Like many typical women, I love romantic comedies. There is something so exciting about boy meeting girl, boy and girl “falling” in love, boy and girl fighting, and then boy and girl getting back together again. Movies of this sort repeatedly have the same plot with different characters. It is not uncommon to get to the end of a romantic comedy, or a romantic drama, and hear the main characters tell each other things like, “You’re all that I need,” or “You are my everything!” In the moment, it can seem like such a wonderfully romantic phrase, but in a real life relationship, phrases like those can lead to unrealistic expectations. The thought of being everything to someone may be exciting and romantic at first, but it’s completely impossible. You are not enough for your own self, so how could you be everything someone else needs?
It is true that people need each other. God never intended humans to walk alone – for example, He created Eve for Adam (I Corinthians 11:8-9). The Bible also has much to say about gathering together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). We do need other people; but, the expectation that your boyfriend or girlfriend should fulfill all of your emotional needs is unrealistic at best.
In my life, I’m happy to say that I married a very intelligent man. If he doesn’t know the answer, he looks it up. He loves to read and is constantly filling his mind with new things. He’s also a handful of years older than me, so when we were first together, I had a tendency to look to him for everything. He seemed to have good answers for nearly everything. When I, or my co-workers, would have computer trouble, I’d call Eric. When someone needed my advice, I’d often run it by Eric. When I wanted to know who won the last fifty World Series, my inclination was to ask Eric, and expect him to know (he really didn’t follow baseball that closely).
Shortly after marriage, I began to see how draining this was to Eric. He already placed high expectations on himself and then he found that his wife thought he should have all the answers all the time. I was not meaning to be malicious or draining, I just thought Eric would know… about everything! On top of looking to him for all the answers, I also wanted him to provide me with listening ears, warm hugs, and lots of quality time. He tried to do it all consistently, but like any other mortal man, he just didn’t have the strength to be my everything all the time. Some days, regardless of how much he wants to listen to my problems, he just doesn’t have the energy. On days like these, I must have grace and realize that only God can be my everything.
When I was a teenager, I heard a radio show talking about the demands we place on our spouse. It said that we often place the burdens of our lives onto our spouse’s shoulders, and that weighs them down… which, in turn, weighs the relationship down. Instead of expecting our spouses (or future spouses) to carry our burdens for us, we should be casting our anxieties and cares upon the Lord and trusting Him to fulfill our needs in the manner in which only He can fulfill (I Peter 5:6-7). Doing so leaves our relationships lighter and gives each of us more strength to sharpen each other spiritually (Proverbs 27:17).
Many of us have experienced a friend that seemed to do nothing but place burdens on us each time he or she came around. Do you remember how exhausting that was? Imagine how much harder it is to be the spouse of someone who expects 24-hour-a-day burden carrying. This is not a recipe for a happy, thriving marriage. When we are so busy toting each other’s burdens around, instead of placing them into God’s hands, we are less effective in life. This is not to say that we should not talk to our boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses about our problems. It is a blessing to have the open ears and open arms of a loved one to care for us. The problems come when we habitually pour complaining and negativism from our life’s circumstances onto them and expect them to continue to be strong for us.
If we have a problem that we continue to take to them and dump on them, but we are not praying about it or making any attempts to solve it ourselves, our partner can easily become exhausted (especially if you don’t want his or her help to fix it!). Not only that, but after being dumped on continually, people begin to resist and resent the obligation placed on them. Ironically, when we are busy dumping on others, we are seldom interested in allowing others to do the same back to us. A lifestyle of dumping is a self-centered lifestyle.
Perhaps you have thought your boyfriend or girlfriend was your everything; if so, you are not alone. It is normal to feel that way in the beginning; but, it is important to understand his or her limitations before engagement and marriage. If you are with someone who places unrealistic demands on you or consistently dumps negativism or complaining, you need to address it now. It may even be helpful to address it together with a mentor couple at your church, but don’t assume it will go away on its own – it won’t. Some people don’t realize they are overwhelming their boyfriend or girlfriend and a simple inquiry and discussion may bring great changes. Some people will not want to take responsibility for their emotions and problems and, in such a case, counsel should be sought before proceeding to marriage. Someone who is unwilling to change negative patterns of behavior before marriage will be much less willing to change after the wedding.
What expectations are you placing on your boyfriend/girlfriend?