Divorce should be the last boundary you hold, not the first… but what does ‘boundary‘ even mean? That’s the topic of today’s video and post.
We all seem to have different ideas about what boundaries are. I used to think they were lines I could just make up at will and then give people ultimatums because of them, like, “If you want to be friends with that girl, then we’re done,” or, “If you keep playing video games, then I’m leaving you.” They were basically ‘if, then’ statements in my mind. I had no idea what they REALLY meant.
What Are Boundaries?
In reality, knowing our boundary is knowing and loving our Solid Self. Knowing where we end and another begins gives us a responsibility to protect and love our Solid Self — and also theirs!
So we are aware of not only our physical boundary (our body and personal space) but also our:
- And other resources
Basically, everything that makes us a person is deserving and worthy of respect and love… especially from ourselves!
So gross boundary violations are things like rape, abuse, or theft… these are times where we immediately move away from behavior as soon as we’re able and often there’s a form of punishment exerted by our government on this kind of behavior because it’s supposed to protect its people and keep them safe.
How Our Childhoods Made Boundaries Murky and Confusing
Yet we all have confusion about this because our parents usually said they loved us but THEY likely violated our boundaries:
- Through spanking
- Dismissal of our emotions
- Laughing at our ideas
- Barging into our rooms
- Reading our emails/texts
And if we didn’t undergo the process of differentiation and healthy independence from our parents, then we can become enmeshed or fused with our caregiver… meaning we feel like we are part of them and they are part of us. We feel responsible for their feelings and like what’s ours is theirs and what’s theirs is ours (including their problems).
Boundaries Teach Others How to Love Us
To put it most simply, boundaries are how we love ourselves, and setting expectations when we have mutual agreements tell others how to love us. Moving away from behavior that violates our boundaries also teaches others how to love us.
“I won’t let you speak to me that way. I’m going outside, let me know when you’re ready to continue this conversation with respect.”
“This behavior is unacceptable. I’m going for a walk.”
Boundaries are the litmus test for a relationship. To hold them (properly, energetically, and with love) means that the other person may have to admit that they aren’t able or willing to love us the way we deserve to be loved… so we may have fears about holding them because we know or suspect that it will cause the end of our relationship or their love to be withdrawn.
Setting Expectations Creates Mutually Honoring Agreements
And setting expectations (I’ll show up this way and this way only, and I’ll expect you to show up this way) can feel “bitchy” or aggressive to people who have no concept of boundaries. This is what happened to me when I first hired a graphic designer for a project. She outlined very specific ways that she would show up, including her fees for delays and her hours when she would respond to email. At first, I perceived it as kind of rude… until I started doing projects for others myself. Clearly outlining the way we’ll show up and how people can access us is actually kind.
Otherwise, if we try to hold our boundary when they had no idea what it was, they’ll feel wrong and bad and ashamed. Letting you know how I can and will serve you makes us both feel secure in the relationship because are both clear on exactly how to interact with it. If I tell you that I don’t respond to clients on weekends then you don’t feel confused about not getting a response on the weekend. If I didn’t say anything and then said, “Look, you’ve got to stop sending me messages on Saturday. I’m with my family on the weekend, I’ll respond to you Monday,” then you’ll feel bad and caught off guard. It’s important to set expectations for the way WE will show up and come to an agreement with others.
Ready to Learn More?
I have much more on this on my course, Getting the Love You Deserve, which goes into the 6 mistakes most people make when setting boundaries.
So when I say divorce shouldn’t be the first boundary you hold, but the last, I mean that we each have a responsibility to teach others how to treat us. Often there’s a build-up to abuse, and that’s the abuser testing how well you’re able to hold boundaries. If they destroy one of your ideas or dismiss your emotions, they’re testing to see what you’ll tolerate. They’re testing to see how much you love yourself. And if they’re merely repeating behavior you saw from your parents, it will FEEL like love, when it’s the furthest thing from it. Once they commit a gross boundary violation, you have to trust yourself enough to know that that is absolutely unacceptable behavior and you must keep yourself (or your children) safe. You’ll know if they are remorseful. You’ll know if they’re committed and doing the deep inner work they need. And you’ll know if it’s ever going to feel safe to return.
Finally, anger is the emotion that alerts us to a boundary violation in the present… ours or someone vulnerable, like our children. If you feel something other than anger (such as sadness) then it means you don’t feel worthy of protecting yourself… and that needs to be explored and healed.
If you’d like to work together on your marriage, please fill out a coaching application, and let’s get together on a call to talk about your vision for your family.