Boundary Basics

In the previous posts, we’ve covered communication, motivation, and balancing needs & rights. The focus has been about seeking to honor the other in our relationships. Today’s post will shift to drawing lines in the sand. It may seem difficult, but we do not honor the other in our relationship by becoming doormats.

How do we set boundaries without guilt?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe have to begin by recognizing the value of boundaries. We don’t always do well with boundaries in our relationships. We tend to do one of two things, trample the other’s boundaries or fail to set any for ourselves. We honor the other in our relationships when we respect their boundaries, and we honor them just the same by setting our own boundaries.

It can seem easier to go with the flow, letting the other person have their way. Problems arise when we cross lines we are not comfortable with or we allow our identities to become lost. These breed resentment and bitterness. They keep us from truly being able to engage fully in the relationship, offering the gift of ourselves. We cannot add the richness of our perspective and unique gifts to the mix of a relationship if we allow them to be broken down , buried under layers of compromise.

Boundaries are beautiful.

Ask any gardener about the necessity of creating boundaries between planting beds, they will tell you that boundaries allow the plants to flourish. The invasive species are given their own space, but those vulnerable to being overrun are protected.

Photo by emilina

Photo by emilina

Boundaries allow us to retain our beauty, our individuality. This does not mean we don’t grow and change because of our relationships, we do and we must. It does, however, keep us from becoming the creature of the other.

I believe we have a creator, already. As a Quaker, I recognize that each individual bears the image of the creator in a unique and glorious way. To allow another to so shape your person that you cease to be who you are meant to be is a sacrilege. It is a desecration to remake someone in your own image.

Boundaries are not a rejection.

Boundaries preserve sacred elements of your personality and the personality of your loved one. They are not a rejection, but an embrace of everything that makes each of you unique. Boundaries keep you from being consumed and from consuming the other. They can only offend if the intention is to love you like dinner instead of a work of art.

When we set boundaries, then, we must do so in love, with patience and good communication so that our intentions are clear. This keeps the guilt fairies at bay, and reassures the other that we are seeking the health and preservation of our relationship.

Setting boundaries must be intentional. It does not work well to set them in the middle of a conflict. Be pro-active, thoughtfully decide where you are unwilling to bend. Contemplate your words carefully. Warn your loved-one in advance of the content of your conversation. Invite them to consider their own boundaries and set a time to discuss them when neither of you is feeling pressed for time. As much as possible, schedule this conversation when you are not under external pressures. Sometimes it is inevitable, stress does not always follow our timetables, so do your best to focus your attention on the task at hand.

Boundaries set us free.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOddly, there is freedom in knowing where the limits are. No more tiptoeing, feeling for the line, or suffering disappointment or confusion by being vaguely redirected. It is helpful to know what is off the table, and where we can play freely. We are each set at liberty to be ourselves, to rejoice in the individuality of the other. We can have the other’s back and trust that they have ours.

Balancing our needs and desires, communicating clearly, being set free.
How Refreshing!

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