“He doesn’t understand my needs.”
“No matter what I do, I can never please her.”
What is the root cause of this disconnect between a woman and a man in a love relationship? It’s always the same old story—we need each other, we delight in each other, we can’t stand each other, we hurt each other, we stick it out as we contemplate leaving, we complain about each other, and we wait for years to get the other one to come around and give us the kind of love we want. While we are waiting, we are like the Israelites poised on the edge of the Promised Land: “peevish and discontented in your tents” (to quote Moses in Deuteronomy 1:27 from the Amplified Bible).
This is one of my all-time favorite translations, and it’s no coincidence that it describes the Israelites when they refused to hear the good news of the land they were about to enter. They preferred to hear the fearful report of aggressive, hulking giants and thick, unyielding walls standing between them and the wonderful paradise they had been told to expect.
In our love relationships, the giants are the unwanted habits, the nagging, the stony silence, the unending disappointments. Trying to change another person is as easy as fighting a fully armed, glowering giant. And the thick walls between us are guaranteed to lock us out of the love paradise we glimpsed during courtship.
So what do we do when we don’t get what we expected? We pout, we kvetch, we let our hearts fill up with bitterness. Off we go into an unforgiving wilderness for a long, grueling journey, aching all along for the place we thought would be our safe haven, where our perfect mate would be waiting with open arms.
With such poisonous vitriol in our souls, is it any wonder we can’t taste the simple sweetness that is still there? But it is still there. The seed of love that started the show in the courtship stage is still there. It took forty years of wilderness wandering for the people to finally believe that a forbidding landscape was indeed the portal to their heart’s desire. They finally decided to trust God. Can we learn anything from them to turn our relationships around?
Psalm 42 says, from The Message:
“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.”
It makes no sense in our natural selves to stay with someone who doesn’t deliver the happiness we require. But if you think about it, love itself makes no sense in the natural. For love, we have given our lives, taken untold risks, and faced frightening challenges. Why? Because we want to give ourselves like that. I believe we want to love more than we want to be loved. As we size up this person who has linked his or her life to ours and has made a promise that stands between us like a shimmering sheet of water holding back an ocean of loneliness and doubt, perhaps the best thing to do is stay put on the dry land, continue to trust that the way ahead is safe and good, and keep our own promises to them.
If we can raise our eyes to smile at the goodness we can see, and avoid the temptation to run from the challenge of holding up our end, this moment of fear and disappointment will pass quickly and pave the way for the clarity and strength we need.