Our relationships are often an arena for exercising control and demonstrating power in which the roles of victims and abusers periodically change. How do we break this pattern and get out of these roles? What is the path to relationships based on love?
Relationships based on control
When the controlling patterns of communication prevail in our relationships, these relationships are unequal, unsatisfactory and hurtful. Controlling behavior has many forms – from open aggression and violence through mockery, humiliation, sarcasm to passive-aggressive forms such as withdrawal, distancing, guilt-tripping, etc. In all these forms, one party is the victim, and the other is the abuser. It happens very often that the victim in return acts like a bully in order to defend oneself, thus „punishing” the abuser and seeking revenge for the inflicted hurt. So without realizing we enter into a continuous destructive cycle with interchanging roles.
How to break the cycle of control
The first step is always the recognition and acknowledgment. To be able to see ourselves in these roles, to understand what our main fears are and what triggers them. The controlling behavior has as its roots deeply seated fears – fear of abandonment, fear of being vulnerable, fear of intimacy, fear of things go wrong, fear of rejection, and so on. Usually, these fears have been strengthened as a result of experienced and not healed soul traumas. It is important to confront these traumas and seek healing. The road continues with separation, redefinition and taking ownership and responsibility for oneself, as well as with the building and establishment of healthy boundaries in the relationships.
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Specific steps towards relationships based on love
- Taking responsibility for your own feelings, actions, and needs, and for your own happiness.
- Identification of one’s own needs and wishes and trying to communicate them in a direct, assertive way.
- Separation from having the primary responsibility for the happiness or emotional state of the people with whom we have relationships. Everyone is responsible for their own”property”. This means for their inner life, which includes thoughts, emotions management, reactions, decisions, words, and actions.
- Termination of any form of co-dependency. Co-dependency is when we make someone else responsible for our happiness. As well as when our emotional state is directly dependent on the actions or feelings of other people in our lives.
- Separation from all controlling forms of behavior (passive and overt) that we see in ourselves or in others.
- Refusal to stay in a constant state of being offended, refusal to take revenge in whatever form.
- Choosing to repent from one’s own behavior and to forgive the others, accompanied by putting healthy emotional boundaries.
- Building up and adhering to these boundaries.
Relationships based on love – the solution
The antidote of relationships based on fear and control are the relationships based on love, expressed in showing love and respect. For anyone who seeks relationships based on love, it is clear that we do not have the capacity and the power in ourselves to produce and give that kind of stable and constant love. The cure for our relationships is God’s love. In Christ, God offers us the ultimate solution to our basic fears and needs. He offers us the role and identity of His beloved children.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-19)
The source of love
Being God’s beloved means that we no longer need to fight for love or to prove that we are worthy of love. There is no need to hide who we are or to be ashamed of ourselves. There is no need to struggle for acceptance and belonging because we are already fully accepted and forever belonging. God wants to show us, fill us and constantly re-fill us with His love. For that is the only way we can live in healthy relationships, bringing us joy and satisfaction; re-building and not destructive.
Here’s how Apostle John describes this way of thinking and living: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16) The source of love is God. Therefore, when we believe and respond to this love, we lay a new foundation and new forms of communication. The path to relationships based on love is cleared.
Our responsibility and highest obligation
Accepting the love of God makes us able by His grace to take our primary responsibility and obligation towards our neighbor. It is the duty to love with Christ’s love from the position of beloved children of God.
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:11, 20-21)
Beloved and choosing to love
Let us separate from and cease to define ourselves as victims and abusers. It is necessary to take off these roles and come out of the battle for control and power. Let’s begin to look at ourselves as God looks upon us – with infinite love and compassion, with mercy and tenderness. Let’s declare war on our hidden fears because “there is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
We can not make another person love us, but we can always live in the truth of God’s love. We should not make another person or people responsible for our happiness or emotional state. Instead, we can take our own responsibility to love within healthy, godly boundaries. We do not have to always like each other, we do not always to agree with each other, but we have to love each other because we are infinitely loved.
In which of your relationships do you recognize an existing cycle of control? What steps do you need to take in order to break this? You are welcome to share and comment!