Sunday, 7 August 2011

the boundaries of good taste

Why is that women (in particular) are poor at maintaining boundaries?

I'm sure that nearly every post-coupled woman I know could point to boundary issues as being one of the main reasons their relationships failed (oops...I mean...are no longer in existence...)

What makes a good boundary?  Why do we even need them?  And if they get pushed, stretched, challenged, or removed, what does it matter?

For me, boundaries are about knowing what I am prepared to give, and what I am to give up.  It means knowing what I consider to be OK and choosing, intentionally to either stand firm, or make a compromise - because sometimes we have to do that.

When the relationship falters, it means looking at the whys...should I have allowed myself to accept that particular behaviour?  Should I have responded in that way?  How did that make me feel later, when the burst of raw emotion had dissipated?  If that happens again, how will I respond?

I had cause a year or so ago, to point out one of my boundaries to a (male) friend.  He was upset, which was just fine.  Talking about a work incident.  Got really worked up about it.  Language started to deteriorate.  Body gestures became bigger.  Voice louder.   My natural (long learned and long lived)  reaction was to say nothing.  After all, it wasn't about me was it?   But something stopped me.  I realised I did not want to be around that kind of reaction - no matter how righteous the other person felt.  And so I said: your reactions are making me uncomfortable.  I can't, I won't, deal with this anger in you.

It was scary, oh yes - I didn't know what response it would get.  But it was also liberating.  For one of the first times in my life, I claimed my boundary.  And continue to do that.

Boundaries make sense.  They give us guidelines.  They actually make life simpler I think - if we know where they are.  Nothing wrong with pushing them sometimes, but unless you have them to start with, there's nothing to even push against.

Similarly the boundaries of friendship/relationship/connection.  The clearer they are for you (for me!), the easier it is to stay true to myself....and hence attract the kind of people who value me for being me.  We hang on to people, experiences and relationships because of the good in them - that I understand - but often the reason those relationships have evolved to where they are now is absolutely because the boundaries changed - or absolutely need to.

Sometimes that means putting up that fence so high I can't see the person on the other side...other times it might mean leaving a gate open - but it's still a line, that I  decide for myself.  I figure as long as I am clear to ME about what my boundaries are, that's what's important and allows me to be truly me.

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