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Judy Lair is a licensed counselor and owner of Counselorplace Christian Counseling. She is the author of “From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living.” Judy’s personal struggles with fear led her through the valley of hurt and sorrow. She now embraces a joy-filled life grounded in God’s truth and freedom in Christ. Judy uses her professional counseling expertise to tell stories that help people find healing and freedom. Her vulnerable, godly approach helps people find courage to move from Fear to Freedom. For more information or speaking requests, email JudyLair@counselorplace.com or sign up for blog posts at http://judylair.blogspot.com

 “Freedom is attainable. Trust me, I’ve been on the anxiety side, gone through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and now I’m praising God, eating at the banqueting table, and helping others make the same journey. Whether you find yourself stuck in anxiety, disappointment, grief, or confusion, your heart can be set free.” Judy Lair, “From the Other Side of the Couch.”

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Relationship Models

John 13:34 gives us the commandment to love one another -- yet this is impossible to do in our own strength. Since we disconnected from the source of love when Adam & Eve left the Garden, humankind has been scrambling to figure out how to love well based on our own understanding. This is where viewpoint is important, because the answer is found in the principles of relationship, not created through a series of behaviors or found in a roller coaster of feelings. Most folks don’t realize they are living out the same unhealthy model in all their relationships, which explains why things don’t work out over and over again. In my office, I draw three different models of relationships and ask clients which one they saw growing up and which one they currently living out. I categorize relationship models into three main areas: Narcissistic, Negotiation, and Relational.

Narcissistic Model

One person lives within the comfort zone of the other

Narcissistic relationships center on the comfort zone of one person.  The Narcissistic relationship looks like the old All In The Family sitcom. Archie Bunker sat in his chair in the living room and made himself the center of the household. He lived completely in his comfort zone, demanding everyone come to him. His wife, Edith, catered to his wishes and when she hesitantly asked Archie to meet one of her needs, he became a bully, intimidating her to the point where she apologized for bringing it up. The dominant person learns what words and actions will get them what they want. Sometimes that’s getting someone to back off and stop asking them for something. Other times, the dominate person wants something and figures out how to badger, intimidate or manipulate others to get it. The dominant person can manifest as 1) a mean bully, 2) someone who chooses isolation, or 3) a victim/emotional black hole. For every narcissist, you will often find a “loving” co-dependent partner, one who doesn’t know the difference between being loved as a person and used as a resource. The only role for the co-dependent in this model is to give up their own personhood and live completely within the dominant person’s circle. I define personhood as permission to own one’s thoughts, emotions, opinions, and actions. When personhood is denied or locked away, we live a submissive, robotic existence. Our personhood encapsulates the most interesting and unique qualities God created in us. 

Negotiation Model

Individuals interact with each other but always stay separate entities

The Negotiation relationship model focuses on business-type transactional exchanges to meet needs.  Bargaining is the currency of this relationship in “do this for me and I’ll let you do that for you” type interactions. It’s a step up from the Narcissistic model because the two people are able to move out of their comfort zones towards the other. However, the level of willingness to sacrifice is usually measured by what someone gets. People often settle for this model when the person they care about cannot or chooses not to work towards living out the Relational model. The cost of this strategy is learning how to push down the longing for more. 

Relational Model

Each person pursues the other in the areas where their lives do not directly overlap

The Relational approach is based on interdependence on God and each other and has a “one another” focus. We move toward each other, enjoying the direct overlap of our lives, and proactively pursuing each other in the indirect areas. When our partner can’t directly experience an area of life with us or meet a need, they can move towards us by listening, encouraging, inspiring, and comforting. Allowing God to heal our own baggage and mature us individually has a direct impact on our relationships and our capability to support the other person’s growth. “One anotherness” is about heart attitude; each person intentionally turning their heart toward the other.  My son Ben has had a fascination with sports cards and memorabilia since he was little. I’d buy him a pack of cards and we would look at the players together, talking about who we each liked and for what reason. My criteria involved a big smile or pretty blue eyes while Ben appreciated all the stats and records. I didn’t have a clue as to why one brand of cards had a higher monetary value than another or why one particular player’s card was a rare find. What I did know was that Ben loved sharing his knowledge and passion for cards with me. Moving toward him in this area allowed the light of his joy and excitement to brighten my day.

We are meant to live life in the presence of one another. That can look many ways, but it’s determined by the intent of our heart to be known intimately. As a human being, Jesus surrounded himself with people who lived with him every day. He could have done it differently, kept himself separate and apart from people until it was time for his sacrifice on the cross. But he didn’t. Instead, Jesus chose to walk alongside humankind, giving everyone the opportunity to interact and experience him personally. When we can feel out someone’s heart and character, it allows us to forge a relational bond. I believe everyone who had an encounter with Jesus came away knowing he saw straight through to their heart.

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