Nearly every day doing counseling I run into people who need relationship advice because of issues they are having. Today, I received a note from a client (that I will paraphrase):

I have been in this relationship for almost four years and the communication has not been great at all. I feel like I cannot talk to him. I feel like he manipulates the situation…He lies a lot, and he thinks that I feel like I’m always right, but this is not true, I don’t feel I am always right.

It feels like a defense mechanism. I am not an angel in this relationship. You know I can get upset when he does something. There are things that I can work on. But for the most part, I believe I am very great at communicating.

Garbage in Garbage Out (GIGO).

I learned long ago that you usually get out what you put in. It is the idea of sowing and reaping. If all I plant is corn then that is what I will get. I often recommend a book called If I really wanted a great marriage I would… It is full of ideas on how to build connections and make your marriage a priority. It is a seed book full of good seeds.

GIGO applies to relationships. What do you sow? What do you reap? What do you want out of your relationship?

They sow the wind, and so they will reap the whirlwind! The stalk does not have any standing grain; it will not produce any flour. – Hosea 8:7

The same thought is repeated in the New Testament.

For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith. – Galatians 6:7-10

We are frequently faced with choices – some significant some more mundane. I deal with relationships, and I see that we can choose to win an argument, or we can choose to love and focus on relationships and connection.

Too often I am asked by men who have clearly been abusive and feel the world revolves around them, they will say things like “Doesn’t she have any responsibility?” “I need some reciprocity.” “It can’t be all me she has problems too.”

You can look at a relationship as a quid pro quo or a trade, but I say that is the death of a relationship. Marriage is not business and business principles do not apply. You need to focus on the connection, not on what you will get. Choose life or choose death; heaven or hell; fear of losing and rejection or commit to bringing something good to your spouse.

In the above passage, it talks about reaping corruption from the flesh. It contrasts that with reaping eternal life from the Spirit. There’s a consequence to your choice.

We all have fear. Fear is a reaction that stops us from doing evil, and is a powerful motivator. If I sowed evil, I would reap something that I wouldn’t like. The Bible promises something good if we live our lives by the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22  Who couldn’t use more love, joy, and peace in their lives? What am I expecting to get from my actions?

This is the classic idea of the carrot or the stick.

Reaping what you sow – how does this relate to a relationship?

This concept becomes practical when you apply it to someone you love. What do you want to reap in your relationship? Do you want a relationship that is meaningful, helpful, loving, caring, and affectionate? What are you doing to meet that goal? Does your partner feel loved and cared for? If not, perhaps you need to change your actions. In other words, you need to sow something else.

I emphasize this because you are the only one who can change things. You cannot change them. But if you change you then other things will change around you. Every change changes everything.

Last night, I decided to go to bed earlier to improve my rest. Do you think that change might have far-reaching effects? My answer is “yes definitely.” If it works for you, how about paying attention to your spouse’s schedule and needs for rest? This can be a positive place for you to build a positive relationship.

If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. – Galatians 5:15, NIV

If you sow criticism, you will reap destruction.

Focus on three areas:

  • Where do you want your relationship to be?
  • What are the consequences of your negative actions?
  • What are the consequences of your positive actions?

Some of that sounds like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. (DBT) Which I love to use in therapy. Ask yourself, “Will this action build our bond, or tear it down?” You get to decide.

If you do things like validation, listening, gaining understanding, and giving respect, you will reap a close connection. Where do you want to be in five years? Will what I am doing help what I want to achieve? Is what you are doing tearing down the bond? What would it look like if I was more positive less negative? How would that build the bond?

Several years ago I embarked on a building journey. I decided to build a small house in Alaska – Glacier Bay, to be specific. Twenty-four years later and with lots of effort and some money I am nearly done.

It is not perfect, but I am happy with what God has brought to me in the process. A house is a house, but this one is mine. It has taught me a lot about building, planning, and sticking with things even when they are difficult.

Forty years ago I started a different journey when I married my wife. Since then, we have made moves together, bought and sold homes, worked on projects, and had a variety of jobs. The bottom line is that all that stuff comes and goes but my wife is always my wife, until death parts us.

We are not perfect, but God has brought a lot of great things along the way, including this house which we have built together. We have two children. We have served in ministry in several churches and have many friends whom we love. What we build into our lives becomes part of our journey.

Back to the GIGO: if you build in love and thanksgiving, if you find the joy of life with each other and with what God provides. I believe God will bless you. If you build in selfishness and need others to give in to your way, then I believe you will find yourself alone and lonely, probably you won’t even like yourself.

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ – Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11 is not a promise specifically to each of us. It is a powerful statement about how good God is and how you can count on him. In every corner of the world, God’s children face trials. While He will not necessarily deliver us from all our troubles in this life, He will give us the hope and strength to thrive as we live through them.

Despite daunting circumstances, and in the face of great challenges, God is in control, and He calls us to work with Him and through him. God does not build garbage. GIGO could also be redefined to mean if God is in it God’s grace and goodness are what will come out.

I am David Daroff, and I am a Christian and a therapist. I would like to help you be better.

“Trash Cans”, Courtesy of charlesdeluvio,, CC0 License; “Reflection”, Courtesy of The HK Photo Company,, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Octavio Fossatti,, CC0 License; “Hiking”, Courtesy of Joseph Chan,, CC0 License