Symbolic Boundaries

Buzz word of the month in my world… BOUNDARIES. Acknowledging them, creating them, building them, sustaining them; BOUNDARIES. No, not the kind on the footy or cricket field or a row of shrubs or fence around a property. Acknowledging, creating, building and sustaining those type of boundaries seems like a breeze in comparison to the type of boundaries I am talking about. Shock horror; I am on about the emotional ones. The kind of boundaries we need to erect around ourselves in order to retain some form of self preservation, dignity and sanity.
Relationships are hard. They are also the most amazing and rewarding things in this life, but nevertheless, hard. I don’t just mean in a romantic sense – although my single relationship status on Facebook possibly signifies how I haven’t nailed that arena yet – but I am talking about all types of relationships. Lovers, family, friends, work colleagues, fellow uni students, the taxi driver after a night out, the person who makes your daily coffee; anyone you have an interaction with throughout the day, you have had some form of a relationship with them. Every person we interact with we affect on one level or another. Positive, negative or indifferent we are constantly impacting those around us and beyond. I didn’t make this up. It is something that has been long known by many, but only really recently being proven with modern science. Quantum Physics. Check it out. It’s so interesting!
But boundaries… Such an obvious concept; but if you are anything like me, both setting them and maintaining them is never an easy task. I mean they are obviously different in every dynamic and are ever changing as we grow and change ourselves, but it seems some people are just better at the whole concept and some of us need a fair amount of extra insight. Or it may be that in some areas of your life you are very comfortable with the boundaries you have in place but in others you are not. I mean you could be top of the tree boss at work and feel respected and appreciated by your staff but when you get home you’re in an unhealthy relationship in which you feel neither of those things. Or vice versa. Or many many many different combinations. The point is it is important regardless of their role in your life. Levels of importance would obviously vary with how much weight and energy you give the dynamic, but regardless, all are important.
I often feel for beauticians and hairdressers. I am totally guilty of this myself by the way; the OVERSHARE. You know the deal ladies; when you’re laying there waiting for them to zap you with a laser, rip the wax strip off your Brazilian, brush the knots out of your hair, or freeze you with a spray tan gun; you know pain or discomfort is coming. So what do you do to take your mind off of this inevitable agony we call a beauty regime? We overshare. We tell them about the time you pashed your cousin, or you wet yourself when you were really drunk, or you’re sorry you couldn’t shave before you saw them you ran out of time because you were constipated… These are not my stories – PROMISE-  but if you haven’t told something along these lines to a beautician or hairdresser at one point in your life I highly commend you!
The point is, this is a classic example of crossing boundaries. I am pretty certain if you have read a girly magazine ever, you would have come across articles in which people in these types of jobs share stories about the random stuff they hear and see. These articles then often go on to describe how some of the professionals find it funny, others annoying and others are indifferent. It’s all very subjective. So when my friends, therapists and just people in general start to constantly bring up the concept of personal boundaries to me over the course of a while, it got me thinking. Well, overthinking to be fair. I know! How unlike me!
Despite all relationships being important, most of us would agree, it is generally the people closest to us that can have the largest affect. In many cases that person is your partner. I know for me, I have had and do have many amazing people in my life but there is something about that closeness you share with you partner that nothing compares to. There is also nothing like when they get under your skin. In my experience, it seems to go both ways. I think it is only because I really genuinely care and you are sharing your whole self with that person. And putting two people into a situation in which they need to come together, yet be their own person, yet live how they want, yet respect the others persons values, morals, needs, wants and desires…. well it’s never going to go smoothly all the time is it!
So my question has always been… How do I give myself to someone, without loosing myself and compromising what I want and need? Basically without loosing sight of my boundaries about who, what, where, when, how I am comfortable with things. How do I be the open, passionate, caring partner I want to be, with all these personal boundaries up. Boundaries to me equals walls; and as I think I am displaying, I am trying to break down the walls not build them higher. Why is everyone encouraging me to do that? Why are important, intelligent, wise people in my life telling me to do that? I don’t get it. Well, I didn’t get it. Until a conversation at the retreat last weekend turned everything on its head in my mind. I could see for the first time, not just why it is important to have boundaries but also how to establish and maintain them in a respectful way. And it turns out I am perfectly poised to do just that. We all are if we want to. No surprises here what the answer is.The answer is…
Work on yourself. I know, how frustratingly annoying to hear that when you are so hard done by, and your ex treated you like dirt, and your friend is mad at you and won’t take your calls and your dad doesn’t love that you got tattoos – possibly my stories this time – but as in every thing in life, it comes down to the ONLY thing you can control. Your reactions to everything. Good, bad and indifferent.
Basically, we were showed symbolically what we tend to do within relationships. Every single one of us does this. The therapist stood there with a bunch of items. A notebook, a water bottle, a pen, another notebook, a piece of loose paper etc etc. She then went on to pass these things to her “partner”; otherwise known as another client listening to the conversation. As she passed each item to the client she gave it an emotion, need, expectation or desire that we would put upon our relationship partner. Examples; I need you to cook breakfast for me every day; If you go away for work, I am going to need you to call three times a day so I don’t feel insecure; I don’t like you to go out after work; You need to discuss every financial transaction with me before it is made….
You get it. The list goes on and on. For all of us. We all have things, both big and small that we expect from our partners. This is fine if both parties are aware of what these expectations are and are in no way shape or form resentful about the fact. What I mean by this is, possibly at the start you may want to cook breakfast every day for that new special someone because you want to impress them and have them appreciate you, but over time it starts to grate on you that you never have breakfast made for you. The feelings grow and you end up feeling angry, bitter, resentful and no longer wanting to give your best self to this relationship. Sound familiar? Small example really, but it is often how it goes. We help set the dynamic and then whinge about it later on.

So how do you work to get the balance in the dynamic that you crave? You work on yourself. You work through why it is that certain situations make you feel angry, sad, insecure, jealous etc. Like really sit there and think about it. Yes, the other persons actions could have been a huge contributing factor to the situation, but essentially if someone treats you badly, in one level you allowed it. You allowed them to disrespect you and your personal boundaries. This could be a very confronting thing to hear. I know for me, it made me get mad the first time I heard it. Like how dare you say I deserved some of the treatment I had received over the years. But that is not what it means. No one deserves to be treated with anything other than love and respect. But if that is not happening in your life, you need to look at why you are allowing that dynamic to continue. What do you get out of it? Would you treat others in that way? If no, why let them treat you in that way?

We could all use a bit more self love I think. A bit of reflective time in our incredibly, ridiculously busy lives we create for ourselves these days. Some quality alone time, to check in and see how we are doing. Are we happy and if not what can we do to change that. Treat ourselves how we want others to treat us. It’s an oldie but a goodie. You can’t truly love someone else until you love yourself. And I can honestly say, I am really starting to think I am super loveable!

Much love, Michelle xx

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