Last week I wrote about the importance of having boundaries. This week, we explore the downside of NOT setting boundaries. Actually, this is more or less the same thing since there is absolutely no upside. It’s all bad.
Victimland is heavily populated with people who have never drawn a line in the sand that says, “This far but no further.” You’ll find them endlessly complaining that they have been trampled on, disrespected, misunderstood and used.
The martyrs are there, too, whining about having “loved everyone to death” and still they got no respect.
Well, of course. If you don’t set boundaries, what else can you expect? You get what you project.
Other folks do set boundaries and then become willing to compromise them hoping that the person crossing them will later come to respect them. How delusional is that? It will never happen.
How many times have we seen this situation: A woman sees a man who seems attractive and zeroes in. Then, after a while she notices that his behavior is not consistent with her values and continually crosses her (weak) boundaries. Undeterred, she says to herself, “If I love him enough, he will change.” That is a strategy for disaster, and it happens all the time.
Tracy, aged 52, had tried this strategy three times. Three times she chose men who had addiction problems, and each time she imagined that she could save them so long as she loved them enough… the classic rescuer-martyr, co-dependent archetype.
Why did she do that? Most likely because she had watched her father drink himself into oblivion and had been unable do anything about it.
In each of these marriages, she was acting out her guilt about not being able to save her father. She was also carrying a lot of her mother’s pain as well.
She came to the workshop to deal with the pain first, and then she learned how to create boundaries and negotiate respect for them from a partner.
She is now in a new relationship with someone who is not an addict. She has enough self-respect to know when and how to say “No” – even if it means risking the relationship. That is now a price she is willing to pay in order to be true to herself.
Tracy’s story is very common among women, and not unheard of among men. Men without boundaries may find themselves at the other end of the bully stick, playing the role of victim to a partner who takes advantage of his weak boundaries. Either way, the solution is to take time, like Tracy did, to establish strong boundaries and then negotiate with your partner how each other’s boundaries can be respected. It will change your relationship a great deal for the better.
If you and your partner would like some help in doing this and other things to put some ummph into your relationship, join me at the Expanding in Love Workshop. We’re doing two of them, one here in Atlanta, GA and one in Truckee, CA. Grab your partner’s hand and run towards a healthier relationship. Or, come on your own, shift your own energy, and experience the difference it makes, whether you are in a relationship now or not.
I’m looking forward to meeting and working with you.