By Randy Kosloski
“It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Therapeutically speaking, counselors spend a lot of time to try to defy this fact. Much therapy tries to help people stand up on their own, and to create sound individuals who can then contribute to a larger social community without the help of relationships. After further reflection and several bouts between my head and a brick wall, I have come to the conclusion that relationships are implicit to every individual. To attempt to help someone mentally, or emotionally, without paying the appropriate attention to their relationships is like trying to build a fire in a rainstorm without acknowledging the downpour. Relationships are a God-intended part of life, which everyone should accept, even therapists.
Darlene helped me to accept this fact. Darlene made some of the poor choices that turned a key relationship sour. Although, women are more prone to making the kind of poor choice that Darlene made, the outcome holds a lesson for all of us.
Darlene was quickly approaching her 38th birthday, which was significant for her since her father died at that age. She had had immeasurable respect and love for her father, and she felt an internal pressure to be married with kids before reaching this age. Now, it’s doubtful that Darlene’s struggle originated from a belief that she might die at the same age as her father did, or the subsequent need to accomplish certain goals by that time. It was more likely that she feared she would be letting her father down if she failed to nurture a thriving family. In my opinion, Darlene’s issues grew from her plan. She thought she had a timely plan for the formation of her family. She felt her plan was one which would perfectly accomplish her goals, and one which everyone, including God, would follow. Whenever there was disagreement with her plan, Darlene would react by forcing everyone into line.
But one day it all fell apart. Her stress caused her to pressure her partner into compliance with her plan. According to Darlene, her partner greatly resented being obligated in this way. Just like a scene in a cheesy, romantic comedy, he eventually ran for the hills under the intense pressure to make a commitment. This further frustrated the plans Darlene had to be a loving mother and wife before age 38.
In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis often refers to a general category of love he calls “need-love.” Darlene exhibited need-love for her partner. She needed certain things from him, and that was enough for her—she never considered whether she actually loved him.
Lewis explores whether need-love is love at all, and concludes that it is. Yet, he explains that it can become perverted if we elevate it into something that it’s not. Giving love a supreme priority in our lives has potentially disastrous consequences. We turn love into a god. Quoting Denis de Rougemont, Lewis says, “Love begins to be a demon the moment (it) begins to be a god.” Darlene made this mistake. Love became her god, and it cost her, dearly.
Deifying love is nothing new, nor is it rare. Our culture places a high priority on love with movies, music and advertising exploiting it as a central theme. They increase the danger that we will do the same. Women can be more at risk, since they are often evaluated on their ability to cultivate and maintain relationships. Yet, we are all susceptible to making the idea of love our god. Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time seeking love and trying to create the perception of love. In Darlene’s case, this meant starting a family.
The answers to our issues sometimes seem simple, but the causes of our mistakes can be complex. Love is complicated, and so are humans. Christ had a way of simplifying it all for us, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). God has already said that “it is not good for (us) to be alone,” so we should let God guide us, even in love and relationships.
One of the most important things Darlene could have learned was the importance of “stepping back,” or giving up her illusion of control. If she would have taken a hard look at the message that God was communicating to her through her circumstances, the Bible and prayer, she might have discovered that her plan was distant from the perfect plan God had for her life. And this is good advice for all of us.
Who could blame Darlene’s partner for bolting? Yet, what if, instead, he had loved her unconditionally? His reassuring love might have given her the confidence to step back and question her priorities. Often, the best thing we as men can do for our significant others as they struggle with various issues is just faithfully love them—just like God faithfully loves us.