Identity Series: Part 4—Romantic Relationships

In the past few weeks we have been taking a deeper look at a few false identities men are prone to latch onto. So far we have looked at how men turn to Social Groups and Hobbies to define them. This week, we will be looking at how some men pursue romantic relationships in their search for an identity. Please feel free to subscribe to the blog and follow along with us through this series.

Romantic Relationships

Perhaps one of the more damaging tricks Satan plays on men is to convince us to look to romantic relationships to find our identity. This is one reason why men are so easily drawn to porn—because it can temporarily make them feel as if they’ve found the missing piece of their soul they’ve been searching for. But no woman, regardless of whether she is flesh and bone or pixels on a screen, can ever give a man his true identity.

I bought into this lie big time. I sought my identity through romantic relationships for the majority of my postpubescent life, which explains why most of those relationships were long-term but always ended in disaster.

romantic relationshipsI can now see that the pattern was quite predictable. I would meet a girl who was interested in me and quickly become captivated by her. I’d adjust my entire life to orbit around her—spending as much time with her as I could—often at the expense of all other relationships. Her friends became my friends. Her interests became my interests. We would quickly become sexually active, which made me feel validation as a man. All of this fed into me establishing my identity—and seeking my fulfillment—in being “So-and-so’s guy.”

Over time, though, the identity I was seeking would never satisfy because it wasn’t the true answer to who I was. The feeling that something was missing in the relationship would become stronger and stronger, and I would begin to feel a desire to look elsewhere for answers. Once I reached this point, the girl would inevitably sense me disconnecting from her. She would begin to feel like she wasn’t good enough for me anymore but didn’t know why. Once this began to happen, it was only a matter of time before we would start drifting apart.

Eventually, I would meet some new girl and start to feel like she might be the answer. My current girlfriend wouldn’t seem to be meeting my need for fulfillment in life, so perhaps this new girl, complete with all the passions that come with a new relationship, would be what I was missing. So I would break up with my current girlfriend and move on to the new one, and the cycle would repeat itself.

This same pattern defined my marriage as well. By the time I started to feel that my wife was no longer satisfying my need for an identity, she had already sensed my distance and taken personal responsibility for it as if it were her fault. Her self-esteem plummeted as she became more and more confused about what was happening to us. My expectations of her validating me and providing me with an identity had put her in an impossible position. It was wreaking havoc on her and on our marriage. It breaks my heart to look back at this now because I see how much pain I could have saved my wife, as well as my previous girlfriends, if I had recognized this pattern earlier.

I can’t tell you how many couples I have seen divorce for no better reason than “we just don’t get along anymore” or “irreconcilable differences.” But what causes two people who deeply love each other to grow apart and eventually give up? What causes a couple to move from craving each other’s company every chance they get to fighting intensely about which brand of coffee to buy? Are these fights actually the outpouring of frustration resulting from your spouse not meeting your need for validation—a need she was never designed to meet in the first place? Are you placing unspoken and impossible expectations upon her and setting her up for inevitable failure? As long as you look to someone other than God to provide your identity, she will fail you, and it will cause pain for everyone involved.

Continue on to Part 5: Who God Says You Are


cover-mockupThis post has been adapted from my new book,
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