Many marriages and relationships are not violent, but neither are they healthy, happy, or ideal. Why?

Often, it's because one person in the relationship becomes a giver, and the other a taker. Here's an example of such a relationship described by a young woman who wrote to me for counsel:

"This summer I found out from my fiancé’s sister that he was sexually abused when he was little. We have been together for almost 5 1/2 years and he has never told me. I think some of his present behavior could be caused by this. For instance, he has cheated on me in the past, he thinks very highly of himself, and he is very critical of others. I believe I can help him, but I just don't know how?"

Here was my response:

"Dear friend, from your description above, 'he has cheated on me in the past, he thinks very highly of himself, and he is very critical of others,' your fiancé has character qualities which are not conducive to a lasting and healthy relationship, those being unfaithfulness, egotism, and perfectionism. His past sexual abuse issue now is not as important as dealing with your relationship and whether he will be able to change.

Secondly, you say you believe you can help him. That is co-dependent logic which results in excessive dependency and the taking on of someone else's responsibilities. You have not changed his character and behavior yet. Only he can change himself and work through past issues in his life. The issue here is that you are the giver in this relationship and he is the taker. You are willing to do anything to keep this man in your life no matter how he treats you.

What makes you willing to put up with his behavior and a relationship based on his terms and needs? Maybe you are suffering from low self-esteem and fear of abandonment. What if you decide now that because you are a person of value and worth you deserve to be treated as such? Instead of thinking about his needs and issues, determine to think about your needs and how he should treat you because you are worth it! Tell him that in order for you to stay in the relationship you want him to give back to you – faithfulness, acceptance, and concern for your needs. Write out specifically what this will look like.

Aren’t you worth being treated with respect in a relationship? Aren’t you worth getting something back and being treated like "number one?" After all, you are planning to be married. Make some personal goals now to grow in self-worth, assertiveness, setting boundaries, and understanding God’s love for you. It’s not wrong to be a giver in a relationship when both are givers. But, when one is a taker, the giver tends to give up everything, including her dignity and self-esteem. Don’t let that happen to you. So, let’s look more specifically at how to become a giver in relationships without giving up our dignity and principles. Here’s the list of characteristics of givers vs. takers.

Characteristics of biblical relationships: Givers vs. Takers

What about you? Do you think yours is a healthy, biblical relationship? Are you a giver or a taker? What about your significant other?

Complete the Giver-Taker Inventory.

Circle the statements below that are true in your significant relationship?

I'm the one ...

Total your scores from this column. Each statement you circle = one point. 1-7 = Giver. 7-15 = Codependent Giver

Circle the questions below to which you would answer "Yes."

Does your spouse or significant other...

Total the questions you circled. Each questions circled = one point. 1-6 = Taker. 6-16 = Egotistical Taker. If you circled any of these: 4, 7, 10, 16 and/or 17 – your spouse or significant other is abusive.

Photo Credit: Cagatay Orhan