The Desire to Reconnect Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy

By Dr. John Townsend

When my sons were small, they often argued and fought. Their disagreements erupted for any number of reasons, and sometimes, the best strategy seemed to be to separate them for a period of time.  When it appeared that they had learned a lesson and could once again play well, I let them get together again.

For the situations in which there was a bad guy and I separated them, it would seem to make sense that the hurt brother would have had enough of his offending brother. You would expect that the mean one would want to reconnect and reconcile sooner than the hurt one. But that was not the pattern; there was no pattern. Both boys always wanted to get back together and play after approximately the same amount of time had passed.

No matter who was the perpetrator and who the victim, the cooling-off period for each was similar. My best understanding of this is simply that their attachment trumped their desire to be away from each other. After a timeout, the desire to be together was stronger than their anger and fear.

This dynamic doesn’t apply just to my sons or even just to kids. It applies to all of us. Understanding the return of desire — the drive to reconnect — is key to learning what happens when you set boundaries.

When you set a boundary in a relationship, you create space, room, between you and another person. In healthy connections, the space simply defines you and the other person as two distinct individuals with different minds and opinions, but who still benefit from being connected to each other.

However, when you have to set protective boundaries with someone, the space you create between you is about guarding yourself from something not good for you: control or manipulation, for example. And the nature of the space can range from something minor, such as choosing to not talk about certain topics, to something major, such as moving out of your home or even permanently leaving the relationship.

Creating space has an obvious consequence for the other person, but it also has an impact on you. It can actually increase your desire and interest in a relationship, either the one you are working on, or a new one altogether. This is ironic, because when you have had a rough go of it with someone, you might think that the last thing you need is any kind of desire for another relationship: Give me space! And, while that is a common feeling at the beginning of the boundary period, it does not last forever. The space is a vacuum, and the vacuum puts your in touch with your God-given desire to connect.

Here is the point: wanting someone doesn’t mean you are crazy for having the desire, nor that the time is necessarily right to connect or reconnect with a person. It is simply a sign that you are alive inside and that the boundary has given you breathing room to feel your human need for connection. Pay attention to it, be glad you are alive, and use good judgment and good people to help you decide what to do with it.

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Discover when and how to trust again after you’ve set appropriate boundaries, how to connect deeply without being hurt, and how to safely grow your most intimate relationships in Beyond Boundaries by Dr. John Townsend.

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Comments

  1. Jeanne says

    Thank you for this timely reminder. This last December, my father died after a lengthy illness. He was a very charming man who was manipulative, controlling and abusive in our home. My mother passed away on the end of January and she was passive aggressive as well and abusive in her own way. There was much spiritual abuse in our family background and neglect and abandonment. I have done much work on these issues. More recently, an uncle died and we went to the funeral. I have not seen many family members in years. I greeted my aunt and there was woman sitting next to her who I did not know. I do not like to leave people out and feel that it is rude to talk to one person without acknowledging the other person. I shook her hand and said, ” I don’t believe I have met you.” and told her my name. My aunt jumped into the conversation by saying “Well, if you were still active in the family church denomination, you would know that this is so and so who is actively helping to install water filtration systems in Kenya.” In my family of origin, I have often heard that whatever problem I face is my own fault and own doing. If I have a difficulty with another person, the question my mother always asked is “What are you doing to cause this person to treat you like that?” I have since learned that is not the true way of things. All of my aunts and uncles are elderly so there will most likely be more memorials coming up in the next few weeks, months and so forth. My one sister has reconnected with me but she is very bitter toward the whole christian thing and mocks anything that is said in a service that she or her husband deem “an altar call”. This is also something I do not know how to respond to as I find my hope and life in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I know that is by grace we are saved and that there is know no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I have two other living sisters who have nothing to do with me as a result of our fathers continued abuse. They moved away to Arizona instead of telling the truth about what was happening and are involved in unhealthy lifestyle choices and very angry with God too. It seems like with these deaths, there are more things coming to light that underscore how very many things were not my fault or responsibility. I have to have a lot of support in order to go to any of these events. Many people experienced my mother very differently from how I did. I suspect boundary issues will continue to be a challenge for me as I go to these things and don’t seem to be able to see the emotional land mine waiting to explode on me. I am better than I once was but really wish I knew how to respond in the moment.

    • PJ says

      You sound like you’re on the right path to healing! All truth is from God – and His wisdom will guide you as you grow in Him. I’ve experienced a similar scenario- and it took years but healing is happening. Truth can hurt but not harm. You’ll be in my prayers, sister.

    • Shannon Edwards says

      I to had a very abusive childhood growing up, I dealt with all kinds of abuse. Even as an adult I dealt with abuse because I thought that’s what u deserved & how love was, it hurt. It literally ruined me and shattered my relationship with the Lord. I was baptized as a catholic when I was a baby and grew up in a very Stern catholic family. After my last ex bf betrayed me dearly for his mother and took my 4 month daughter at the time away from me, I was beyond broken. I hit rock bottom. I started hanging out with the wrong people & drinking more than usual at karaoke, it was just horrible, I was even ignoring my oldest daughter. I know in my heart the Lord wasn’t happy, but I also know He had plans to help me. I did try to attempt suicide a few times, but the Lord sent someone each time to stop me. I felt so alone, ashamed, used, abused etc I didn’t want to keep living without my baby girl or alone and without true friends that I could count on. Months after my last attempt, at my oldest daughter’s school I meet this nice gentle guy whose daughter at the time was also in my daughter’s class. Around Christmas time at a function he sees me & starts talking to me. I get home after the event, we start talking back and forth since the school event. We set up “a date” with the girls. Pretty much the rest is history. Here we are almost 5yrs later, he & I both got baptized together to become Christians a little over 2 yrs ago, his daughter also decided on her own to take the plunge, it’s been a little over a yr for her, and in a few weeks we’re getting ready to be married!! Our good Lord always has good plans for us, he makes the most horrible situations into the most beautiful things. I am living proof. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my days were I doubt, were I’m insecure etc, that’s when you look to the Heavenly Father and no one else. Only He can fill that void It took me so many years to learn that truth. It’s not easy, but all things are possible through Him that strengthens you. May God Bless you Sister and your family. ❤✝️

  2. Mandy@YouMakinMeLaugh says

    This is so helpful. Navigating through boundaries with people that I am closest to is difficult. They don’t understand the space I’m creating and I don’t have the ability to fully describe it to them at the time except that I want this to make our relationship healthier. It’s nice to know that wanting the relationship more when it’s not the right time to connect is natural and shows I’m human.

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