Many of us have thought that boundaries were needed only for enemies or those we don’t get along with. But the fact of the matter is that we have boundaries with everybody we interact with. Some are more strict and demonstrated boundaries, others are more laxed and fluid. Nonetheless, we do have boundaries with friends and they are just as vital, or maybe even more vital than the causal acquaintance boundaries.
The result of this relationship is that neither one really does what they really want. They end of being almost resentful of the relationship. They don’t have much sense of need or benefit from such a relationship.
Despite the possible idea of having this friendship to help each other, it is hard for two compliant people to help each other, because they won’t speak up. Compliant people politely deny their own boundaries to keep the peace.
2. Compliant/Aggressive Controller
Probably the most noticeable style of relationships. Where one is in charge and one goes along for the ride.
These friendships take a toll on a soul. The compliant will begin to develop resentment in the relationship and hopefully begin to avoid the friend. I say hopefully because it is an unhealthy relationship and if things don’t change, they need to change.
The aggressive controller most likely got in this position, not by choice but out of learned experience. When things get in trouble and help is needed the aggressive controller reaches out to whoever will jump in and help.
This is a strange relationship, where one person (compliant) feels frustrated and resentful, and the other (Nonresponsive) wonders what the problem is.
The compliant feels depressed, resentful and unimportant because of the unresponsiveness. They are not getting back what they feel they deserve in the relationship. Meanwhile, the nonresponsive feels guilty or overwhelmed by the other’s needs and demands.
The compliant person in this relationship is often one who has experienced abandonment in the past and in the relationship they fear that if they don’t control their important attachments by doing all the work, they will be abandoned. They attempt to cultivate a relationship into something that it is not.
The truthful reality is that the compliant needs to allow the nonresponsive to bear their own burdens, and carry their own load in the relationship. The nonresponsive does not take the necessary responsibility, because they know the compliant will take care of what needs to be done (codependent).
Questions about Boundary Conflicts with Friends
1. Aren’t Friendships Easily Broken?
Scripture teaches us that we cannot depend on commitment and sheer willpower to retain our relationships, because they will always let us down. Even when we commit to loving relationships, bad things happen. We are broken people in a broken world with other broken people.
Now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus – Romans 8:1
The answer is being “in Christ Jesus”. In other words, in relationship with Christ, both vertically and horizontally. Loving God vertically and loving other horizontally as Christ would. As we stay connected to God, to our friends, and to our community groups, we are filled up with the grace to hang in there and fight out the boundary conflicts that arise. Without this external higher power, we’re doomed to an empty willpower that ultimately fails or makes us think we’re omnipotent.
All friendships need to be based on attachment, or they have a shaky foundation.
The bible teaches us that all commitment is based on a loving relationship. Being loved leads to commitment and willful decision-making, not the other way around.
It is scary to realize that the only thing holding our friends to us isn’t our performance, or our lovability, or their guilt, or their obligation. The only thing that will keep them calling, spending time with us, and putting up with us is LOVE. And that’s the one thing we can’t control: LOVE.
2. How Can I Set Boundaries in Romantic Relationships?
Just the concept of friendship should clearly show us that they are risky. Two broken people attempting to get along. Dating is that training ground to see your compatibility and opportunity for marriage. Dating is a practice and experiment. The end goal of dating (which there should be an objective to dating besides “benefits”) is to decide, sooner or later, whether or not to marry. Dating is a means to find out what kind of person we complement and which whom we are spiritually and emotionally compatible with. It’s a training ground for marriage.
Dating is a way for adults to find out about each other’s suitability for marriage; it’s not a place for immature, injured souls to find healing. This healing can best be found in community and support groups, bible studies, therapy sessions.
We need to keep separate the purposes of romantic and nonromantic relationships.
3.What If My Closest Friends Are My Family?
God created the family to be an incubator. A place to be safe when we are young and a place to grow up. The family was never intended to take the place of the relationships offered by others. Once the incubator has done it’s job, then, it’s supposed to encourage the young adult to leave the next and connect to the outside world. Genesis 2:24 states that a man should leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife to become one. No where does it say we remain at home and cleave to our parents to become one.
4. How Can I Set Limits with Needy Friends?
One of the biggest challenges that people face are defining limits and boundaries on those closest to them. Most of the time the reasons, as we have been learning, are rooted in fear. We don’t want to lose what me might have.
Some times people can confuse serving in ministries as friendships, when that are not friendships, but acquaintances. Many people volunteer and serve and hide behind the role of servant. The sad part is, if they don’t have a place to serve, they don’t have anything. This is because they have not allowed or nurtured the opportunity for true friendship.
The bible tells us to comfort with the comfort with which we are comforted:
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. – 2 Corinthians 1:4
We need to be comforted before we can comfort. That may mean setting boundaries on our ministries so that we can be nurtured by our friends.
Storms of Life
Friendships and all relationships are messy. None of it is going to be easy. Even if we get a healthy relationship, it takes effort to maintain it. To weather the storms of life. Notice the reference to storms, not a single storm, but a variety of storms.
Our behavior and attitude in our friendships is impacted but the big 3:
- The enemy
In our relationships today, they are always impacted and adapting to life. A good friendship can get impacted by one’s spouse, a career change. Life in general.
Any of us can be impacted by the attitude of others and then our needs and motivations bend and twist and they impact our engagement with our friends. If someone in the world condemns us and the enemy attacks our self-esteem, we may respond in our friendships by withdrawing more, or being more needy. Continuous interactions with our friends is vital.
In all the challenges laid out in this chapter, all of them put a strong need for community groups. Read and re-read through these sections when you get in trouble. Seek healthy community groups were you can share your struggles, where you can talk through your hurts, habit, and hang-ups. Where you can voice your emotions and get supportive guidance for healthy friendships.
From Friends to Marriage
Friends are a life need, and for many, lead to marriage, and that is another whole chapter that we will read this week and grow in Christ’s understanding to be better men, fathers and husbands.