When it comes to relationships, standards are often put in place by society to determine whether they are successful. Most offer ways to analyze how “complete” the other person makes you feel. Fanciful words about someone being the one or your soulmate flesh out the narrative to describe how we experience a romantic, life-affirming partnership with another human being.

Unity teaches that we are made in the image and likeness of God, that we each contain an innate spark of divinity and are born perfect, whole, and complete. But how many times in movies, books, and other stories have we heard people say someone completes them? If indeed we are born whole, perfect, and complete, why look to someone else for completion?

Be the magnificent, authentic expression of God you are designed to be, and then hold the high watch for your beloved to do the same.

If this is a statement you have used in the past to determine the quality of a relationship, I invite you to reframe it in a more affirming manner. Try this: I am whole, perfect, and complete. The relationship I seek is one where I feel free to give all of myself to another who is equally willing.

What does giving all of myself mean? Let’s take apart a couple of mistaken messages most of us have heard about relationships and see what we find.

First mistake: A good relationship is 50/50.

Sounds fair on the surface, right? But in my experience, 50/50 inevitably leaves one person waiting for the other to do their part. It creates a paradigm where one is willing to do just enough then leave the rest to the person they profess to love. Throughout time and left unexamined, this shallow understanding of equitable effort leads to resentment.

What I’ve learned: Give 100 percent of yourself, to the best of your ability, always. This does not demand perfection; rather it encourages being fully open to each other. It inspires all parties to fully invest their time, heart, and mind in simply being available. You will falter at times; so will the other. But there is grace in 100/100 relationships that bridges those gaps. And the powerful tool through which such grace expresses? Communication.

Second mistake: What they don’t know can’t hurt them.

Early in the relationship with my husband, holding back little things that seemed inconsequential was the rule of the day. I withheld thoughts and actions of which I was ashamed in hopes I wouldn’t appear too selfish or needy. As things progressed, I withheld resentments—which often stemmed from that 50/50 paradigm—until they festered then exploded in a shower of anger and upset.

Being less than willing to clearly communicate my needs created a systemic lack of trust. I was leaving the person I loved to fill in the gaps. He ultimately felt he was being held at arm’s length as our relationship stagnated. We separated.

While this was painful, it was the right and perfect move for our healing and growth as individuals and in relationship. It invited me to examine my perceived need to withhold and the mistaken reasoning behind that choice. It allowed me to release the shame I felt for things I had chosen to withhold. It invited both of us to meet each other again—this time without any desire to be less than honest about every area of our lives. Moreover, it inspired us to choose to be authentic as individuals and to honor each other by making authenticity the new rule of the day.

Building a Bond That Lasts

Today, we are more able to hold each other in high regard through the best and worst of times because we have chosen to be fully invested in each other—100/100—as authentic expressions of God. The good, bad, and ugly are brought into balance through the power of authenticity and the love we share.

What we’ve learned: Share. Listen. Be present. Talk about all of it, especially those things you are tempted to keep secret. This builds a bond of trust that will carry you through the challenging times, which will come. Be the magnificent, authentic expression of God you are designed to be, and then hold the high watch for your beloved to do the same.

After nearly 30 years, my husband and I have survived many geographic moves, changes of career, and a period of living apart to discover who we were called to be. But that is only our experience. Consider it a template rather than a recipe.

Just as we are all individual expressions of the Divine, our relationships—our ways of harmonizing and connecting with someone else—are equally unique.

Wherever you are on this journey of life shared with another, it is my prayer that you both sense gratitude and wonder as it unfolds.

About the Author

Rev. David B. Adams is senior cominister at Unity of Independence, Missouri.


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