I feel compelled this month, above other love topics, like relationship MOTs, attachment, desire and even sex, to address another fascinating arena in our interactions with significant others. Boundaries. Do you have them ? But more to the point, do you think you should have them ?
As a healer and educator I have seen and see a huge amount of pollution going on in people’s lives and energy fields which seems to be reluctantly accepted "stuff" from other people's baggage and shortcomings. I usually ask people what boundaries they have in place to define the acceptable line "of self" that we all need to function as healthy human beings. Lots of blank looks have come my way on that one.
Boundaries ?...is it not about control and defence and aren't we more unhappy behind them ? Ok, I say, then how do you feel right now knowing you are here with me and feeling contracted and sick and unhappy ? Mmmmmm...ok let’s start with a definition....boundaries, say my online dictionary are ..."real or imagined lines that mark the edge or limit of something". We all have a limit ..right ? Beyond that limit is one thing, something that is not right and you feel it and know it, I don't need to teach you that.
In relationship terms, boundaries need to be healthy ones. Let's not muddy boundaries with defences. Defences are usually learned mechanisms from childhood in order to keep us safe and protected from hurt and pain. Defences are a whole nother subject already discussed in "What’s Your New Year Survival Strategy" in December.
Boundaries are essential, initially in preserving and allowing you to be who you really are and then giving others a limit on what they can and can't do in your "you" space. You wouldn't let any Tom Dick or Harry run amuck in your garden that you had spent years nurturing and tending. You would have a boundary in place that says...admire my garden from where you are and I will let you come and have a look round it when it's right for us both. In the same way with relationships, it IS perfectly acceptable to set out your boundaries.
Get this, other people who love and care for you will respect you for defining your boundaries and they will also have clarity on where they stand with you. People who give you hassle are the ones with their own undefined boundaries but who seem happier interfering with other peoples to try and find their own ! One of my clients spent years with a controlling husband, only to end up wrecked on all levels and unaware how to really find the place to exert her boundaries, for fear of physical abuse. How sad that we feel we should just let people rampage in our lives in order to placate them.
But why do we often not have boundaries ? Well in some spiritual teachings, collapsing boundaries is supposed to bring openness on all levels which I assume means freedom within, but then I observe and talk to people who have done just that and they have opened themselves to all sorts of pain. I have been told it can be a feeling of not being defined in human form and of wooliness in relationships with others. Spiritual masters have defined boundaries as a means of control of self and possibly others. So let’s look at a definition of control....."to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command". Mmmm.....just not the same....it feels restrictive. It is our perception of words and their use to a certain extent and what that means to you, is your use of the word and past meanings. But here I attempt to make good my little word called boundary.
Boundaries are needed ! Boundaries are fun ! Boundaries create and define who you are ! Boundaries help you to have happy healthy relationships ! In Imago Therapy (http://www.gettingtheloveyouwant.com/), the Intentional Dialogue technique attempts to bring whole communication to the other, in relationship. The technique helps you to visualise your partner being an island and when you want to talk you set up an invitation to dialogue where you invite your beau to be fully present on your island for it to take place. This island is the boundary between you and them and it is a place where they visit your business and world. It is NOT their place to own that space in any way shape or form. Controlling, does bulldoze boundaries and yeah ok we are all trying to control our freaks to a certain extent, but you get the picture.
Another reason why we don't often exert boundaries with others and this is a biggie, is the need for love. So many of us compromise ourselves to get our partners to love us and have given up all rights to being whole because the need for love is the dominant force. In my own experience I often morphed to become who my boyfriends wanted me to be, so not only did I have no boundaries but wasn't even looking like the real me...heck !
Many people step way out of themselves in the drive to be loved and there are gazillions of examples here. I have done it and have seen my friends do it all over the place. "Please love me" being the afterthought. Often we are too afraid to say "this is how it is for me and in order for me to feel happy this is where my boundary lies" because we are afraid of reprisals and ultimately being left. Hell...loving is scary enough as it is, without giving someone a list of respectful boundaries, I hear you cry. Often we NEVER communicate them and the trial and error stuff, while to some maybe fun, to others, creates a mare.
But what of not having them ? The majority of people who I speak to feel unhappy and at worst, totally depressed, without boundaries. The instinctive feeling is that living with lack of clarity on where they stand as individuals with their husbands/wives/partners creates a pattern of gradual erosion of a relationship. A friend of mine felt dishonoured and disrespected by his wife and constantly complained about things with her, but when questioned more deeply he knew that she didn't know where she stood with him on a number of subjects... especially when it came to what she expected him to do to help with the kids.
So what do boundaries look like in relationship ? They are the ones that honour and help you grow in relationship and usually fend off bad behaviour and negative emotion that only harm you. Respect is one of the laws of a good healthy balanced relationship and boundaries help create that. If your partner knows where they stand with you and you them, then everyone is happy. Boundaries say, "this is who I really am and if you want to be with me and create a conscious relationship, then this is how far you can go before you reach my limit". Perfectly acceptable ! Think of a time where you exerted a boundary with your partner. What felt right for you ? I sure it felt honouring for you on many levels.
Be careful though how you communicate a boundary to your sweetheart. This is all important. Telling your partner what they are not doing to make you happy is not a boundary but a controlling behaviour full of blame... here's an example :
"Honey you have no right to shout at me with bad language. You aren't going to get anywhere with that attitude" - this serves only to inflate.
"Honey when we fight I feel hurt and upset when bad language is used. I can't accept communicating in this way. Can we try another way please ?". See the difference.
Use "I feel" language and "I can't accept...when.." Know that is it ok..OK !
When I see people exerting them and using them properly, hey presto, a happy and respectful relationship is the result. So I urge you to practise, practise, practise. If you are not sure what I mean, get in touch and we can talk it through !
Lastly and in the name of opening to grow, for those of you out there with no boundaries in your relationship...how has is it been for you ? I would love to hear from anyone who has got along admirably with their loved one, without them. Above I state theories in practise, but everyone is beautifully different...joy !
Have a wonderful week
Blessings and love