This past weekend a good friend (and soulmate) of mine assembled a group of his closest allies to join him in celebration of his sixty-fifth birthday. It was a gathering more than a party, an opportunity for a trusted few to convene around a fire for a quiet moment of shared time and reflection. My friend, at this juncture of his life, was looking forward toward his remaining years and asking for help with taking what he called “a leap”. Read more
People are always changing, flowing through shifting emotional states. As we morph throughout time, one of the things that fluctuates is our desire for emotional–and physical–closeness. This phenomenon can really complicate relationships! Your partner might not want to cuddle or have sex or share a meaningful conversation at the exact moment you do, or vice versa. You might want to feel closer to someone who doesn’t want closeness, or want more distance from someone who seeks greater closeness from you. An important question then arises: What’s the best way to manage these ever-shifting desires for closeness and distance? Here’s what I tell clients.
One of my fondest memories is from one night in Thailand. I was alone at a café on the banks of the Mekhong River, looking across into Laos on the other side. The weather was perfectly clear where I sat but, over in Laos, a storm was moving slowly along the river’s edge. Peacefully, I watched the storm safely from afar, the moon overhead in an otherwise vacant sky. While I sat comfortably sipping my coffee, I marveled at the storm’s hundreds of lightning strikes as it crept, like a mythical goliath, across the far off shore. It was a truly beautiful hour of my life.
The issue of boundaries has long been a hot topic in the field of interpersonal psychology and, over the course of the past several decades, much has been written about this important subject. Questions about how to understand and define one’s personal limitations and to communicate these effectively to others so that these are respected and honored are valuable ones to answer. As such, the idea I am going to share in this article is not intended to completely contradict or undermine notions of “healthy boundaries”, but rather to develop this concept one step farther—toward the place where even “healthy boundaries” can be replaced with something, well, even more extraordinary.
Most of us want to be close to others, to share deep connections built on trust and love and affection. We want relationships in which we can open our heart fully, knowing that another person will not stomp all over it when we do. We want to be vulnerable, knowing that intimacy requires it, yet we do not want to get hurt. We want two things really, intimacy and safety. Luckily, these goals are not mutually exclusive. We can, indeed, have both, once we answer the question, “How can I protect myself and build intimacy at the same time?”
You might wonder how the art of giving permission relates to parenting, especially towards young children. After all, are you expected to give permission for your son to play with a set of steak knives or for your daughter to jump on top of a friend’s dining room table while you’re stopping by for a visit? Are you really expected to give permission to everything?