Recently, I have been thinking about the different relationships in life. We first start with bonding/attachment as in the parental relationship. Attachment is needed for the child to feel secure, loved. Attachment can be healthy, too much (smothering) or not enough (distanced).
Then we have relationships with siblings.
Then there are relationships with peers, also refereed to as friends.
Friendship is the main "relationship" that I will focus on here.
Speaking from a point of psychology, relationships are necessary to help us feel attached to others. From a spiritual point, relationships/friendships are helpful to attach us to the world. We focus on other people, not just our small/narrow view of the world. It is said in the Bible that God created us (humans) for relationships.
Relationship with God, relationship with Self, and relationship with others.
I have found that as we develop, we put more emphasis on the relationship with "others" than we might on God or Self. Ironically, it is the views of others that shape our opinion of our selves. (This is especially noticed in adolescence, and hence peer pressure, either real or perceived, comes into play here.) Hopefully, we develop someone normal and have relationships which help us to feel happy/content, and as time goes on, we realize that it our opinion of Self that matters, and God's opinion that matters versus the opinions of others (unless of course, we are acting in a way that harms self or others.)
Relationship are dependant on a number of factors. Personality, social skills, boundaries, reciprocity, trust, accountability, and a host of others.
I remember when I was younger, I had low self-esteem, and few friends. I thought that a bad friend (or date) was better than no friend. Well I have changed my mind. One of the key aspects about relationships is reciprocity. Do you get out of the relationship what you put into it? Is the one person doing more of the "work" at maintaining the relationship? Because of my low self-esteem, when younger, I sought to do everything I could to maintain this "friend" otherwise I would be alone. But I came to a realization about a few "friendships" that I had. That they weren't true friendships. We didn't share equally -- either because of our own lack of ability, or because of the lack of trust. True, there are certain people that we only go shopping with, only to the gym with, lunch with -- we save certain activities for that person, but not we do not "share" our lives totally.
In relationships, of any kind, there is give and take. One person is the "giver" and the other is the "taker". A similar theory (psychology) also states that in a relationship. One person is the "pursuer" and the other "recedes". The more that person pursues, the more the other one backs away. When the pursuer stops, the other person stops backing away and moves forward. (I guess the hunter and prey?) When I learned this theory, I remember seeing correlation of said pursuance and avoidance in various relationships. (What about when both back away? Obviously the relationship will break up/die, and wasn't "true" to begin with.)
Over the years, I have had various friends complain about the "needy" someone in their life. It is likely that this "needy" person has had attachment/security failure at some point in their life. Based on what I wrote above, this person is trying to get fulfillment from "others" versus Self or God. I think that we need all three in the relationship. This is the dilemma. As a Christian, I have been taught that all people are created in the image of God, by God, and hence they are just as important to God as I am. I have also been taught that we are to help others just as would need in our life. (This is reinforced by such teachings as the "Golden Rule" Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As well as Matthew 25:35-46 in the parable of the Sheep and Goats...
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' )
Society also teaches us that sometimes the way to help someone is to let them fail. Where is the line between helping from sense of duty, and the line that says this "needy" person is using you? How/when do we put our foot done and say enough is enough? It hurts us to hurt others when we are trying to help them, but they don't want the help we wish to give. or is it hard to say "no" because we are taught, as above, that we should help others because what goes around comes around. I think that one answer may be in the Credo below. This talks about honesty, trust, boundaries and how to maintain a healthy balance for Self and others involved.
You and I are in a relationship that is important to me, yet we are also separate persons with our own individual values and needs. So that we will better know and understand what each of us values and needs, let us always be open and honest in our communication.
Whenever I'm prevented from meeting my needs by some action of yours, I will tell you honestly and without blame how I am affected, thus giving you the chance to modify your behavior out of respect for my needs. And I want you to be as open with me when my behavior is unacceptable to you.
And when we experience conflict in our relationship, let us agree to resolve each conflict without using power to win at the expense of the other losing. We will always search for a solution that meets both of our needs - neither will lose, both will win.
Whenever you are experiencing a problem in your life, I will try to listen with acceptance and understanding (empathy) , in order to help you find your own solutions rather than imposing mine. And I want you to be (such) a listener for me when I need to find solutions to my problems.
Because ours will be a relationship that allows both of us to become what we are capable of being, we will want to continue relating to each other - with mutual concern, caring, and respect.
- Dr. Thomas Gordon
Effectiveness Training, Inc.