From the moment we take our first breath, we need a healthy bond with our parents. When we are hungry, our parents feed us; and if we fall, they pick us up. This secure connection sets the stage for healthy relationships in the future. By having a secure attachment, we feel seen, heard, and understood.
As we get to be older, we go off to school and learn how to develop relationships with others. And at the end of the school day, we come back home to our parents and hopefully get our needs met. This bond gives us the stability to learn to separate from unhealthy people and relationships. It can also help us to develop boundaries.
What if we did not form a strong, healthy bond with our parents? Maybe our parents were not able to—or chose not to—meet our basic needs. So, our basic needs for love, warmth, and affection were not met; and we may develop an insecure attachment style. We might think:
- “I am unworthy.”
- “No one values me.”
- “I can’t share my feelings.”
Is it too late for you to have your needs for bonding and connecting met as an adult? No! Even as an adult, you can learn to find comfort, relief, and connection. You can connect with others in healthy friendships; and in your marriage you can learn how to bond. It begins with awareness of your feelings and how to communicate your needs with the people in your life.
The first step is to learn how to bond with others. Sometimes people who develop insecure attachment styles want to fuse with other people and never separate. It’s toxic—it kills relationships! But others who try to go it alone, and never do any bonding or connecting, never experience healthy connection.
You can learn how to bring your emotional and spiritual needs to safe people. Who is safe? It’s people who are able to see, hear, understand, and allow you to be yourself. If they love you, connect with you, and want to share life together with you, you will discover healthy connection. It takes ongoing commitment and connection.
Second, it’s important to learn how to separate from others and create boundaries. Letting the other person do the things that they do, and giving them space, is healthy. You need to learn to do things on your own. We all have our own unique tastes, gifts, talents, and abilities which often involve things you do separately from others.
Boundaries are where you begin and end in relationships. When you have a secure sense of self, you’re able to share who you are with others—and accept that others have different needs and desires. When we are enmeshed with others, you can’t detect the difference between yourself and them. Being able to say ‘no’ when you need to, and to learn to ask for help, is all part of a healthy relationship.
You need both bonding and boundaries like you need oxygen. You need to bond, which is the inhaling. And you need to exhale, which is having boundaries and learning how to be separate and different. The passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a great framework for healthy relationships. Take some time today to read through this passage.
To learn more about bonding and boundaries, look at these books: “How We Love” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich, and “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. You can also learn more by participating in a Life Recovery group. For more help, please call 1-800-NEW-LIFE.