5 Reasons Relationships Hurt


Nothing gives happiness like a good relationship.

Nothing gives pain like a bad one.

Love seems to craft as many injuries for its participants as it does comforts. No wonder so many harden to cynicism. The wounds that love gives can occur in the context of any relationship be it one of romance, friendship or family.

Why?

In my experience, there are at least five reasons why relationships often bring heart ache.

Love is rarely mutual. We are hurt because the person we love does not love us back as much or as well. You wholeheartedly pour yourself into the friendship, the family relationship or the romance but all your efforts are only met with half-hearted responses. We expect them to reciprocate - and occasionally they do give back. But not always. You long for them to be as excited about you as you are over them. You hope if you keep giving extravagantly into the relationship their heart will change. But it doesn’t always.

Love is painful when those we love suffer. If we pour ourselves into someone else, then when they are unhappy, then so are we. If someone you care about deeply is in a pit, there is a limited degree to your own happiness. Many mothers are only ever as happy as their most unhappy child. If the one you love suffers, inevitably you will suffer with them. There is only one way to protect yourself from this empathetic pain: stop loving people.

Love is not always given for who we are. It’s painful to find out that the one who has been giving you attention does not do so for your own sake. They want something out of the relationship. Money, sex, favours, etc. It is not unconditional love they give you as a person. They want something you have. Experiencing this can leave you jaded and suspicious of future relationships. This is why some of the most successful, prettiest, and richest people can also be some of the most lonely.

Love is often hindered. The love you desire to extend to someone can fail to reach its target. Sometimes it’s due to your own sin, pride, neglect or laziness. Perhaps the one you love has put up walls. Occasionally it's too little time or too much distance. External obstacles - familial or cultural pressures - can be a hindrance to our love's expression. 
Or ignorance. At times, I find myself asking a loved one, ‘How can I be a better friend to you?’ or ‘What can I do - as your husband - to show my love?’  There are moments when expressing our love can seem as difficult as getting a lake to pass through a straw.

Love dies. Think of your favourite relationships. Sooner or later they will end. Sin will ruin it, distance will make it too hard to maintain, or death will simply take one of you. The relationship which brings you so much joy will one day end.

I speak often of the necessity of pursuing deeper friendships on this blog, but please don’t be na├»ve. For though relationships will build you up, they will also break your heart. The only two places where you are safe from the lacerations of love is in heaven and in hell. But on earth, there are dangers. Here we are like birds whose wings have been clipped: we can live, but not very well.

It is this ache which drives some into pornography addiction. I once heard a woman say,‘I find it despicable when men look at internet porn. It’s such an animal thing to do.’ Despicable? Yes. Animal? No.

Animals would never do such a thing. Porn addiction is a tragically human phenomenon. The flirtatious smile of the cyber stripper is the salt water given to a human who is dying from thirst - thirst for affection. The man who surfs the internet for porn may be surfing for a love this world cannot give.

This is ache for love is the hunger for a meal we’ve yet to eat, the longing for a caress we’ve never experienced. Occasionally I experience the refreshment love can provide from the brooks here in the valleys. At moments, those tastes can even be intoxicating. But something inside me wants to ascend to the mountaintop to find the headspring from where the love flows - strong and undiluted by toxins. 

That is where our true home lies. That is the place we have always been meant for and the place which Jesus had in mind when he said to us, ‘I go away to prepare a place for you and when I come back I will receive you to myself so that where I am you can be with me.’

In this life, we will never have the fully satisfactory relationships we hunger for. We make a dumb idol out of those relationships when we try to squeeze from them a love they can never give. It is often those relationships that Jesus calls us to lay down so that we can better follow him. In the world to come, all natural affections will be raised up again in far greater glory - but only if we let them be buried first.

In Christ, everything painful about relationships will one day be no more. Everything wonderful about them will only be richer - for we will be in an ocean of perfect love.
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