Paul taught us to love each other genuinely and to show genuine affection and honour towards each other. At the start of this series we saw what God prescribed for a man and a woman. “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (Genesis 2:24). Most young people have a dream and desire to marry the love of their lives and to live happily ever after. For many people, forming meaningful relationships that lead to marriage is a struggle. This is explained by Eric Erikson’s stages of development in the intimacy versus isolation stage. Erickson described this stage as occurring between 18 to 40 years.
Erikson’s view is that if someone has unresolved issues from a previous stage like childhood, they can struggle to navigate subsequent stages. Unresolved issues stem from unmet needs in a previous developmental stage. For example, if a young adult did not have their needs met as a child, they may be stuck emotionally and struggle with intimacy in adulthood. Forming healthy and meaningful relationships requires the ability to be open and vulnerable. An adult who experienced abuse and neglect for example will have damaged emotions. These damaged emotions will cause unhealthy or inappropriate emotional responses to others.
Some examples may resemble behaviours that are defensive, cold, angry, bitter and a struggle to maintain emotional intelligence. Some people build emotional and psychological walls around themselves, in an effort to try to protect themselves from being hurt. This is a defence mechanism created from unmet needs from parents or from abuse by significant others. Some people may also struggle to be their authentic selves, because of confusion that was created in childhood. Harsh, critical and demanding parenting styles that are shame based, produce adults who are uncomfortable with themselves. Adam and Eve were naked (vulnerable) with each other and they were not ashamed.
This is because, prior to the fall they had not experienced sin, guilt, shame or any forms of abuse. The fall created a messy situation for mankind and created dysfunctions within marriages and families. “The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). God sent his son to bring redemption and restoration. Accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and saviour and living for him, sets us free from sin. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can unlearn unhealthy relationship patterns. God can heal emotions that are damaged and help us in areas such as forming and maintaining healthy relationships.
Talking to a minister or a counsellor are also important steps in resolving past issues and working on healing and restoration. Don’t be afraid to work on your inner person. We often spend a lot of time and money on maintaining our external selves with clothes, jewellery and other accessories. What’s on our outside is important, but not as important as what is happening on the inside of us. External beauty may attract, but inner beauty is needed to maintain relationships. Don’t neglect your inner person and place as much emphasis on making sure that you are a whole and healthy person inside and out.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).