When it comes to your love life, let me offer you some friendly advice, don’t take friendly advice, because your friends give the worst. Let me explain. *
Tyler’s relationship guarantee: Someday, before you die, you’ll have at least one … ehhhh … maybe two “disagreements” with your significant other.
I know that’s hard to believe for you folks dating out there (and I know you’re out there, you compose a significant percentage of our readership), because you found Mr. Right. And she’s perfect. He’s amazing. Cue Canon in D and call Stephenie Meyer because you two aren’t vampires, but your love is something to behold.
I know she’s all you can think about. And I know he Facetimes you every night. And I know you two averaged 1000 texts a day this Thanksgiving. Every time the phone vibrated in your pocket, your heart leapt and your dad groaned as you fired-off another “flext” (flirt + text).
And I know he writes you poetry. Poetry that rhymes and is apparently so stunning it must be proclaimed to the world daily on social media! And I know he even plays drums and has a tattoo on his arm in a foreign language that’s philosophically deep in the most romantic way possible.
HOWEVER … despite what you think, you two will disagree someday. In fact, you may even have a fight, a knock-down-drag-out-blow-out yelling match. And you’ll use irrational tactics.
And he’ll slam the door. And she’ll stomp around. And he’ll use self-deprecating sarcasm. And she’ll call you names (names previously you had no idea your angel knew existed). And he’ll interrupt you. And she’ll get louder until you shut up. And he’ll insist he’s right until you either agree, cry or die. And…
I could go on, but here’s the point, Tyler’s relationship guarantee: You’ll fight with your spouse. Even in the best marriages conflicts erupt. And at that point you don’t need an apology, hug, deep breath or second to think, you need a referee.
(Married readers, I need not convince you of the previous. Thanks for staying tuned.)
DISCLAIMER: Fighting need not be bad in love relationships. In fact, fighting can be good if both people know how to (1) fight fair and (2) think cross-shaped. However, this blog isn’t about fighting fair, it’s about what happens when you don’t.
I believe the most important point of a fight is what happens after. What you do, where you go, and who you talk to after usually determines what’s next. In other words, the aftermath is more important than the argument.
Naturally, many of us turn to our friends for advice. Women go to their sister’s or call their bestie. Men … well … it’s never actually been confirmed where men go, but at some point they reach out to their bros. And we lean into our friendships.
Now sometimes, for the few and lucky, turning to friends is a good thing. Some of you have wise friends who dispense cross-shaped advice. However, for the rest, our friends are just biased.
And they get it honest, they’re our friends. Come on! Cut em some slack! “Nobody messes with my girl! BFFAA!” “She’s psycho! Nobody goes off on my bro-klahoma.” Our friends love us, so before we know it, they’re as heated as we are. They’re slamming doors, firing out mean messages, spreading gossip at work and telling him off in the dorm-lobby.
Don’t misinterpret me, there are a lot of positives friend-support offers. I’m not anti-friends! No friends were harmed in the writing of this blog. We love friends. Friends, good. Friends offer a listening ear, caring heart, empathy and sympathy. They offer an environment of acceptance, despite how wrong you might be, coupled with a gallon of Rocky Road and a couple ice-cold Cheerwines (North Carolina, stand up!).
But just because they’re your friend, doesn’t qualify them to give wise, objective, cross-shaped advice. Usually it disqualifies them.
Said differently, just because they’re always there doesn’t mean they’re always fair. (Bonus! That rhymes.)
This is why they don’t let friends on juries. This is why two conflicting parties bring in an outside mediator. This is why couples go to counselors or under-qualified pastors like me. And this is why I’d advise anyone to be careful when seeking love-life advice from friends.
There’s a difference between counseling and enabling. Friends usually tell you what you want to hear. And that doesn’t help resolve the problem, it fuels it. That’s not actually being a good friend. Nor is it cross-shaped love.
Loving someone means seeking their best interest at the expense of yours. And far too often we don’t counsel toward what’s best, we counsel toward what’s comfortable. Speaking truth can be uncomfortable, for both parties involved, and we’d rather avoid the awkward and anger in favor of appeasement.
Think about it, we say:
“I can’t believe her dude! She’s crazy!” […Ummm, no she’s not. She just wants to talk about budgeting her hard-earned money better.]
“Don’t worry. He had it coming. You did the right thing.” [Nah. You didn’t. Talking to him like that in public is never the right thing.]
[My favorite] “YOU just gotta do YOU girl! Take care of YOU!” “Just follow YOUR dreams!” “Don’t let her get YOU down.” “YOU need some time to YOURself so kick him out!” “Put her in her place, she can’t talk to YOU like that!”
Notice the consistent emphasis: (1) Blame them. (2) Justify me. Together, these aren’t only the antithesis of cross-shaped love, they’re poison for your love-life.
Marriages thrive when two sinners sell out to the task of one another for the sake of one another. Marriages thrive insofar as each participant is willing to be crucified for their spouse.
And for that to happen, you cannot always (1) Blame them and (2) Justify me. Instead you must (1) Forgive them and (2) Change me. But selfish, egocentric, prejudiced advice only serves as fodder to the fire. And fodder doesn’t kill the flames, water does.
News Flash: If your partner has started a fight by their self-love, your self-love won’t cure it. Selfishness doesn’t cure selfishness. Spite doesn’t cure spite. Stubborn won’t fix stubborn. No. At some point, someone must grow up and say, “I refuse to propagate this cycle of hate” and decide to be the first one to love
And that’s hard. Really hard. Because self-love has a tendency to reproduce itself. It makes you want to lash back in self-centered rage and put him/her in his place. But that’s not the way out the mess. The way out is the cross.
Now what friend has ever told you that? If you got a name, they’re a keeper because it’s possible, but not probable.
The Christian worldview takes an utterly upside down look at life through the lens of love. And as much as it may require you to sacrifice, if you really love him, or you really think y’all have long-term potential, it’s so worth it in the end.
So temper all your friendly advice with a good dose of cross-shaped love. Because, in hindsight, humility is always better than regret.
Tyler McKenzie is the Teaching Pastor at Northeast Christian Church and Blogger at CrossShapedStuff.com
*This article was originally written/published by the author under the title “Really Bad Advice on Your Love Life by… Guess Who?”