Relationships are good for you – but can be messy by Rev David Shosanya

Rev David Shosanya shares some personal and spiritual insights he has learnt about the beauty, complexity, difficulty and sometimes messiness of relationships from the recent series of Celebrity Big Brother

Lee. Casey. Jasmine. What more need I say? Even a casual observer of this year’s Celebrity Big Brother (CBB) would be shocked at the shenanigans that are the love triangle between Lee Ryan from Blue, the glamour model, Casey Batchelor, and the American actress, Jasmine Waltz.

For those of you reading this article, who have not been watching CBB (or at least not admitting to doing so, in the pious company of good Christian sisters and brothers), allow me to offer a very brief summary of what has taken place.

On entering the Big Brother House, each housemate was handcuffed to another celebrity. Lee was handcuffed to Casey. They did everything together, as did other housemates. They, however, developed an affection for each other, and things became heated between the two of them. To all intents and purposes, they were an item. But then Jasmine caught Lee’s attention and Casey was, well …., let’s just say no longer the focus of Lee’s affection.

Viewers were up in arms and Casey was beside herself with rage and feelings of being humiliated. Lee and Jasmine carelessly flaunted their affection for each other in Casey’s face. Housemates and the general public were shocked. And so was Lee, when Jasmine got evicted from the house! Lee and Casey quickly rekindled their romance.

One last thing. CBB has introduced a ‘freeze frame’ feature. When the Big Brother House clock chimed, and housemates had to freeze. A friend or family member of a contestant then enters the house for a few minutes. As that clock chimed, Jasmine re-entered the house, as Lee and Casey cosied up to one another on the sofa. It was an awkward and insightful moment, as Jasmine expressed her sense of hurt and humiliation to Casey and Lee, respectively.

“Relationships are risky! They are risky because they require vulnerability and trust in order to be meaningful and mutually rewarding.”

Two thoughts have been provoked in my mind as I have reflected on this year’s CBB. The first is this: relationships are risky! They are risky because they require vulnerability and trust in order to be meaningful and mutually rewarding. Why?

Often, we are consciously or unconsciously reticent to offer and to embody these twin foundational pillars of any successful relationship. The possibilities they offer are clouded by our pasts, or by never having positively experienced them ourselves. We all know that the potential to be exploited or abused is always a very real and present danger. However, creating meaningful relationships requires that we intentionally and honestly confront and seek to negotiate the competing tensions we carry that can prevent us from being fully present.

Those tensions threaten to undermine our capacity to be vulnerable and grow towards one another. They can prevent us from daring to be courageous enough to take the risks associated with creating an expanding relationship.

Secondly, relationships are not transactional. By that, I mean that the most secure and rewarding relationships are not exclusively or predominantly motivated by what one partner can get from the other, but by a mutual sharing of life experiences, resources and support mechanisms that benefit both parties equally and, as a result, enhance their individual and shared sense of wellbeing.

In attempting to gain an insight on a national Measure for Wellbeing, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) asked respondents to list what factors affected, influenced or contributed to their sense of wellbeing; relationships with their partners featured highly. Research has been conducted that demonstrates that strong, loving, romantic relationships enhance emotional, psychological and physical wellness to such an extent that there are discernible and measurable differences between married couples, those that co-habit and singles.

Relationships that are grounded and rooted in one partner’s love for the other person have the capacity to challenge and transform an individual’s perspective of themselves, of others and of the world. When there is an absence of security, safety and self, the human spirit is crushed, and the possibility for the most deeply-rooted fears we carry are able and likely to be released in such an environment. Interactions between two people in such an environment are reduced to a series of transactions, which are effectively calculated and measured responses towards one partner by the other. These responses are rooted in fear, suspicion and a deep sense of mistrust, which ultimately results in a kind of emotional asphyxiation of the relationship.  Both partners are left decimated by the lack of love (oxygen) in the relationship.

We will all do well to learn from the debacle of the CBB House, rather than just offer dismissive commentary about the utter ridiculousness of the contestants. Human needs and emotions are complex, and we as Christians are not immune from that complexity. We may not be so obviously misguided, but we each know the challenges we face that are hidden from the public’s gaze!

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