As I read through Boundaries, something clicked; something that had been circling the gray-matter for a long period of time, but that had been undefined & way too nebulous to be coherent & understandable…
Of course it made sense: Boundaries are established in me, by me, for me, that I would live according to & congruent with my values. That I would be able to say “Yes” & “No” according to what I really believe, think, & feel, without attempting (needing?) to attempt the futility of making others happy with my decisions. To no longer try to avoid real/perceived conflict by making decisions/living life in such a way as that these ‘significant’ people in my life would approve. Just to be.
Real boundaries deal with self-control – in that they deal with ME. Boundaries are definitely not lines drawn in the sand in thinly veiled attempts to control others by putting restrictions on them, using guilt, threats, &/or the withholding of approval or affection. Not calling something ‘boundaries’ that is really just an attempt to punish others into changing. Or to manipulate their decision making using the ‘silent’, (or is it pouty?) treatment. Or to withdraw from relationship & call it a boundary. That sort of behavior would only be exchanging one form of relational unhealth for another. (NOTE: Boundaries can only be worked out & on in the context of relationship. To cut someone out of your life isn’t a boundary. It’s retreat. It’s based in fear. It’s immature.)
Self-control sounded good, as did personal responsibility. Then I started realizing & thinking through the consequences & potential loneliness in making such decisions. Claiming & owning responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings, emotions, & actions, while no longer using the familiar scapegoat of blaming others for my circumstances. Even my wife. I wanted something different for me, & for my marriage, & so did the Bean.
Taking personal responsibility was like unwinding a string from a sweater that just keeps unraveling. In my marriage, I’d seen myself, for better or for worse, as a victim of circumstance; a victim of the decisions & choices of another; & I often felt sorry for myself because of those choices, & how they “kept me” from making decisions that were in line with how I really thought & wanted to live. It was no longer ok to live in the status quo, silently (usually) bemoaning the state of our relationship, without delving into real depths of transparency & communication. Displaying little of the unconditional respect, love, honor, & trust that we’d both promised to extend to each other “as long as we both shall live.”
I discovered the pseudo-safety in being the ‘good guy’ (self-proclaimed) because of my spouse’s relational choices. It was a place I loathed, but one where I stayed because of fear. No more.
Instead of complaining & being miserable about my wife’s choices, & blaming her for what amounted to my own inaction, I resolved to make my own decisions. Not to bail on my wife or the relationship – but to choose & live differently. To be my own person, & more importantly, to let my wife be HER own person too. To no longer feel or live like I needed to ‘compensate’ for what I saw or interpreted as her weaknesses, or to attempt to cover over her decisions that had bad consequences (for me.) Call it enabling, call it codependent, call it being afraid of being alone, or being responsible for me. Whatever. No more.
At the root of what had to be overcome was fear – in particular a paralyzing fear that I tried to ignore & avoid, to no effect. In a nutshell:
I feared that if I made the decisions & choices that were consistent with the boundaries I set with myself, if I lived in this manner, I would be rejected, abandoned, & no longer loved by my wife.
There was nothing in our past or present that would support that conclusion, but it was real to me. And I wrestled. It seemed wrong. But I knew it wasn’t.
In the middle of the decisions to change how I lived, to set & live by boundaries, I had to be ok with whatever ‘consequences’ came as a result of the choices I made. And to let the Bean make whatever decision she would make. And love & accept her unconditionally, no matter what. And to know that she’d committed the same to me. Now we just had to live it.