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Three Levels of Relationship

Posted By:  Mkpoikanke Otu on April 26, 2020  

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I don’t encourage boy-girl friend relationship, dating or cohabitation. But I encourage normal friendship as at the time there is no expression of marriage interest. This implies that the three levels of relationship discussed in this article are for those that have expressed interest to marry someone and for those that have noticed such interest and would like to give consideration. Others who are yet to be in a relationship will still benefit from the article by learning what they will do when they enter into a relationship. The three levels of relationship are:

1.      Emotional level

2.      Cognitive level

3.      Motivational level

Emotional Level

This is the level of attraction, where there is a direct or indirect expression of marriage interest. On one side, the two individuals involved (a male and a female) have expressible and/or inexpressible feelings of love, kindness, and likeness toward each other. They use phrases like: “I feel like this person loves me, I feel like I love this person, I feel good around this person, I have peace being around him/her, I feel he may marry me, I feel she may marry me, I feel he/she is a good person, I feel he/she will not disappoint me, I feel his/her people are good, I feel he/she will be a good husband/wife, I feel, I feel, I feel”. Everything at this level of relationship is all about positive emotion (feeling) toward each other.

On the other side, the two individuals may not have a feeling of love toward each other at this level. Sometimes, one individual may express the feeling of love towards the other who doesn’t sense any such feelings. The one with the feeling of love may struggle to make the other person have the same feeling and sometimes get frustrated and disappointed. In my case, I had the feeling of love, likeness, kindness, and compassion for my wife (my course mate then). But she had the exact opposite of whatever I was feeling. Though I didn’t open up to her, she noticed my feelings and built a wall of resistance around her to block me from coming close to her. In our final year (two years later) I dared to notify her that she was going to be my wife and she rejected the information because she had no feeling of love towards me. Five years later, after we have graduated and departed to different locations, I contacted her again through a WhatsApp chat and she gave consent for us to be friends. During the short time of friendship, I realized that her major concern was a lack of a feeling of love towards me. Well! I couldn’t do anything than to keep expressing genuine love, praying and trusting God that if it was His will, she was going to develop a feeling of love towards me. Truly, she developed her feeling of love gradually as we learned about ourselves at the cognitive level of the relationship. This means that the feeling of love may not always be found at the emotional level of the relationship. Some people experience it at the cognitive level while others experience it at the motivational level.

Whatever is the case, it is not proper to decide to marry or not to marry someone at the emotional level of relationship. It may not be proper to just conclude and marry someone because you have a feeling for the person. Likewise, it may not be proper to refuse to marry someone just because you don’t have a feeling of love towards the person. Feeling, or no feeling, the decision made at the emotional level of the relationship may be frustrating. But for some people, the initial feeling of love or no-love throws them into or out of a relationship. While some feel loved and loving, others feel unloved and unloving at the initial stage of their relationship. Whatever is the case, decision making is not recommended at this level of relationship. That is to say, you may not say yes or no just because of how you feel.

How you feel is largely determined by what you see or hear. Psychologically speaking, men move by what they see while women move by what they hear. Thus, your initial feeling about someone may be due to what you see/hear or what you do not see/hear about him/her. Most times the beautiful elements about the person, which can cause attraction and positive feeling, may not be seen or heard. On the other hand, what you hear or see about the person may not be true. You may not have enough evidence to back it up. Thus, decision making is dangerous!

Take note of this, emotion pushes people to a hasty decision. Any decision made in a haste is prone to mistakes (Proverbs 19:2). Take out time to get knowledge and understanding before you decide whether to marry him/her. Don’t be swallowed up by emotions!

Cognitive Level

This is the level of mental action involving the acquisition of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding through analysis of thoughts, experiences and the senses. It is the level that the two individuals in love learn about themselves in terms of strengths, weaknesses, baggages, abilities, talents, calling, purpose, experiences, family, past and present friends.

Experiences in counselling profession have taught me that intending couples who have knowledge and understanding about relationship matters usually build their cognitive level of relationship effectively and make the right decisions, while others who don’t have knowledge and understanding about relationship matters are usually dominated by their emotional experience at the detriment of their decision. Also, individuals with emotional dominance are usually worried, desperate and most times make a hasty decision before coming for counselling. Again, individuals who have wrong information and those who lack understanding are often very proud and do not find it easy to learn the cognitive principles of their relationship.

Thus, it is better to acquire knowledge and understanding about relationship matters while waiting for a spouse. If you are already in a relationship, take steps to learn about yourself in relationship to your intending spouse (The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated. The simple inherit folly, Proverbs 14:15-18 ESV). Yes! You may not know it all, but you can know certain things that will help you in making the right decision and preparing you for marriage. It is not like when you discover who you are or who your intending spouse is, you may not marry him/her. But your mind will be properly trained to adapt to the realities you may face in your marriage. That person that is strange to you now will not be strange when you marry him/her. But why do you have to wait till you marry before you discover who he/she is?

The cognitive level is also the level you seek to hear what God is saying concerning your relationship. This suggests that you will have to pray, study the word of God, repent from sin and obey the commandments of God. You may have to repent from previous sins (maybe the ones committed at the emotional level or in previous relationships). Thus, the cognitive level of a relationship should be kept holy. That means there should be no sexual activities like kissing, fondling, masturbation, pornography, and intercourse. If the holiness is not maintained, your prayer may not be answered and you may not discover the will of God in that relationship (I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans 12:1-2 ESV).

Other things to do at the cognitive level of relationship is to discuss your history and your intending spouse’s history. You can take a turn to talk about yourselves sincerely. Talk about your past relationships and mention whether you have committed abortion, put to birth or have sex in your previous relationships. Also, discuss education, career, interest, hobbies, medical history, and religious affiliations, attachment, and understanding of God. Remember that if you end up marrying the person nothing will be hidden. Therefore, talk about everything. The only reason why you should not talk about some critical things is if you or your spouse are not seriously involved in the relationship. But if both of you are serious about going into marriage you can’t avoid talking about your life experiences.

Above talking, quietly ask yourself certain questions about the chance you have to succeed in your marriage if you marry your intending spouse. The following questions are provided as guides for you to use and determine your chance of making the right or wrong choice of spouse. Note that you are to answer the questions by yourself and for yourself, using the knowledge and understanding you gain from interacting with your intending spouse. The questions are: does my intending spouse love God more than self?; does my intending spouse love God more than me?; does my intending spouse witness with the assurance that he/she is born-again?; does my intending spouse read the bible regularly and know what it teaches?; does my intending spouse attend a church where the word of God is preached and obeyed?; does my intending spouse like talking about spiritual things? (remember that the mouth speaks out of what fills the heart, Matthew 12:34); does my intending spouse live a pure, clean or holy life?; has my intending spouse received the baptism in the holy spirit?; does my intending spouse keep the commandments of God?; does my intending spouse really love me?; do I really love my intending spouse?; does my intending spouse like me?; do I like my intending spouse?; is there another person my intending spouse love more than me?; is there another person I love more than my intending spouse?; does my intending spouse have good reasons why he/she should marry?; do I have good reasons why I should marry him/her?; does my intending spouse accept me the way I am or is he/she planning to change me? (note that marriage doesn’t change a person’s character); do I accept my intending spouse the way he/she is or am I planning to change him/her? (note that marriage doesn’t change a person’s character); is it the will of God for me to marry him/her?; is he/she the one God created me to be with?; can I fulfill my God’s given purpose being joined to him/her?; will my intending spouse allow me to draw more closer to God while being bound together under a York? Giving a “no” answer to more of these questions may be a sign that the relationship will not end in a successful marriage.

Motivational level

This is the level where the two individuals who have been in a relationship find reasons or incentives to continue or discontinue the relationship. Thus, from the information, knowledge, and understanding gained at the cognitive level, individuals can decide what should happen to their relationship. But the decision should involve judging the knowledge and the understanding gained to make an accurate decision.

But you may have to expel all illogical or irrational ideas from your mind. Illogical or irrational ideas are those thoughts, beliefs, opinions or information that are not true or are not based on scientifically acceptable evidence. It may be myths or unscientific assumptions people hold unto. You may have to identify and dispute those ideas so that they won’t distract or disrupt your decision, or so you won’t be motivated by wrong things.

Examples of illogical or irrational ideas people hold unto in relationship are: if you are short, marry someone that is tall so you produce tall children; if you are dark, marry someone that is fair so you produce fair children; if you are fat, marry someone that is thin, don’t marry someone who is not from your place, marry someone from your religious denomination; don’t open up your secret to your spouse so he/she won’t turn away from you; marry from a wealthy family; don’t marry someone from a broken home so you won’t experience broken marriage;  don’t marry someone whose parents had mental illness (e.g. madness) or chronic sickness  so you won’t suffer same; don’t marry a politician; don’t marry a pastor; don’t marry someone who doesn’t have a steady income; marry someone who has job security; fair ladies are possessed by demons (Marine spirit); a good wife is found in the village; ladies that have money are proud; ladies that have gone to university have committed abortion and may not put to birth; have sex with someone that want to marry you to determine his sexual potency and fertility; your husband must be older than you; you cannot marry your age mate and someone younger than you; a lady with higher educational qualification than yours will not submit to you; a lady from a richer family will not submit to you; among others. This list is inexhaustible.

At the motivational level, try and dispute all the illogical and irrational ideas you have about relationships and marriage so you can make the right decision. You can discuss with a counsellor to help you identify and dispute the irrational ideas. Hold unto the truth only!

Philippians 4:8 (NLT) 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Colossians 3:2 (ESV) Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Matthew 16:23 (ESV) But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. Thus, don’t let your motivation be based on the things on earth –like how wealthy, poor, caring, loving, kind or charming someone is. Rather, let your motivation be on the things in heaven –like how Christ-like the person is and how he/she is matching with your destiny.

Let me conclude by assuring you that if you understand the three levels of relationship discussed in this article, you are a candidate for marital success. Congratulations in advance!

I did not specify the duration of each level of relationship because that may differ for different individuals. However, the time spent in all the levels should not last for too long. 

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