Learning To Set Healthy Boundaries In Relationships.
I want the whole cake. That’s right, I want the whole damn thing. I’m tired of the crumbs, and can no longer only allow myself to take small bites.
So why is it that I keep gladly accepting the stale slices of love and affection when I know I deserve more?
Obviously this really has nothing to do with actual cake. I’m referring to relationships, love, affection, attention — the matters of the heart. Baffled is the only word I can think of to describe why I’ve spent so much of my life trying to move on from people who don’t even appreciate me, yet throw to the wayside the ones that do.
To be naïve about these things in my younger days was one thing, but the more conscious I’ve become of the self-destructive relationships I cling to, the more painful it is. It’s a deeper lonely, one that leaves me feeling vastly ashamed because I know it is self-created in a way.
Earlier this year I was determined to move forward towards independence, yet I slowly slipped back into old habits finding an unavailable man who could only be found when his schedule allowed and only gave me the bite-sized samples of the affection I craved.
My intuition screamed at me to run, pleaded with me to just move on, yet somehow I always found myself back in his arms feeling vulnerable and hoping for more. Although I knew that would never be the case. But why?
I struggled to understand the importance of setting healthy boundaries in my life. Unhealthy (romantic) relationships were something of the norm for me during my teens and early 20s. Thankfully I moved away from them, but during this slightly tumultuous time in my life I found myself slipping into old self-destructive habits.
As I continued to see this man, I was acting out my fears — ones I thought I had pushed past already, fear of abandonment, fear of not being worthy enough of love. By letting my fear guide me I was preventing myself from standing in my own power. Masking my needs for the approval and acceptance of someone was digging me into a hole of misery.
The Problem: No Boundaries
One of the many problems with my situation was that I had failed to set any boundaries from the get-go.
Relationships without boundaries are a sticky situation. One person may feel the need to save the other or need to be validated as worthy by their partner. Excuses are then made for one’s behavior, and in the end the other is left wondering why this keeps happening to me.
The simple answer is because without making clear what we will or won’t allow into our lives, we signal to the other person that they can do as they please because we are accepting that behavior.
Learn The Lesson
Not setting — or creating unhealthy — boundaries in relationships tends to be a chronic thing vs. a one-time situation thing, at least in my personal experience and observation of friends and family.
Recognizing the patterns in your life, especially those that leave you stumped as to why they keep happening, is key to learning where exactly you may need to start setting healthy boundaries in your life.
As someone once told me, lessons keep repeating themselves until you learn them. Once you become aware, it’s as if a little light goes off in your head each time something similar happens and you’re more in tune with the situation.
Boundaries aren’t only necessary for creating healthy romantic relationships either. I have a close friend who always talks to me about her inability to say No to plans with people. Her calendar is always full, whether she wants it to be or not, and in turn she’s left exhausted with no me time. This is another great opportunity to do some boundary setting.
In her case, clearing time that is dedicated to her needs only would help her situation.
Find What Boundaries Mean To You
At the end of the day, creating healthy boundaries really has a lot less to do with other people and a whole lot to do with yourself. You can’t change people, and if you’re still trying to get people to adjust to your version of reality, you’re fighting one hell of an uphill battle.
By setting boundaries you create the opportunity to acknowledge what it is you really want in your relationships. Your needs and wants are important and they deserve to be met, but I can personally tell you that will never happen if you display otherwise to the world. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say.
My personal favorite way to get a better idea of what is really important to me in relationships (and in life in general) is to journal to my heart’s content. The positive thing about having gone through negative situations is that we can use what we’ve learned we don’t want and channel that into creating a list or a vision of what is we do want.
Of course, change doesn’t come overnight, but making at least a small effort such as this can help to change your perspective on the situation and get in touch with how you truly feel about a relationship.
When we show up for ourselves, stick to our word, and create healthy boundaries, we gain a sense of empowerment. As this builds, our sense of self-love and respect also grows. I’m vowing to stay true to my personal boundaries and myself. There is no need to waste our precious life waiting on others to change or trying to change for someone else.
Making our needs and wants a priority isn’t selfish, it’s a necessary step to creating the foundation of healthy relationships.
Mariana Ruiz has an insatiable curiosity for the world. Through her writing she hopes to inspire others to find beauty in what surrounds them and to live a more heart-led life. Visit her blog or get in touch through Facebook.