The Terms of Our Relationship

Terms lay out the boundaries and expectations of two people who are trying to relate with one another.  We see terms in legal documents, in employment contracts, in the iPad warranty I just purchased, and even in marriage vows.  Terms are the agreements we settle on that define the relationship we are in.  They lay out the responsibilities on each person’s part.

Marriages have terms.  And though I do not see marriage as a business arrangement, but as a lifelong commitment, the vows a couple makes to each other become the basis for the ways they will relate with each other.  But what happens if the ways we expect to be related to don’t line up with what we thought the vows were all about?  What happens when our relationship becomes about life “on my terms”?

Troubles come when a few things happen:

  • I may agree to terms that, deep down, I don’t really agree with.  For example, if I say “til death do us part” and then leave the relationship while there is breath in my lungs (or Sheri’s), then I have not lived up to the terms of the agreement.
  • I may change the terms without communicating this with Sheri.  Maybe I used to be fine with filling up the minivan with gas, but now it bothers me that it seems to be my job all the time.
  • I may have unwritten terms that I keep to myself, thinking Sheri should just know what I’m thinking.  It could be that she starts talking to me about the day as we turn off the lights in bed, but doesn’t she know I just want to read a book for a few minutes before going to sleep?

What does on my terms look like?

  • I want my way.  If I don’t get my way I become coercive, passive-aggressive, verbally or physically aggressive, demeaning, or I just pout.

Human nature is about getting our needs met.  As children we need parents to be close, attentive, supportive, caring, and provide emotional security.  As adults, our needs don’t necessarily change.  But our expectations that circle around the needs might change.  Adults don’t (shouldn’t) whine – but we can get passive-aggressive or demanding or incommunicative.  We still look for ways to get our needs met.

What does on your terms look like?

  • I want your way.  I will do everything I can to give you what you need – attention, care, intimacy, emotional security.

Marriage is about sacrifice – it is wrestling the desire for self-fulfilment to the ground and allowing the beauty of “other-fulfillment” to arise.  It is living for the good of the other person despite how I am feeling.  The beauty of this is that when both people are living “on your terms” both people’s needs are being met without having to grab or scream for them.

This principle is addressed in Phil 2:4 where we read:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to to the interests of others.

In order to properly have our needs met, we need to be aware of them AND let the other person know what they are.  This is looking after your own interests, for how can someone meet our needs if we don’t communicate what they are and how they can be met?  Then we need to acknowledge those attempts that are made to meet my needs.  Notice when your spouse does something that meets your terms.  Be thankful.  (And don’t do it with sarcasm or “It’s about time”.)

But most importantly, strive to live “on your terms” first of all, despite what you think may be coming from them.

For if marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, what would happen if Christ suddenly decided to love the Church based on how he is treated by us, rather than based on what he knows is best for us?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s