In a post on pairedlife.com, Jeannie Marie writes that while social media has done a lot to help couples find that special someone, the “relationship status” option found on Facebook adds unnecessary drama and complication to dating.

In her article, Jeannie navigates the complicated process of choosing a Facebook status that best reflects and communicates your particular circumstances regarding your relationship with a special person. She shares an evident frustration when she writes, “Unless you are 12 years old, there shouldn’t be so much drama behind it, but yet there is.”

My favorite among relationship status options, and the one that may be most honest, is “It’s Complicated!” And in Jeannie’s list of possible interpretations for this status, we find this morsel of brutal honesty — “I need counseling, but instead, I air my dirty laundry on Facebook. It is therapeutic for me.”

Relationships are a form of attachment with another person or thing. Attachments are a necessary and sometimes messy part of life. Nevertheless, the most basic building blocks of reality are relational. And we come out of the womb dependent upon other persons for survival. And this reliance that we had on our caregivers for food, water, safety, and dry diapers helped shape the Facebook status we chose decades later.

Sasha Jackson and Kristen Fuller write, “Emotional attachment is a normal part of development. You are driven to connect to those that provide a sense of protection, comfort, and validation.” But there is a balance. “Attachment can become toxic if you rely too much on others to satisfy emotional needs.”

Psychologists categorize how we approach relationships based on responding to others with whom we’re emotionally attached. There are four basic attachment styles, and we generally fall into one of them.

A slight majority of us are said to be securely attached. In other words, for the most part, we’re okay with relying on and getting close to other people. And we’re comfortable that others depend on us. However, this also means that we don’t freak out when another person is not around.

It’s comforting to have a close association with a person secure in their attachments. Unless I’m not secure. For example, if I’m anxiously attached, I constantly worry whether my friend really cares that much about me. And I am easily hurt or scared if I don’t get enough attention. In fact, any separation feels like rejection or abandonment.

But what if I avoid closeness altogether instead of clinging to someone I care about? What if I avoid getting close to others and have an extreme need for self-reliance? What if I’m distressed by any thought that I’m dependent on someone else? The good news is that there is a name for this style — avoidant attachment.

And what if I can’t make up my mind about the idea of being in a relationship? I feel secure on my better days, but I’m not really sure how I feel about my relationships? Therapists call your primary style disorganized attachment, which often occurs due to trauma.

Regardless of your dominant attachment style, Aundi Kolber reminds us that help is available, provided we decide we’re willing to put in the effort. She calls this pursuit “earned secure attachment” because we’ll need to do some work to reprogram how we respond to signals that are otherwise interpreted as threats.

Our attachment style comes out of our stories. Not the fictional stories we tell ourselves and others that keep our secrets away from scrutiny. Rather the non-fiction stories of our actual lived experiences, including those experiences that happened before we had any say in our relationships.

Content on the internet in general and social media, in particular, is more fiction than non-fiction. Setting intentional fraudulent statements aside, there may be more misinformation on the world wide web than helpful content. Nevertheless, who doesn’t google “Who is Jeannie Marie” before making an important decision based upon her latest post?

While “fiction” is by definition not real, it is often based on stories of actual persons. And when Jesus told stories, His stories were likely based on actual persons as well. Fiction is most enjoyable when we find ourselves in the story. This is often the case with the stories told by Jesus because His stories are based on you and me.

Consider the story named for its main character, the prodigal son. The main characters are the father, the older son, and the younger son, who leaves home searching for adventure. While the gender of the characters is irrelevant, their roles are significant.

The younger son asks his father for his share of the family estate while his father is still alive. Jesus wasn’t big on details, leaving us to fill in the blanks as we make the story ours. I’m not sure how such a request for his estate share even works. Families, at that time, were centers of production, and this particular family was successful enough to employ additional workers.

Family businesses are not usually that liquid. Making it difficult to write a check representing a substantial percentage of the total operation. Most of the estate was land, with perennial crops and livestock. A younger son’s portion is substantially smaller than the oldest son’s share. Somehow it works, and the younger son leaves town with his share.

What happens to the younger son’s portion is mainly left to speculation, which biblical translators love to weigh in on. Perhaps based on their own stories or a fictional story they tell themselves. Nevertheless, the money runs out, and the younger son is left penniless and homeless.

The parable of the prodigal son is a rich to rags story that many entrepreneurs recognize and live through. As have numerous young adults. This is where you and I fill in our own details about finding ourselves, mistakes and mishaps, and trials and tribulations. The adventure we set out on when we chose to strike out on our own.

We’re left to speculate on the differences between the two brothers in temperament and personality. Unfortunately, Jesus doesn’t tell us about their attachment styles, although we can guess with the details we’re given.

And what about their relationship with their mother, father, or other nearby caregivers who influenced their childhood? Was either of them securely grounded in their relationships? Were they “securely attached” as children and capable of healthy relationships? Again, this is a reasonable assumption since it’s estimated that over half of us are fortunate enough to be in this category of relational health.

Perhaps neither brother benefited from a near-perfect childhood. A successful business demanded time from their parents, which pulled them away from their children. How many years separated their arrivals? I imagine the older brother as loyal and sticking close to home.

For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.
Luke 15:24

Author and therapist Aundi Kolber shares that she entered adulthood hindered by an “anxious ambivalent” attachment style. Shaped in large part by her parents’ dysfunction, Aundi shared her suspicions that other people would eventually let her down. Fortunately, through therapy, she found the healing that helped her develop secure, healthy relationships with those closest to her.

But when the prodigal son finds his way home, he discovers that his father’s love wasn’t lessened by his failures. Instead, his father welcomed him home with celebration.

Where are you in this story? In what ways is this your story? Are you feeling like you lost your course or your motivation to keep looking for where you fit?

You can join us each Sunday online by going to the button on the homepage of our websiteClick here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.

A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.

Pastor Tommy

Content for this series is based in part on? Aundi Kolber. Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode–and into a Life of Connection and Joy. Carol Street, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2020.

Jeannie Marie. “The True Meaning Behind Facebook Relationship Status Updates.” © pairedlife.com, Feb 3, 2022.

Sanjana Gupta. Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman. “What Is Emotional Attachment and Is Yours Healthy?” © verywellmind.com August 19, 2021.

Sasha Jackson and Kristen Fuller. “What Is Emotional Attachment & When Does It Become Unhealthy?.” © choosingtherapy.com, February 12, 2021.