by Ros Kitson
This article is about boundaries. I’ve been hearing lately about people who are in unhappy relationships, about those who feel put upon in some area of their lives and those who are just unhappy with their lot. Now, there may be many reasons why this is, but one that often comes up is poor boundaries.
And this comes down to what you are prepared to put up with.
And this is closely related to what you believe you deserve.
Let’s start with relationships. Does he/she treat you in a way you dislike or take you for granted? And do you grit your teeth and let it happen or do you stand your ground?
It’s never too late to break a pattern, but it’s easier to set your boundaries at the beginning of a relationship. Early on in one of my relationships, a boyfriend told me to wear a certain outfit to an event. Now, I’m sure he was just trying to be helpful and was indicating that he liked the outfit. However I’m quite sensitive to being told what to do and I certainly didn’t want a pattern of being told what to wear, so I deliberately wore something different. Nothing was said – it wasn’t an issue, but he never told me what to wear again.
I wonder, though, what would have happened if I’d decided that I’d wear the suggested outfit in order to “please” him. I wonder if he’d somehow get a message that I liked this kind of behaviour from him and whether it would have encouraged him to do it again. We’ll never know, but it can show how the simplest behaviours can set a precedent which creates a lifelong pattern.
I think it’s good to know someone else’s boundaries. A different boyfriend was always obliging towards me; he always seemed to agree with me on everything. Although it might seem lovely, it was tiresome. I wanted to know where his boundaries lay. My instinct was to push and push until I found them and I had to hold back and be very careful not to treat him harshly. It was not a good situation.
Over the years, the level of behaviour I believe I deserve has increased and as such my boundaries have become clearer. Back in the past when I had less self-esteem, I’d be happy to relax my boundaries if it meant I felt more wanted and popular. But, although I had friends, I don’t think this behaviour was what attracted them to me.
As my self-esteem was increasing and I was starting to assert my boundaries, I remember a situation with an acquaintance I didn’t know very well. She felt I was causing trouble and had decided to “tell me off” like a naughty school kid but I stood up to her making it known that was not acceptable behaviour to me. I hadn’t done that kind of thing before and I must admit I worried about it all night. I had to see quite a lot of her so it could have been awkward if there was any lingering bad feeling. But to my amazement, she came up to me the following day and was very friendly, whereas we’d barely spoken before. It seemed that something had shifted in her view of me.
Some people regularly stay late at work because they think it’ll earn them more points with their boss. Some people give all their time to their friends because they think they’ll appear a better person. Some people become ever-pleasing to their boyfriend because they hope he’ll love them more. These strategies are unlikely to work.
There’s nothing wrong with giving of your time or your energy, but it’s important to only do it when you genuinely want to and not because you’ve created a condition to it. Often these conditions come from a belief in how the world should work, but they may well not be the belief of the other person.
So, at the end of the day, it’s up to you alone to decide what you’re prepared to give and put up with.
Tags: boundaries, change, choice, emotional challenges