Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it. – Kahlil Gibran
We make investments every day. We invest our time and emotions in relationships, we invest our commitments, our dedication to our jobs, and we invest money into our 401K plans. Whether it is love or respect, advancements or pay raises in our careers, and large retirement funds, we invest because we expect a return.
A recent turn of events led me to check my portfolio in a relationship that is fairly new. I felt as if I was investing more than what would be returned to me so I checked to see what kind of return was in store. This all stems from fear and the need for control. Every fiber in my being wants to control this relationship. I need to define it. I need to label it. I have to or it will end.
In my quest to define this relationship and protect my investments, I decided to set some boundaries. My cousin, Shelly, told me to read the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This book teaches you how to say no, when to say yes, and how to take control of your life.
The passage in the section of “Friendship Boundaries”, changed my life. The authors describe boundaries as this,
Boundary conflicts in friendships are difficult to deal with because the only cord tying the relationship together is the attachment itself. There’s no wedding ring. There’s no job connection. There’s just the friendship – and it often seems all too fragile and in danger of being severed.
So, aren’t friendships at greater risk of breaking up when boundary conflicts arise? This type of thinking has two problems.
- First, it assumes that external institutions such as marriage, work, and church are the glue that holds relationships together. It assumes that our commitments are what hold us together, not our attachments. Biblically and practically, nothing could be further from the truth.
Choice and commitment are elements of a good friendship. However, we can’t depend on commitment or sheer willpower, for they will always let us down.
- The second problem with thinking that friendships are weaker than institutionalized relationships such as marriage, church, and work is assuming that those there aren’t attachment based. If it were true, wedding vows would ensure a zero percent divorced rate.
It’s 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 is love. And that’s the one thing we can’t control.
At any moment, any person can walk away from a friendship. However, as we enter more and more into an attachment-based life, we learn to trust love. We learn that the bonds of a true friendship are not easily broken.
There it was. The truth in black and white text glaring at me. I was so concerned with the external attachment – commitment – than the actual attachment itself – love. I kept thinking, if I could just grab a hold of the external attachment, then I could let go – give myself fully to the relationship. That verbal commitment would be the glue that would keep us together forever.
As I threw myself into this book, I realized that I was creating boundaries that closed me off and protected me in an unhealthy way. I created boundaries around my words. If I say this, or say that, he will leave. I created boundaries around my heart. If I love like this, or love like that, it will scare him and he will leave. It’s not that I don’t trust my friend. It’s that I don’t trust love. Love has failed me over and over again. Love has let me down. Love has crushed me. When it was supposed to protect me, it ended up hurting me.
As it turns out, I didn’t receive the commitment I was looking for from him, but I decided to move forward in the relationship anyway. He is my best friend and I cannot see life without him. Besides, what do I have to lose? Love is the return. Love is costly, love is risky, but it is truly the best return you can ever receive.
Love is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. – C.S. Lewis