What to Do When Relationships Fail

Nothing is perfect. Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain. People are irrational. ~ Hugh Mackay

A friend’s daughter just found out her husband is having an affair and wants a divorce. She and the kids are devastated, shocked and angry. Sound familiar? My heart hurts for the people involved.

How would you cope with that situation? Or any situation when relationships fall apart? It could be death, loss of a job or position, a struggling marriage, or family estrangement. Even an unexpected illness can create severe stress in relationships. Suddenly, the world you knew has disappeared. It has been replaced with a mélange of emotional, mental, physical and financial roadblocks and dead ends.

Perhaps you can relate to the Psalmist, who said, “I looked on my right hand and beheld, but there was no man that would know me. Refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” (Ps. 142:4) That must be how Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked His disciples, “What, could you not watch with me one hour?” Those closest to Him deeply disappointed Him when He was facing His greatest pain and suffering.

It can seem impossible to cope with the loneliness, or to get past the pain of betrayal and loss. However, there are ways to help you cope when relationships are strained or severed.

Release negative emotions.

You are complete in Him. (Col. 2:10) Complete means you need nothing that the Father has not already supplied. Mental, physical, emotional, financial or relationship-wise, believe that He meets all your need.

Our human tendency is to hang onto self-pity and fear. We feel entitled to cry, rant and bemoan our situation. But looking at what you have lost will not help you move forward.

Consider Jesus’ intense pain when His cousin, John, was beheaded. When Jesus heard about John, He left there privately in a boat and went to a secluded place (Matt 14:13 AMP). Do you suppose He was trying to find some peace and quiet in which to mourn John’s death?  Yet when the multitude heard thereof, they followed him on foot. No one sought to comfort Jesus; they came expecting Him to help them! And Jesus … was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick (v. 14). He responded in love instead of anger, regret or selfishness. When Jesus was burdened by the needs of the people around Him, He responded with prayer, faith and compassion.

Years ago, when my own marriage was struggling, I had to learn in my loneliness not to expect someone else to meet my emotional or physical needs. Instead, I practiced releasing my feelings to God, letting Him fill the perceived voids in my life. I had to take my expectations and pressure off of my husband, my daughter, my parents, my friends – and myself.

I learned to say, “You and me, God – You’re all I need.” It required practice (still does!), but you can learn – like I did – to set yourself free. Guilt, manipulation and threats will not hold a relationship together. Don’t immerse yourself in negative feelings. You can wallow or you can win. But you can’t do both. It’s your choice.

Ditch the guilt.

Have faith in God. (Mark 11:22) He is Redeemer and Vindicator. He will supply all your need (Phil. 4:19). He will give you peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7). Your only requirement is to trust Him. Hang onto His promises – by your fingernails if necessary!

Don’t assume that a relationship failure is your fault. Did you contribute? Then face that fact, apologize to the people affected, and move forward. But, don’t beat yourself up or put yourself down. “What if’s” and “I should have’s” will not alter your present situation. Guilt, anger and unforgiveness hurt only you, not the other person. Replace those negative emotions with gratitude for the small joys and blessings in your life. The more you can find to be grateful for, the sooner you will overcome those negative emotions.

As God’s child, you are special, beloved. He still has a good plan for your life if you will stay in faith and walk in love. No matter how difficult your current circumstance, it is temporary. Continue to believe in yourself and in God. Remember, He told you, “If I am for you, who can be against you?” (Rom. 8:31).  He can protect you from every evil work (2 Tim. 4:18).

Don’t accept false responsibility.

Let not your heart be troubled (John 14:27). Trouble and strife are the devil’s weapons to keep people in bondage to the Law of sin and death. He instigates a spirit of division to keep you upset and outside the will of God. Abram understood that when he said to his nephew, Lot, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we are brethren.” Ge. 13:8).

Don’t accept responsibility for someone else’s feelings or expectations. How they ‘feel’ is their own issue. How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance and your burden and your strife? (Deut. 1:12). At the same time, don’t put responsibility on others to meet your needs. Only God can do that. Disappointment is rooted in selfishness. It discounts God’s love and care. He told us to cast all your care on Him, for He cares for you (I Peter 5:7).

Now, I’m not saying you can never expect anything. Obviously balance is the key. The world works because we function together – meeting each other’s needs. The problem arises when your expectations and feelings become burdensome or trigger anger and frustration. That is a sign that you are placing your faith in the wrong thing.

Face forward.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (Jer. 29:11).

The Bible declares that faith is substance, a powerful force that can change your circumstances and bring your hopes and dreams to pass (Heb. 11:1). Believe that you are strong enough to not only survive the strain of a failed relationship, but that you will triumph. Trust God to pick up the pieces of your life and turn them into something good.

It is an honor for a man to cease from strife (Prov. 20:3). The Apostle Paul knew a bit about a difficult life. He was beaten, stoned and reviled, misunderstood and lied about. His solution was simple. “… forgetting those things which are behind, [I reach] forth unto those things which are before” (Phil. 3:13). The past is unchangeable. Your future is yours to design.

No matter what you are facing, you can learn to be strong. You can put your trust in God and be an over-comer. Day by day, you can practice faith and patience, love and hope. Then, like Job, you will know that “though [my] beginning was small, yet [my] latter end shall greatly increase” (Job 8:

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