Couple in thought

Relationships in our Broken World

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The psychologist Alfred Adler spoke about how all healthy relationships are horizontal relationships rather than vertical relationships. Horizontal relationships are equal, but in vertical relationships one person has power over the other. I have been considering this view in respect of my own singleness and my hesitation about entering into a relationship with a woman.

I’m wondering whether it’s ever possible, in our broken world, for a relationship to remain horizontal for a lifetime. It seems to me that it is so often the case that one partner becomes dominant and so the relationship becomes vertical. It can be either the man or the woman who becomes dominant (in heterosexual relationships). But why is this?

I have often thought that a healthy relationship would be one where both parties put the other person first at all times. But in reality, there must always be compromise, because always giving is a kind of selfishness in itself. We want to be generous and always bless others, but if we do so too much, our partner will feel guilty, so we have to receive as well. But can this giving and receiving ever be perfectly equal? I’m doubtful, even if it may seem that way in the early stages of a relationship.

So perhaps a vertical relationship is inevitable, and this is what frightens me, because I neither want to be a bully or be bullied in a relationship. Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul said relationships will always cause trouble.

If it is possible for a couple to enjoy a harmonious life-long relationship, it’s certainly a rare thing in this broken world. All too often relationships fall apart due to conflict. My parents’ marriage fell apart, and my mother passed away shortly afterwards, so this has certainly coloured my thinking. I do believe brokenness in relationships can lead to mental and physical illness.

All of the above considerations are making me feel a life of singleness, devoted to my spiritual calling, is the best course of action. I don’t want to be single, I want an amazing relationship, but I’m doubtful that it’s possible as the world is so broken. Everywhere in the media relationships are presented in unrealistic ways. I think I would only ever get married after a course of relationship counselling with my partner, and I actually think this should be compulsory for all couples.

I get very lonely sometimes but am fortunate to have some great friends, both male and female, who help with this. But I am attracted to women sexually, so it’s a struggle. I have to always remember that physical attraction is only a small aspect of a relationship, and I mustn’t let lust determine the course of my life, which I think is a mistake many people make.

If you’re reading this and you’re stuck in a vertical relationship, please consider counselling, as there is always hope of healing.


What are your thoughts on what I’ve written in this article? Feel free to leave a comment, as kind-spirited comments will be read and approved. Thank you for reading!

12 comments

  1. I agree with everything here good man. The brokenness in our world makes relationships harder no doubt, but I firmly believe that through humility and promise that God is with us we can overcome so much. That’s a loaded statement, and it might take professional counseling at different times in life. He wants us to fellowship together the way the Father, Son and Spirit fellowship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello dear friend! I agree with you that a focus on God is potentially the best way to overcome obstacles in relationships.

      I’m interested in your comment that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in fellowship. This has never made sense to me, when I’ve heard philosophers and theologians say it. Would you be able to explain a bit more about how this fellowship happens and functions? I would be most grateful for the understanding.

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  2. Hi Steven!

    It was good of you to share your thoughts on long-term relationships. Your post was well-written and concise.

    I married Lita Fox on 26/09/70 when I was twenty. At the age of 24, I was a father to three children: Eileen (b 25/02/71); Robert (b 24/02/73) and Justin (b 28/09/74). All three were registered with my surname, Constantinou.

    I believe that we were happy with each other for the first ten years of our marriage.

    Our relationship was based on love for each other and for our children. Decisions were made together on an equal basis. There was nothing vertical about our home life. We shared the work in the home according to our abilities. Lita did the cooking because she was better at it than I. I was happy to do all the washing up and vacuuming and she was happy to assist me with DIY work, again based on ability.

    Financially, Lita and our children were dependent mostly on my earnings. We talked about what work she would like to do and she was sure she wanted to work with young children.

    By a stroke of luck, a newly-built facility opened in our area during the 1980s. It was called King’s Hedges Ecumenical Church and Community Centre. It was jointly managed by a multi-denominational Church Committee and the Cambridge City Council.

    Lita opened up a Pre-school Playgroup there and was the Playleader and manager of it. She enjoyed her work but the area she served was not a wealthy one and the fees for attendance were set to reflect this.

    My job with British Telecom from 1979 changed beyond recognition after it was privatised in 1980. The working conditions worsened and the job became more demanding. Consequently, Lita left the family home in 1986 to live with a new man in her life and we were divorced, as she felt neglected.

    I am happy to discuss any details of my married life with anyone.

    Peace and love to all,
    Dinos Constantinou

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dinos! Thank you very much for your comment, and for sharing a little about your marriage and the fact that you were divorced after some initially happy years together, and after having three children.

      Obviously this is not the place for an in-depth discussion of your personal life story, but maybe writing a memoir (have you considered this?) could be an interesting project. Also, as you know, I think very highly of counselling, and I remember you attempted this (through the NHS I think?) a few years ago and if I recall correctly it didn’t work out very well.

      In my experience, it’s often the case that it’s necessary to visit several counsellors before you find someone who has the professional abilities to make the counselling relationship fruitful and worthwhile. I humbly suggest, with your happiness in mind (and in full respect that you have a great deal of life experience) that counselling or psychotherapy could be a wonderful way for you to share about your life experience with the devoted attention of a compassionate person.

      Peace and love to you in return!

      Steven

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Steven! Thank you for your reply. If you feel that I’ve addressed the issue of vertical and horizontal relationships sufficiently for your readers, anecdotally, that’s fine.

        I do have knowledge of other people where there is a bias towards vertical or horizontal types of relationship. However, I didn’t want to make my post too lengthy and I did want to read comments from your readers.

        I have found with several counsellors that they are geared up to offer only CBT and it doesn’t work for me. However, one of the counsellors who spent most of her years in South Africa was quite helpful.

        Now, at the age of 71, I am considered to be elderly and qualify for treatment with a psychiatrist. I am seeing him once every three months and I always enjoy my sessions with him. If you do a search for a Cambridge-based Robert Dudas, you can check his credentials and profile. He is part of a team referred to as Older People’s Mental Health for Cambridge and Peterborough.

        Peace and love to all,
        Dinos Constantinou

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Hi Dinos, it’s wonderful to know that you have met a psychiatrist who you have a good relationship with. Every three months is quite infrequent, I hope it feels enough for you (it’s probably a normal timespan, what with the NHS being so stretched).

          Thanks for being considerate and keeping your comments concise, I’m grateful for that and I think it leads to the best reader experience.

          God bless you, friend!

          Liked by 2 people

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