Category Archives: confusion

Giving Up on a Relationship

I have been asked several times recently to write about the topic of when it is time to give up on a relationship. I have had to reevaluate my response over the years because I have perhaps held a position that has been too naively optimistic. Perhaps I have relied too heavily on Philippines4:13 which states “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The problem with this line of thinking is confusing “can do” with “should do”. I know that my more recent position may seem harsh to some folks, but I assure you that there is little that is more painful than a bad relationship.
It is important to factor in which stage of a relationship a couple is in. If a couple is married, and particularly if they have children, we do everything we can to keep the couple together, barring physical or serious emotional abuse. In that case we recommend separation until the relationship has dealt with the root issues and the threat of abuse has passed.
But there have been other times when we have labored too long with a couple who had not yet made a decision to get married or move forward from engagement. One of our pastors says “If they are struggling that much before marriage, they should not consider moving forward, especially until they deal with their individual problems.” In further conversations we have agreed that the dating and engagement process should be delightful and hopeful. No relationship is trouble free, but the overall level of positivity should exceed 80%.
So when should you separate from a relationship, perhaps permanently?
If you are not married: 
  • If there is physical abuse, even once, it is over. It only gets worse with time.
  • If there is serious unresolved conflict (emotional, spiritual, financial, etc.)
  • If there are multiple break-ups
  • If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells a lot of the time
  • If you have trust issues within the relationship (not because of your past)
  • If your partner has serious moral or characterological issues 


If you are married (or perhaps unmarried and share a child): 
  • If there is a refusal to deal with and permanently end physical or emotional abuse involving you or your children 
  • If there are infidelity issues that a spouse is unwilling to end and/or properly deal with. There must be a process of restoration undertaken after the damaging behaviors have passed. 
  • If there is a refusal to give support to the marriage either financially or domestically based on the roles you have agreed to fulfill. This, of course, is more complicated if there are extenuating circumstances like mental or physical illnesses, which would necessitate a deeper look into the problems. 
Obviously, we recommend premarital counseling as a positive step towards a possible permanent relationship. All relationships have some rough edges. And we also believe in counseling for the restoration of distressed marriages and the acquiring of skills for relational growth.
Sometimes hearts will change, or God will intervene as a person becomes willing to be submitted to Him in humility. But oftentimes it is just best to embrace reality and begin the grieving process of letting go of a troubled relationship.

Embracing Confusion

Right now I am going through a major transition in my life – and it’s a good thing. Everyone around me is happy for me. It’s one of the goals I have had my heart set on for quite a while. But in the midst of this seemingly joyous time, I have some really perplexing feelings: loss, aloneness, anxiety and sadness along with relief, excitement and awareness of the expanded opportunities.
What in the world in going on in my head?
The word “confused” shows up so often in counseling. Although it may mean “I don’t understand”, more often it means I am in a dilemma and I don’t know what to choose. I must take a position but I am afraid to make the wrong decision. It can also mean that there are two seemingly opposite beliefs in play.
“He says he loves me but he keeps saying or doing stupid things that hurt me. What’s up with that?”
“She says she wants to support me, but all she does is criticize or blame me and I feel anything besides supported. Which one is it?”
The truth is probably that in both cases there is no intentional ill will. He does love you, but he fails to see how unloving some of his behavior can be. She does want to support you, but old habits die hard. It’s probably a family of origin issue. From a spiritual standpoint, the flesh can be pretty strong and difficult to manage.  
Confusion often gets us stuck. There does not seem to be a “right” answer. Am I happy or am I sad? Can I be both at the same time? How can I be a friend of God in my spiritual self, but an enemy of God in my sinfulness?
The truth is that peace may only come as we are able to hold both positions at the same time, knowing that we are complicated beings and capable of dealing with complexity. I am feeling a loss of a former career even as I am excited about what lies ahead. What do I need to let go of in order to not be held back? Are there things I have missed that are important, or am I worrying too much? The truth is that I probably have missed things along the way, and I am too anxious about it too. 
What really helps is to take myself out of the center of all these issues. Frustration and confusion makes it all about me and I need to shift my perspective and try to see things differently. Do I consider other people? Can I rejoice and be grateful in all things, not for the pain but because I am loved by God?