Sunday morning’s Hartford Courant has a front-page article on a domestic violence shelter, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on what I tell clients about their relationships — whether I’m seeing them as couples or individuals. As it’s all informed by my faith, I thought I’d put it in this forum. Some of this stuff I say to clients, some of it I don’t. If they use Christian metaphors, then all of this is fair game. If they don’t, it’s how I operate anyway, stated or unstated.
1) Human beings are created by God. God gives them life, and endows them with a spirit. They are worthy of time in God’s world, thus, they are worthy of time in mine.
2) Having said that, I may or may not be the best fit for that person. My “buttons” and their issues may not go together. As my friend Jamie used to say, “Everybody deserves to be loved, just not by me”. I might want to work with somebody, but I may drive them nuts, or vice-versa, in which case it’s not working . Just because I may not like that reality doesn’t make it any less real. In that case, I refer them to someone else. Love relationships work the same way. A person may be attracted to someone, a person may — in fact — want things to work. A person with a drinking problem, for instance, might be a “great guy when he’s sober”, but it doesn’t change the fact that if he’s seldom sober, he’s seldom a great guy. You may want it to be different, but it’s not. If their problem takes up too much of your time, or too much of your energy, things may simply not work for you and that person. It sucks, but that’s the way it is. Maybe somebody else would be just the right thing for them. And, maybe, in fact, things will work out later for the two of you. We’re not at later. We’re at now.
3) It’s not your place to hurt the life that God gave to someone else. That means, among other things — no hitting, no killing, no maiming, no physical abuse, no mutilating someone else. Certainly, within a love relationship, that should be obvious. If it’s not, the love relationship has got some serious problems. And if the other person is not willing to deal with those issues, it may not be a love relationship that you’re in.
This rule also applies to governments, business relationships, armies, and any other place where human beings relate. I personally make a distinction here between aborting the not-yet-here (fetuses) re: this rule, but other people don’t. I get that. In fact, pretty much all of the women I know who have had abortions have grieved about it in some way. It still might have been the right decision, but it’s one of toughest decisions a woman has to make and she has the right to do so. More on that later.
4) Somebody else’s body is their body. Someone else’s thoughts are their thoughts. Someone else’s feelings are their feelings. God gave it to them. It’s not my place — or yours — to change it without their consent, provided it’s not hurting you. I have the right to move your body if you’re pointing a stick in my eye or a gun at my head. I have the same right to my body as you do to yours. I have the same right to my thoughts and my feelings, as well. God gave them to me.
People have the right to self-defense, not the right to other-offense. People who don’t get that, don’t have the right to be in a relationship. You or I may not like somebody’s thoughts, feelings or body, but so what, unless it impinges on somebody else. If people can’t actually relate, maybe they shouldn’t be in a relationship, or maybe they’re not already.
5) If you’re hurting someone, stop. If they say you’re hurting them, stop. If they’re crying, stop. If you think you’re hurting someone, stop and care enough to ask. And if they then say, “you’re hurting me”, stop doing whatever it is.
6) Regardless of thoughts and feelings, you are responsible for what you do. You made a mess, you clean it up. Just because you were schizophrenic at the time doesn’t mean the people you killed are any less dead. Just because you had a bad day or felt crappy doesn’t mean people aren’t still hurt by your actions. They are. If you want that to change, you need to fix it. Oh, and praying to God for forgiveness only straightens out you and God. You still have to fix the people, places, or things that you hurt. And until you do that, God might forgive you, but God’s not all that impressed by the request.
6) Love is a good thing. Love is a VERY good thing. But love is a choice. If it’s not a choice, it’s not love. If you feel you have to love someone, it generally means that you wouldn’t otherwise. If someone feels they have to love, it generally means there’s a problem.
All of this being said, life is messy and sometimes things get out of whack. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. It just means they’re out of whack. Maybe they can be fixed, maybe they can’t. People who want to and deserve to relate will do what they can to fix things. If they don’t want to, there’s a serious problem. If you can’t remember the last time things did meet the above criteria, as I see it, there’s a serious problem.
I’m running out of steam for now, but it’s a start. Maybe more later.