Most people get trapped in relationships. They think it’s about the notional ‘even contribution.’ Both partners contributing equally, going halfway. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Well, at least there’s an important ingredient not on the radar. This is the matter of grace. It’s the undeserved favour extended to our partner, in advance of—but without the reciprocal promise of—the very same ‘requited’ favours being done to us. Grace helps us not do things conditional on other things being done for us—it’s a true freedom for both people in the relationship.
Of course, we’ll get this wrong time and time again. I know I have and will continue to. But that’s not the point. It’s an ideal we’re chasing.
As we sow into our relationships fully, forgiving transgressions as quick as we can, and nurturing trust—the single most important ingredient to a love-filled relationship—we go further than the ‘current performance’ of our partner. We have too. Love that’s conditional is no love at all, really, and it’s certainly insufficient.
And, of course, this all takes a tremendous amount of practise. A lifetime should do. Even though more mature relationships struggle less in this way, everyone does; it never comes naturally.
The truth of relationships is the same truth of life. They ebb and flow. One partner gives; the other takes. And vice versa it occurs on and over the journey of the seasons of life. It’s a case of swings and roundabouts. Sure, some people are naturally more selfish or more selfless and this makes us all either a little unlucky or more lucky on the harmony front. These are just shades of grey.
But, this means nothing in the overall analysis. Accepting our partners for who they are, and what they contribute, is a major challenge at times. Yet it’s a must in going onto better things.
Think a little on a vision of relational life. Being home in harmony and away thinking pleasant thoughts of home. Getting home involves being in a sanctuary where we also never shirk our housework and time-with-our-partner responsibilities. Our kids too are happy. We enjoy making whatever varied contributions we can with the time we have available and we don’t attach any stereotypes to particular tasks. We’re simply there and available, and we derive such peace in not being at war. We also see our partner responding in like; they see our contributions and they love us for them, and they may even seek to match them. But our contributions are never based upon what our partner does or doesn’t do.
As far as our thoughts regarding our partners are concerned, their acts are set apart from their person in a powerful way of unconditional love.
Perhaps this vision is not always accurate. No one lives a perfectly peaceful life, ever. It’s simply something to consider and think about and perhaps it’s something to strive for.
Biblical grace—issued favour which is ordinarily undeserved—is the true means that helps us get to the place of unconditional love in the mix of relational works. No small achievement.© 2010 S. J. Wickham.