Healthy relationships are those in which the people involved have a clearly defined sense of their own identities. Without a clear understanding of who we are and of the worth God has given us, it is hard to maintain functional, ongoing relationships that enrich everyone involved. A relationship will not always be smooth, but it can provide a safe, trusting environment in which there is no fear of intimacy and each person knows how to communicate personal needs and desires to the other.
Unhealthy relationships generally reflect an inability to understand and work within appropriate boundaries. Since unhealthy boundaries are almost always the result of being raised in some variation of a dysfunctional family, the likelihood that children raised in such families will develop healthy boundaries is limited. The pain from not having their God-given needs for love, for significance, and for security met in childhood carries over into each subsequent relationship – in which they expect, or insist, that these needs be met.
- The victims of abuse wrongly believe: “I am responsible for the way others treat me. I deserve to be mistreated because, at my very core, I am a bad person. Therefore, bad things should happen to me. If I would just be a better person, people would treat me better. I don’t have a choice about being mistreated. I must be doing something wrong or I wouldn’t be treated this way. If I just try harder to do what is expected, I can make things better. If I can’t, maybe I deserve to be unhappy.”
- Instead the victims of abuse should believe: “I realise that I have been living a lie, believing that I am to blame for being mistreated and believing that my happiness will come from a human relationship. I have a choice about being around anyone who mistreats me. I don’t want to have a false loyalty to anyone who abuses me. Nor do I want to have the false expectation that if I can just change, the abuse will stop. I will no longer live for the approval of others but will rely on the Lord to meet my inner needs—because my value and worth come from Him, and He loves me unconditionally. Only the Lord can meet all my needs.”
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
- Abusers wrongly believe: “I am not responsible for the way I treat others; they are to blame. If people wouldn’t make me mad, I wouldn’t treat them badly. They are the ones who should change, not me. There’s nothing wrong with me. People just need to accept me the way I am.”
- Instead abusers should believe: “I realise that I am responsible for the way I respond to others. No one deserves to be mistreated. No matter how people act toward me, how I act toward them is my choice. God has given me the power, through His Holy Spirit within me, to treat everyone with love and respect. I do not need to try to control people because God is in control, and He is the only one who can meet my deepest needs.”