April 2, 2001
People can never adequately meet a person's need to feel "complete."
That was the assertion of relationship expert Les Parrott as he spoke to Oklahoma Baptist University students in late March on the topic of building "healthy relationships."
Dr. Parrott, author of Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, told the college students that the first step to building healthy relationships in their families, friendships, and dating relationships is "to understand who you are in the relationship."
"If you try to build intimacy with another person before you have done the hard work of getting whole on your own, all of your relationships will be an attempt to complete yourself and will fall dismally flat," he said.
Instead of trying to be completed by another person, Parrott told the students each person's "compulsion for completion" can only be met through Christ.
Using the movie "Jerry Maguire" as an example of the romantic idea of being completed by another person, Parrott said, "If you believe someone else can complete you, you are setting yourself up for serious heartache.
"Get yourself healthy before you get yourself married," he urged the students.
Parrott and his wife, Dr. Leslie Parrott, are faculty members at Seattle Pacific University, where they teach the course "Relationships 101." He said when the course was first offered eight years ago, the couple expected a small response from students at the Christian university. But after the first day of registration, the course had attracted well over 200 students.
The Parrotts are in Oklahoma for an extended period, working with Governor Frank Keating's marriage initiative, which was formed in light of Oklahoma having one of the highest divorce rates in the nation.
Speaking to the OBU students, Parrott discussed four stages he claimed all relationships experience.
The first stage, Parrott explained, is the "pseudo-relationship." In such relationships there is no depth of interaction, and conversation is formed to exchange pleasantries.
The second stage he described is "chaos."
"This is what happens when we start to get real," he said.
He then demonstrated the phase in a humorous mock encounter with a "friend," where he explained that his expectations of the "friend" were not being met.
"It requires maturity to move from the second stage -- when we are tempted to give up the relationship -- to the third phase, emptiness," he said.
In the third phase, "you empty yourself of the need to change another person, which is a natural desire," he said. "When you do this, you build a bridge to the final stage where we all long to belong, genuine relationship."
He defined genuine relationships as those which are comfortable and safe.
"You can be yourself and the person still likes you," he said.
"My prayer for you is that you pursue the depths of genuine relationships in your lives," Parrott said. "If you do, you will create the safest place on earth."
Parrott is founder and director of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University.