Feeling connected in friendships looks different for everyone. For example, some friendships allow for fun and don’t take life too seriously. However, others allow for support and guidance. Most friendships fall somewhere in between and allow for a little bit of both. Regardless of the type of friendship, a big component of healthy friendships are boundaries.
Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.Dr. Brené Brown
In the context of friendships, boundaries establish what is or isn’t acceptable within the friendship. This may be keeping a secret or accepting when someone says no. If boundaries are clear and respected, a friendship is likely healthy. On the other hand, unclear or disrespected boundaries are unhealthy in a friendship. As a result, this may elicit conflicts. How do we learn and establish boundaries? Attachment theory can explain this.
John Bowlby, the first attachment theorist, described attachment as the lasting psychological connectedness between human beings. Bowlby believed that bonds formed by children and their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. Further, attachment theory categorizes attachments into two categories: secure and insecure attachments.
When family dysfunction isn’t chronic and there is flexibility, this results in secure attachments. More specifically, the following characteristics establish a foundation for secure attachments:
- Rules are clear
- Messages from parents are explicit
- Members interact freely and ask for attention when needed
- Parents encourage individuality
- Members respect boundaries
- There isn’t emotional, physical, verbal or sexual abuse between members
- Parents are dependable
- Each member functions within their appropriate role
- Members handle mistakes appropriately
When basic needs are not met, children do not feel seen, safe, or soothed. Therefore, they do not feel secure, leading to insecure attachments. This might look like abuse, neglect and/or other household dysfunction.
Children who are securely attached as infants tend to develop stronger self-esteem and self-reliance as they get older. They might be more independent, perform better in school, have healthier relationships and experience less depression and anxiety. It’s important to understand that attachments are ever changing.
Unpacking these things can be difficult. Reach out to Covenant Family Solutions to learn more. Our trained therapists can help you identify, improve, and understand your attachment styles in all types of relationships. Additional resources include: