As I was writing the first half of this article, it started out as just a nice piece pointing out that when I, personally, am in a relationship, I revel in its boundaries. It makes me feel more comfortable knowing what I can and cannot do to please my partner. But as I kept writing, I became convicted and the broken side of myself began making its way to the surface. I soon realized that I was writing this piece for me. And then, to make SURE I was heading in the right direction, a woman poured out her soul to me about how she has gotten so lost in her relationship with this man and she cannot figure out how it got so bad. He has convinced her to do things she was uncomfortable with and has grown to loathe herself. He gives her just enough to justify in her mind that he "might turn things around any day" but still manipulates her in every way.
And she's not the only one! So many others have fallen in love with partners that have continued to cross their boundaries and we have allowed it. It becomes a never ending cycle of seeing how much he/she can get away with and how many hits to our self-esteem we can handle. I have allowed my boundaries to be crossed and once that happens, it becomes difficult to put those fences back in place. I was raised to think better of myself and to not allow a man to treat me disrespectfully. But I fell in love with a man that didn't hold me in as high regard. I don't think most people go out to abuse a partner maliciously. It comes down to he/she pushes for a way THEY want to be treated and want to treat you, and if you don't stand your ground, they have made the decision for you. If you say it with your mouth but your actions still allow it to happen, your words become meaningless. If you condone or reward bad behavior, why should they ever stop??
Hang on, this is where I get upset...
My heart ached for that poor woman but then I got angry at her... then, I got angry at me!! For allowing things to happen!! I allowed it to happen!! I allowed this other person to make me believe that the way he was treating me was perfectly acceptable, as long as he said he loved me. Ugh!! You are your own person!! You decide what you are going to tolerate and what you are not. If your man/woman is crossing over your core boundaries. You owe it to yourself to walk out that door.
I know what you're thinking, "Elizabeth, you are always talking about trying to save the relationship. Make things work. Stick it out. Don't give up." Yes, I am. And I do believe all of those things. And if your partner is willing to come back over the boundary line and respect you, I say keep trying. But you have to be the one who holds those boundaries in place. Because if it was crossed once, they will try again. When you are in a relationship and you allow your boundaries to be torn down it destroys your self-respect.
When you have boundaries of your own AND THE COURAGE to hold up when they are being pushed against, you will feel that inner battle raging inside you but you will come out triumphant. Either by keeping your character in good standing or by showing this person to the door.
I know how you feel, I promise. "But if I do that, he'll leave me." Let me ask you this? How do you feel about your self right at this moment? How does it make you feel that he/she doesn't respect you enough to treat you well? Sure, you might be alone for a while. It might be a long while, but it is certainly not worth him/her taking chunks out of your self-esteem and dignity the longer he/she stays with you. He is obviously not the RIGHT one. God created relationships to be fulfilling, nurturing, and designed to bring you peace.
That being said, let's talk about how to turn things around. How to re-build that self-confidence. If I can do it, you can too.
The little picture at the top of the article is very true. YOU teach others how you want to be treated by what you allow. People will adjust around you.
If you are strong in your convictions, most won't even try to bump up against them. Or if they do, they quickly retreat. But if you don't hold yourself to that higher standard, why should any one else. If you keep allowing your boundaries to be crossed, regardless of what comes out of your mouth, you are telling them by your actions that you are okay with their behavior. We don't want to feel rejected, we don't want to feel alone but then, when we allow them to cross our boundaries we have no right to be upset when they don't treat us with respect! And that's exactly the cycle we put ourselves on. They treat us poorly and so we think if we love them more and give up more of ourselves that eventually they will stop treating us badly. Stepping back and looking at it... It Makes NO Sense!! There has to be consequences!! If you reward bad behavior with candy (ie:more love), why would anyone change?!
Why are you afraid of letting this person go?
- afraid of being alone?
- afraid he will become the man you've always wanted him to be but with someone else?
-afraid of him thinking or talking badly about you because you "gave up" on the relationship?
-afraid of just saying NO, I don't accept this anymore?
I have said "yes" to every one of these. And because of that, I wasted time. Valuable time. Time that I could have been happier. Time I could have spent improving myself. Time I could have poured my love on someone else. Don't do that to yourself. You are worth so much more that he/she is making you believe.
Don't waste your time trying to analyze his behavior. Don't try to make excuses for her behavior. Your gut is telling you that things are not right. You don't feel good about yourself and bottom line, that's never okay. See it for what it is. You already know, and if you were waiting on someone to tell you what to do, allow me: Let him/her go. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
You are more than this relationship. You are more than who you are around this person. Reset your boundaries and stand by them. Treat them as your signal light. Green for go, yellow for caution and red for heck no!!
Teach others how you want to be treated. Decide for yourself how you want to be treated and then become that person. Be true to yourself and others will follow your lead.
Sometimes, I wish I could be like those people that "live on the edge"; going where the wind takes them, not worrying from one day to the next where your next paycheck will come from; where you'll lay your head from night to night and loving who you might as you float along.
I find that I like boundaries. I like living within the confines of a set of rules. Not so much that I feel oppressed or creatively stifled, but just enough so that I can feel free to run about the boundaries I have set for myself or those that I agree to- so that I feel a sense of security, which in turn, gives me a sense of... freedom, of all things!
There are times that I like to test the edges of those boundaries, you know, just to make sure that they're still in place. Like, I don't know... speeding. I love to drive fast. But there are limits set as to how fast I am safely allowed to go. And yes, I test those limits and am always- ALWAYS- reassured that they are in place for a reason and I am reminded by the red and blue flashing lights, the quick drainage of my gas tank or my faithful SUV ratteling and grumbling under the strain. So, I pull back with in my boundaries, satisfied that I totally lived on the edge for a minute there, but am rewarded by an uninterrupted, longer, peaceful journey.
And such is life and relationships.
Love may know no bounds, but sometimes, you just need to reign that stuff in! I like to know my boundaries in all of my relationships, be it love relationships, friends or even as a parent. And you each test those boundaries to find out exactly where where they are especially since life and love doesn't come with a check-list! It is a testament to your character how you handle those tests and it the testament of your partner that shows respect when he/she comes near those edges.
Boundaries allows each person in the relationship to feel more secure. There is trust. There is respect. And when there is security in a relationship it can find the courage to grow. A relationship that does not have secure, respected boundaries remains stagnant. Still, until one side budges. Think of a parent and a stubborn teenager. The rules are set in place for their safety, but the teen doesn't understand that yet and so there is no cohesion. The relationship between parent and child becomes strained. Trust is tested.
The same is true with friendship and love relationships. Look at, for example, an abused wife. Her boundaries have been crossed. She shuts down. Her self-esteem is shattered. The relationship cannot grow or mend until the boundaries are set back in play and respected.
Having accountability with each other gives you an unspoken set of rules to live by so you can each stretch out with in those boundaries and feel free to love, argue, learn about and bond all while feeling perfectly secure.
Can't We Just See How It Goes? Do We Have To Have Boundaries?
Without boundaries, it can leave each person unclear as to their role in the relationship, or even the future of said relationship. Nothing feels settled. You are in a constant state of "limbo" waiting for boundaries to make themselves clear. It creates unnecessary insecurities for one or both partners.
Other reasons for boundaries:
- It shows respect for your partner and for yourself. If you don't respect yourself, then why should anyone else? Some people seem to think that if they enforce boundaries that they will be looked down on, or left out. But since when is having high moral character something to look down upon?? And take just a moment to look at the one who is looking down. Probably the one trying to cross your boundaries and disrespect you in the first place.
- Boundaries aren't just to keep others from disrespecting you. They also keep YOU from disrespecting YOU. So you don't allow yourself to be put into situations where that can happen. And you are strong in your beliefs so that when someone tries to test those boundaries, your inner alarm goes off and you protect yourself.
What Are Your Boundaries?
Boundaries are rarely talked about but more likely shown. As I mentioned, there's no check-list when it comes to dealing with people in our lives. Yes, relationships have rules that the majority of the public follows, but you also need to be aware of your own personal set. They create your boundaries and how fiercely you protect them.
Decide for yourself what you are willing to accept in a relationship and then trust your instincts. And because relationships are built of a give- and-take system, your boundaries will develop on different levels. Your Core Boundaries are the ones that are un-waiverable. The ones that if he/she tries to cross them, you show that person to the door. Others are a bit more pliable and can be moved or even sacrificed for the sake of the relationship. But again. listen to your gut. It will tell you when you are heading down the wrong path.
Boundaries FORCE you to hold yourself accountable for your own happiness and... even for your misery.
Hang on for PART TWO of Loving Your Boundaries- Learning to Say NO! Coming Soon...