About 8 or 9 years ago, I had a friend point out a huge character defect of mine - one that I had been blind to for my entire life. Basically, I was going to the wrong people to get my needs met - which set off a cycle of feeling even more insecure, and going to the same people again to try to make me feel better, ad nauseum.
Because I am a little hard headed, she had to get creative in how she described the vicious cycle that I had placed myself in. In my recollection, the conversation went something like this:
Me: Ugh! So-and-so is NOT reacting like I need them to. Again. Why won't they be more like I want them to be?? Blah. Blah. Blah. Whine. Whine. Whine.
K: Jeannine, you nightmare. You can't be mad at the guy at Home Depot for not selling oranges.
Me: Aren't you listening?? I wasn't talking about stupid Home Depot. I don't even like oranges.
K: (calmly) You can't be mad at the guy at Home Depot for not selling oranges.
Me: What are you talking about??
K: You went to the wrong store, dude. If you go to Home Depot, it's not the people that work there that failed. It's you - for going to the wrong store. If there's something you need, you have to make sure you go to the right store.
If I am hungry - it does me NO good to go to a hardware store. If I have an emotional need, it does me no good to go to someone who has proven that they don't have it to give. By doing so, it's ME that is perpetuating the problem, not them. They are who they are - and I need to change what I do, accordingly.
This little mantra has changed almost all of my relationships - friends, family, romantic, work. If someone doesn't have what I need, it's my job to go seek out someone who does. It didn't happen all at once - and I still have occasions where I find myself up against a brick wall in this department, every once in a while. There have been periods in my life, over the past decade, where you would have heard me mumbling "Home Depot. Oranges."
These days, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by lots of friends and family - all with varying wonderful traits to offer. However, no ONE person has everything I need - so I need to be choosy about who I go to for what.
Victoria Osteen put it much more elegantly in her blog today, on joelosteen.com:
Part of having healthy relationships is understanding what you can and cannot expect from other people. It's a fact that no matter how badly you may be craving steak and lobster, you can't expect to get it from a McDonald's drive-thru because they simply don't have it. You can sit in the line and beg the attendant for it, but it won't make a difference. In the same way, there are some things you can't expect to get from people emotionally, no matter how badly you want it, because they simply don't have it to give.
If you're looking for something different in your relationships, you might begin by looking at yourself. Oftentimes, when you see something missing in your relationships, you are the one who has it to bring to the relationship. You carry the seeds of change. If you want more encouragement in your home, sow seeds of encouragement. If you want more affection and tenderness, sow seeds of affection to others. Relationships are just as much about what you have to give as what you are hoping to receive.
Remember, you have so much to contribute to your relationships. Give your spouse and the people in your life grace and something to draw from. You be the model of change. Don't push people to change; instead, lead by example. Dig deep within yourself and plant seeds of love and life and get ready to see the harvest of blessing come back to you in your future!