by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
I imagine you clicked on this blog post because you feel overwhelmed, or taken advantage of, in an important relationship in your life. Somewhere along the way, you heard that “setting better boundaries” would help, but you don’t really know what that means. I hope you find this post helpful!
Working the Tension With Christian Counseling
Maintaining a relationship requires constantly navigating the tension between separateness and closeness. On the one hand, each person needs to maintain their individuality. On the other hand, each must adjust for the benefit of the relationship. This tension never fully goes away, even in the best of relationships. Mature people in mature relationships are simply good at working the tension.
Working the tension begins with understanding that two basic relational energies fill the space between individuality and connectedness. Those energies are love and fear. When love is the dominant energy, the persons involved remain free to be themselves while also staying relationally connected. When fear dominates, the relationship becomes insecure in one of two ways. Sometimes connectedness overwhelms individuality and the relationship becomes emotionally entangled.
The persons involved become overly dependent on each other for regulating their emotions. Other times individuality overwhelms connectedness and the relationship becomes emotionally distant. When this happens, the persons involved become rigid and emotionally unavailable to each other.
Let Christian Counseling Help You Build A Mature Relationship
Mature people in mature relationships keep love central. They also understand that maintaining both individuality and connectedness involves two types of love: love of self and love of the other. This is captured in Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) Emotionally entangled persons love the other at the expense of self while emotionally distant persons love self at the expense of the other.
The difference between a mature person in a relationship and an immature person in a relationship is similar to the difference between a reservoir and a ravine. Reservoirs and ravines each channel life-giving water, making it available for those who need it. However, a reservoir also stores a large capacity of water. The outflow of a reservoir can thus be regulated and maintained when rain is plentiful and when rain is scarce. A ravine is quite different. It offers water when it rains, but has nothing to offer when there is no rain.
Love of self is like the water stored in a reservoir.
Love of self means knowing you have value and have something unique and important to offer. According to the Bible, humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and have inherent dignity as a result. Love of self involves taking time to understand how you uniquely reflect something of God. This means understanding your strengths and weaknesses, your needs, your limits, your gifts and abilities. Love of self means taking time for self-care (water flowing into the reservoir) so you can take care of others (water flowing out of the reservoir). Just to be clear, love of self isn’t worship of self. That’s narcissism. Neither is it loving others for the sake of self. That’s selfishness. Rather it’s loving self (as God created you) for the sake of others.
With Christian Counseling Find Love of Self & Love of Others in God
Those who look to Jesus for hope and help know the foundation for both love of self and love of others is the love of God. They also know God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:16-19). The love of God becomes the primary source of one’s deep reservoir of love.
When you love who God made you to be, you have the confidence to set better relational boundaries. Boundaries exist at the point of tension between love of self and love of another. They help you maintain your individuality while pursuing safe, secure relational connection. Setting boundaries isn’t a “one-and-done” activity! Rather, it’s a lifelong process of managing relational tension. It’s common to get stuck along the way. It’s normal to need help understanding the tension and setting the necessary boundaries. Counseling is one way to get that help!
Consider Online Therapy in Oregon for Christian Counseling
Our Clackamas and Hillsboro Christian counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can thrive again. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
- Learn about our therapy team in Hillsboro and our caring counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
- Feel more connected to the important people in your life
Other Mental Health Services at Life Discovery Counseling in Oregon
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, or Hillsboro, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!