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!