As a life coach, I’m trained to look for patterns. Patterns in thinking. Patterns of behavior. Outcomes. Beliefs. And many times, a pattern in relationships.
Pattern in Relationships
I’ve been coaching for over 30 years now. And over the years, I’ve continued to encounter a strange phenomenon. It’s tricky and elusive. The kind of thing that sneaks up on you. Here’s the paradox; a trait we once admired deeply in someone can, over time, morph into fiery frustration.
What once drew you together can later begin to drive you apart.
Take my sweet husband, for example. Larry Dale is a man of order. He is highly organized and has developed systems and procedures to ensure he stays organized.
I, on the other hand, grew up in chaos. So I found security in Larry Dale’s orderly ways, at least initially.
But down the road a bit in our marriage, his orderly ways began to drive me crazy. What once drew admiration shifted to irritation…grrr.
And mind you, I didn’t keep my irritation to myself. Oh no. We butted heads and had words. Lots of words.
Now here’s the thing, had Larry Dale changed?! Nope. Not even a smidge. So what the heck happened?! Let’s put a pin in our question for the moment.
What Needs to Change?
A few years later, as different frustrations snowballed, I became more and more convinced that if Larry Dale could just change a few things. You know, minor adjustments…all would be well.
As a result, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, I began to press him to change.
Now, how do you ensure someone never changes? By trying to force them to change. Ugh.
Defeated and full of resentment, I cried to Jesus. Now what?! How do I get Larry Dale to change, Lord?
And in subtle and no so subtle ways, I began to hear Jesus say, Dear Buttercup, you can’t change him, but you can change.
Wait, what?! Me?!!!
Consequently, I began to pray, Lord change me.
Full disclosure, at first, I prayed reluctantly, half-heartedly. But as time passed, I began to sniff some hope as I continued to pray, Lord change me.
As you might imagine, as I prayed Lord change me, the Lord’s great sense of humor invited me to look at the order in my life…lol.
So I signed up for a time management class. Well, of all the lessons presented, one really stuck with me. The instructor insisted that making your bed each morning takes less than 2 minutes. No way?! It seemed like she was reading mine and God’s mail.This chick is getting on my nerves.
Making the bed seemed like a complete waste of precious morning time. But if it really only took less than 2 minutes, then it was low-hanging fruit on my way to attempting an ordered life.
Well, for crying out loud, making the bed turned into pantry organization, which led to making weekly meal plans and grocery lists. Who was I becoming?!!! It was madness, I tell you.
Next thing you know, the refrigerator is tidy, the countertops are cleared, and stacks and stacks of crap have magically found their homes. I was living an organized life. And I LOVED it!
I tell you this story because here’s what’s important, my admiration for Larry Dale as a man of order miraculously returned! And all related irritation vanished!!!
Back to Our Pattern in Relationships
Now, let’s go back to our question we put a pin in…
A trait I once admired in Larry Dale…his orderly ways – over time morphed into fiery frustration. When we first met, his orderly ways drew me to him, but later his orderly ways seemed to drive us apart. But had Larry Dale changed?! Nope. Not even a smidge. So what the heck happened?!
Here’s what I know for sure, the quality I deeply admired in Larry Dale, I wanted for myself! I was drawn to his order and wanted it in my life too. But I failed to evolve.
And so, as time passed, his orderly ways constantly reminded me of my resistance to grow. And so I did what humans do. I tried to control and change him.
Hang with me, sweet friend. I know this is hard, and you might be feeling uncomfortable. But, OMGOODNESS! If your marriage is starting to burn out, understanding this relationship pattern and how the Holy Spirit can transform your life and marriage is one of the best gifts ever!
This pattern in relationships is a strange phenomenon I encounter over and over with my clients. So dive deeper with me…
Think of your relationship. What trait did you once admire but now fuels frustration? Think back to when you first met. What was it that drew you together but now seems to drive you apart?
Could it be that the quality you once deeply admired, you wanted for yourself too? Could it be you were drawn to them because you wanted that quality in your life too? But you failed to evolve?
And so, as time passed, that excellent trait became a constant reminder of your resistance to grow? And so you did what all humans do. You tried to control and change them.
Me too. You are not alone.
And if you have read this far without slamming down your iPhone, Bravo! Seriously! This reflection stuff is hard. Like running a marathon after scarfing down a loaded burrito bowl at Chipotle.
A Pattern to See
We can all draw close to him (Jesus) with the veil removed from our faces. And with no veil, we all become like mirrors who brightly reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (clarity mine)
Because Larry Dale is a Christian, the life of Jesus lives within him. Therefore, the attributes of Christ shine brightly through him like a mirror. I look at Larry Dale and see the God of order being lived out externally in his life. And as a result, this resonates with the God of order living in me, waiting to be lived out externally in my life. As scripture calls it – deep calls to deep.
Because this dynamic has played out so many times in our marriage, I’ve learned to recognize the pattern. And remember, this pattern in relationships applies to all relationships.
When life starts to feel stagnant. Boring. Like zero traction happening. I’ll find myself pointing my finger in Larry Dale’s direction. Irritated and wanting him to change.
But here’s the beauty! Frustration and irritation are what the Lord will use to grab my attention. Dear Buttercup, you can’t change him, but you can change.
Oh, yes. That’s right. Thanks for the reminder. Lord change me.
I tell you the truth, my friend, 9 out of 10 times, in this humbled state, you’ll see the thing irritating you is actually something you deeply admire in your mate. Something you want to live out externally in your own life. Deep calling to deep.
Suddenly, irritation turns to inspiration! And since the resurrection power of Jesus resides in your spirit, what are the possibilities?!
Frustration Can Be a Gift
Beloved, focusing on changing your spouse is a waste of time and energy.
And in my experience, I would say it’s actually a smokescreen of the enemy attempting to keep you from evolving. To keep you from discovering all the untapped potential lying inside you.
Now, let’s get still and quiet for just a minute more.
In your relationship, what’s irritating you? What are you frustrated about?
Instead of pointing the finger, search inward. No beating your sweet human self up. No condemnation. The voice of God is never condemning. But with tender compassion, ask, Lord change me.
Ask Jesus to trace your frustration all the way back to its origin. Has what you once admired and wanted for yourself turned to frustration?
Could the frustration actually be a gift? Because Jesus wants to express the quality you admire through you too?!
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
Beloved, allow the frustration to turn to inspiration. You have the resurrection power of Jesus alive within you. Now, coupled with a willing heart and…Boom! Collaboration. Transformation. Forward momentum. Traction. Oh, yes!
I’m listening. And would love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions.
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Thanks for stopping by! Until we meet again, remember – Trusting in Jesus, you’ll have more treasure than pockets. From my heart to yours,