what safe looks like.
We may feel threatened by emotional honesty. It’s a learned skill taking time and practice. You can’t connect without it, and you’ll remain feeling lonely until you take some courageous risks to open up.
One of my marriage mantras is “Deal with the real.” You have to stop fighting for power and control, and game-playing, and talk about what’s really going on, and how you feel about what’s going on.
The late Dennis Leonard used to say; “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.”
I take people through a “state of the union” evaluation. As each part of the “couple,” you rate how you think it’s going, by answering a battery of questions.
Then you can start from where you really are, rather than from where you think you are. It’s very eye-opening, and helpful. You talk about how you feel about the “state,” then talk about what could help.
Another mantra is “represent yourself with integrity.” This means you dare to tell the truth to your partner about how you feel in the relationship. Truth, honesty, and validation. # Validate. Stand up for yourself, it can’t always be about them, or you.
If you feel dishonored, not cared for, neglected, your needs not being met, and so forth, say so. Then offer what it would look like to meet that need. Be clear and specific, get in touch. Can they do that? Negotiate.
Stand up for what you need, and negotiate ways for those needs to be met. Otherwise, you may remain a passive victim of a bad relationship.
A word about victim dynamics before I finish this. We aren’t bad people because we’ve failed at relationship, or because of abuse, or sexual brokenness. This is the human condition Jesus died for. He didn’t come to condemn, but to save.
Jesus told the woman at the well, who had been with five husbands, and was presently living with someone, to “Go get your husband.” He went straight to her sexual brokenness as a starting point for relationship with her. It’s as if He was saying; “let’s start there.” Remember Mary Magdalene, check out her story.
I’m trying to bring hope by saying; “God wants to heal us up, set us free, and give us intimacy.” But it’s only going to work as we surrender our hearts to Him, and become a safe place for another person to connect to us.
Otherwise it’s another heartbreak, and we don’t want that. That’s the way of the world, and the highway is littered with those casualties.
We all carry baggage, and His love calls us to throw that backpack on the table, and unpack it with those who love us and can pray us through. We need to be honest, and own our stuff. We all have it.
I was nine years divorced, before I married Linda. My healing didn’t really begin until I married her, then I was in for the ride of my life which still continues today. It’s better than ever, and the best is yet to come.
We refuse to live an unresolved relationship, or a disconnected one. I want and need more connection than she does. I don’t complain, or attack her because I’m not getting what I need.
I take responsibility for what I need, then communicate. I initiate, she responds. I can’t blame her for what I’m not getting. It’s my responsibility. I must press in. Not complain, blame, or punish. Communicate.
She’s not my slave, though in my brokenness I might make her one. She’s her own person, with her own identity, goals, likes, dislikes, ambitions, habits, just like me, which is healthy.
In my own insecurity, I’ve had to let go of, and die to, a lot of stereotypes and ideals that are imprisoning rather than freeing. It’s been hard, but liberating.
We all can bring things to our relationships that don’t promote freedom. God in His love exposes them to us. They could be idols, these things that try to control our personalities, and steal joy from our lives.
God is jealous and will pursue our hearts and show us these things because He loves us.
We have to get “out of control,” and surrender to His lordship. I heard a young man in a sermon today about God’s love say; “He holds the keys, we don’t.”
When he holds the keys, he unlocks our freedom, when we try to hold the keys and control, it leads to addiction. XO Dan.
I welcome your story, comments, and feedback. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org