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Dual Relationship

Question:

I’ve known my pastor for 11 years and went to him for counseling upon the death of my dad, and upon the aftermath of an abortion. These latest counseling sessions he offered to hold me and comfort me physically. This went on for about 4 months. Nothing happened but lengthy hugs. Then I began falling in love with him. But then he started pulling back, and distancing himself from me. I sent a cassette tape to him stating my feelings of love and hurt at his distancing. That was 3 months ago, and still no reply or response at all. WHAT HAPPENED?! Can we still hope to have a relationship? If so, HOW?

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  • ‘Anne’ is the pseudonym for the individual who writes this relationship advice column.
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Answer:

It is easy (all too easy) for a vulnerable and hurting person to fall in love with their pastor or therapist (or other supportive authority figure) whom they know and trust. However, getting involved with your pastor (or therapist, etc.) is generally a bad idea. Doing so confuses the relationship between you both. Experience shows that most such pairings end up doing more harm than good. This is because as you try to get close to your pastor, you inevitably change the way you and he relate – where before this man was your pastor – now this man would be your pastor AND your lover. This is often called a dual relationship. Many professional organizations have ethical principles that prohibit such relationships. Your Pastor ought to have known better than to offer you physical comfort. However, he appears to have acted responsibly (if without social grace) in avoiding your offers of intimacy. Please do give up the idea of a relationship with your Pastor and put your loving energies into forming a bond with a more equal partner. Thanks for writing, – Anne

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