Could you make a relationship work if you had everything? If you were both mega-millionaires, talented and famous, and incredibly attractive? You might be able to make it last, but those things wouldn’t be the reason. They might actually make it harder.
If there’s ever been a couple that shows how empty and messed up Hollywood’s way of building relationships and marriage is, it’s Brad and Angelina. They have it all from a worldly standpoint – the looks, the money, the talent, the fame, and pretty much whatever else you might want – and still it’s all come crashing down with their recent filing for divorce. Which would you rather have: $400 million in net worth, or a marriage that lasts?
Like we talked about last Tuesday at The Porch, Hollywood gets it wrong a lot of the time when it comes to relationships. And here’s the other, bigger, problem that matters even if you don’t read the tabloids – it’s not whether you’ve bought into Hollywood’s way of doing relationships; it’s how much. You may not be willing to admit it, but I’m betting that there’s a part of your heart that longs for a version of the red-hot romance, manic highs, and nonstop passionate emotions that we see on TV and in the movies. It’s an alluring mix, and sometimes pursuing or being pursued by a faithful Christ-follower can seem, well, almost boring in comparison. The world is selling you a lie, and you’ve probably bought it in part or in full. But like JP said on Tuesday, building a relationship on the things the world values is a recipe for heartbreak, not success.
When you build a relationship Hollywood’s way, here’s what you care about, starting with what you believe is the most important:
Are they attractive? (Physical)
Do I feel good when I’m around them? (Emotional)
Do they have the personality that I want? (Psychological)
Do they advance my relationships and status? (Social)
Optional: Is there a deeper inner connection? (Spiritual)
This doesn’t just happen in Hollywood. Tinder, anyone? You’re always on the prowl when you live like this, looking for the hottest person you might be able to ask out or be asked out by. It’s about the other person only to the degree that they fit the ideal you’ve created in your head, but really it’s all about you, you, you.
Test yourself on this in your next social situation, or maybe the next time you come to The Porch. What gets you interested in or excited about someone of the opposite sex? Is it how attractive they are and how good you feel when you’re around them? Or do you push pause on how attractive they are, and wait to get excited or make any decisions until you know how much they love God? There are a lot of attractive, fun people out there, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if that’s your first filter for starting a relationship, you’re missing out on a lot of great people, and you’re building your relationship on shaky ground. Let’s flip the script and see how wisdom would have us do it.
No surprise, the wise way to build a relationship is pretty much the opposite of the Hollywood model. A great relationship that lasts is built on what really matters. Here’s what you should care about, starting with the most important.
Spiritual : Is the other person a Christian? Are they following and obeying Jesus? Do they have an abiding relationship with Christ? The spiritual foundation has to be there first. If this isn’t there, nothing else matters. This should be the first thing that you look for when learning more about someone or spending time with them. If their relationship with Jesus isn’t obviously the most important thing about them, move on, or hold off until it is.
Social : Are they authentic and kind in their relationships with others? Are they connected in community? Are they servant-hearted? Notice how they handle relationships, especially with people who can’t do anything to help them. How they treat other people is how they will treat you.
Psychological: Do they know who they are, and are they comfortable in their own skin? Are they being their true self? Do your personalities fit well together? Getting to know each other in a group setting can be great way to see if there’s a personality fit, and see if the other person is the same when they are around others as they are around you. Don’t obsess over “compatibility”, but do pay attention to how you are able to connect and interact.
Emotional: Are they emotionally stable, healthy, and mature? Do emotions have the proper place in the relationship? You should have positive feelings toward each other, but you should see them for what they are – something that accompanies the relationship, but doesn’t define it. You need to keep your emotions behind God’s leading, and appropriate for your level of commitment to each other. Don’t let your emotions dictate the relationship.
Physical: Are you attracted to the outside based on what’s inside? Physical attraction matters, but less than you think. Having someone be your physical “type” is great, but watch out for that being an idol, and it definitely shouldn’t be the main thing you base the relationship on. And as far as getting physical goes, don’t go too far. Save it for marriage, and look to set an example by how you pursue each other in purity.
You may not have the money, the fame, the looks, or whatever, but if you are a Christian you have been given everything that you need to live a godly life. And that includes building a healthy relationship that lasts. Build your relationship on God’s Word and God’s wisdom, and no matter what happens, it will stand the test of time.
What are you building your relationships on?