Learning to trust again is a real obstacle for anyone who has experienced pain in relationships. But it’s crucial if we want to grow relationally. As tempting as it is to keep the walls up, we were made for connection. Developing healthy relationships is essential to becoming a healthy solo parent.
On this episode, Robert and Kimberley are joined by single mom, Elizabeth to talk about the hurdles we face with relational growth and some principles to help us overcome them.
It’s important to start by asking two key questions:
- Who do I want to be?
- What do I want my life to look like?
Knowing who we are and what we want is essential before entering into relationships because it helps us start with healthy expectations of what we bring to the table and what we are looking for from others. Exploring our answers also helps us make good choices about who we bring into our lives because we become like the people we surround ourselves with.
Sometimes we shrink back from letting people into our lives because we may think we are too much, that we have too much baggage, or we are afraid of what others will think of us and that feels vulnerable. Les Parrot said, “If you try to build intimacy with another person before you have become whole on your own, all of your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself”. Only God can complete us.
So, Robert, Kimberley, and Elizabeth discuss some guiding principles to help you enter relationships intentionally with a healthy mindset. After a divorce or life transition, we are often recovering from hurt and rejection. We may have lost many relationships and feel like we are starting over. If you find yourself in that place, start by initiating a few safe relationships. You may not have time for lots of new friendships, and maybe now isn’t the time to start dating again, but take some time to invest in a few key relationships that will build you up again When opening yourself up to new friendships, it’s helpful to consider three things:
Different people fill different roles in our lives. One person can’t supply everything we need relationally. One role we might start with is that of a mentor, someone who is spiritually sound and can offer wisdom but who also understands what you’re walking through. Another role is that of a cheerleader, someone who encourages you and builds you up. We all need someone who thinks the best of us and reminds us of our strengths. A third role is a prayer warrior, someone who will faithfully pray for you and pray with you. Kimberley’s dad used to always tell her to make sure her closest friends are those who know how to pray! There is power in prayer. Another role is finding someone who is a safe place to vent, someone who will listen without judgment. Finally, we also need someone we can give back to. Even in our season of brokenness, we have something to give. Other people are struggling with things we went through six months or a year ago and they need to know what God has brought you through.
As we choose to fill these roles, our kids are watching too. Show them how to invest in quality relationships over quantity. If you’re unsure where to find these people, ask God to help! Elizabeth shares how she needed to fill these roles in her life but wasn’t sure where to start. She prayed about it and God provided.
As you invest in new relationships, we also need tools. Strong, safe relationships don’t happen by accident or overnight. They are built over time and require patience, listening, and trust. We also need to manage our expectations of what we will get out of the relationship and what we will give back. Not all relationships will last. Some are meant for a season, but all can teach us something if we are willing to learn. If you need to grow in any of these areas, you are not alone! None of us have it all figured out but we can develop these skills through a mentor, counselor, life coach, or even through books and personal growth groups. Every investment you make in becoming healthy relationally is an investment you make for your kids too.
As we move toward new relationships, we may experience fear especially if we have had unsafe people in our lives. We may be apprehensive and rightfully so. It’s wise to guard our hearts by using healthy boundaries. Boundaries are particularly important with the opposite gender and with wounded people. Walk into relationships slowly and adjust as you go. There will be bumps along the road in any relationship. If you hit a rough spot, rather than reacting too quickly by just getting rid of the relationship, think about what boundary may be needed for things to continue healthily. And as you are growing relationally, recognize that other people are too and respect their boundaries too. If you’re unsure, ask God for help on the way. Ask Him for protection and guidance on what to say, what to do, and how to proceed in your relationships.
As you begin to seek out healthy relationships, this is a good time to reset your priorities and your boundaries. Ask yourself who do I want to be, where do I want this to go and what do I want this relationship to look like. Move toward the community by considering the roles you want to fill in your life, the tools needed to build healthy connections, and the boundaries to maintain them. You can grow relationally, one step at a time. We were made for connection!