How Relationships Work Part Two

Since relationships are often our happiest and most painful experiences it is important to understand how relationships work. Most people are brainwashed by pop-culture into thinking that relationships succeed by luck and that pain is to be expected and taken for granted.

The Bible reveals that relationships can work wonderfully, for the whole of our lives. They were built to last; as long as people live the way God wants them to, and not in the destructive, selfish way they are taught to live by western culture.

This series opens up observations about how relationships work best and what things you need to be aware of and even avoid in order to succeed in your relationships.

Zombies and Comfort

The first article introduced the idea of our comfort zone, or zombie zone, where people tend to switch off to those around them. This can be because they are relaxing or unwinding, or it could be because they are focused on some task, process or outcome.

People who retreat into their comfort zone may inadvertently project rejection or neglect to those they relate to, since it is easy to react negatively to disturbances or interruptions when we are in our comfortable zone.

However, that is only part of the picture. While most of us enjoy our comfortable places, we also desire to have others give us attention. One person’s desire to be in their comfort zone and another’s desire to be noticed can create an immediate clash.

Invade and Pillage

People like to be valued, noticed, appreciated, listened to, and to be valuable to others. This simple desire can prompt some people to become commandos, attacking, invading and pillaging the time, attention, emotions and energies of others.

Most people don’t set out to be a marauding invader and many people whose input is resented would be offended at the suggestion that they have anything but noble and worthy intentions. However, this is a reality, by whatever name it is given, and so I am bringing it up early in this study of how relationships work.

Need to Speak

The process of invading other people’s space and pillaging their time, attention and emotions starts as a fairly innocent process. It is felt by most people simply as the need to speak.

Many people find a spontaneous urge to know something or to get a specific response from others. In reality this can actually be a need to be heard, a need to be reassured, a need to control, or similar urge, rather than a real need for information. It causes us to impose ourselves on others in some way or other. The fact that we have a question or otherwise have a justifiable excuse for speaking covers the fact that we might have a deeper motivation.

When travelling in a car, some children feel a keen need to ask, “How much longer now?” This question may come from their boredom, from their need to be noticed by their parents, from a need to hear their own voice, or some similar motivation. Some people are bothered by silence and need to chatter away.

Imposing and Dominating

Speech is a means of imposing ourselves on others and dominating them. Some people have a need to feel in control and so they impose themselves by their chatter, questions, explanations, micro-management, interference and so on.

We have all met people who variously insist on dominating conversations, or controlling the topics discussed, having the last word, persistently pushing their point of view, interrogating others, nagging on a issue, or even whining, complaining or similarly making their voice heard as an imposition onto others. Some impose themselves from a position of strength and assertiveness, while others do it by a more wheedling, pity-poor-me approach. Whichever way it is done, the urge and impact are much the same. It is a need to impose ourselves upon others and impact them in some way.

Commandeering and Abducting

At its worst, the need to impose and dominate becomes a full-on onslaught against others. Some people invade the lives of those around them and commandeer their time, demand their attention, abduct them from their activities, family and commitments, and make them slaves to the will and emotional needs of the invader.

Wives can do this to husbands, making the man into the wife’s “hormone hostage”, as it is jokingly identified. People who feel desperate, lonely, neglected and hurting can make these onslaughts into other people’s lives in an attempt to quell their inner feelings.

Assertive people can similarly invade and commandeer other people’s lives. Rather than doing it for emotional needs they may abduct other people for their own selfish ends. They may do it to gratify their personal need to feel powerful and important. They may recruit people to serve their goals. They may simply be addicted to control and domination and resent other people having freedom of choice, or even happiness independently of them.


People like to be valued, noticed, appreciated, and listened to by others. This causes people to seek contact and communication with others.

In situations where one person has entered their zombie/comfort zone and the other person needs to be affirmed or to speak, there can be a sorry mismatch. The zombie may ignore the speaker, or the speaker may insist on invading the zombie’s zone. Either way one has imposed on the other and both will probably be unhappy.

“He switches off and she won’t let him go!”

Such a mismatch often leads to reactions which are less than helpful. Reactions then take over and tensions escalate. A major relationship problem can spring from such small beginnings.

Accusations may be made, such as, “You never listen to me!” or “Why are you always doing this to me?” Feelings become hurt, past hurts resurface, unkind words are spoken, exasperation, rejection and other unhappy feelings come to the surface and there is little room to manoeuvre successfully.

Relationships Work

Despite these challenges of mismatch and upset which do easily occur in relationships I need to stress that relationships work. These challenges are not the end of the world. They are issues which need to be dealt with and they can most effectively be dealt with when people understand them and know what they are dealing with.

Don’t think that mismatch or personal needs and hurts that lead to upsets in any way signals an irreparable relationship. In the future parts of this series I’ll point out to you how to resolve many of the issues which are being put on the table now.

The Relationships Series of Articles ….
Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:

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