A few years ago, (ok, now that I think about it, its more than a few. About…7? 8?) I came across a book that eventually ended up transforming my life & my marriage – it was Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend (which sounds like a great name for a ’60s folk group. But I digress…) Its one of the reasons that me & the Bean are probably going to lead a small group this Fall 2008 semester called “Boundaries In Marriage.” (I ripped off the title from another book. But that’s for later.)
The high point for me was that it articulated very clearly & concisely something key for enjoying life in its fullness: we need to be able to say “Yes” & “No” – in a way that our outward declarations jive with our inner values, thoughts, feelings, emotions, & to me the most important – our relationships with the people closest to us. That a lot of us struggle with ‘people pleasing’ & end up functioning in an incongruent way – we are saying Yes to stuff we really want to say No to. And vice-versa. Because we want the approval of the one we’re speaking to. Or something like that. We’re afraid of being rejected. Minimized. Thought to be inferior in some way. Mocked. Derided. You get the idea.
I’m going to blog about this in the context of marriage, but please don’t check out on me if you’re single – the concept applies across the board for close friendships/relationships. One of the biggest issues that this exposed was the very common choice in marriage relationships for one person in the relationship to choose to say “yes” to a person not in the immediate relationship to avoid conflict (or any of the above negatives,) knowing full well that it means that the person they’re married to will have to bear the brunt of their decision. In effect, they will ‘choose’ to fight it out with their spouse etc. rather that with the person of lesser status (meaning that the spouse takes #1 spot in life. Or should.) They ‘prefer’ the person that is not the spouse over the spouse. Which stinketh, because the whole ‘leave & cleave’ part of the marriage vows have to do with the ‘preference’ of spouse relationship over all others – not rejecting other relationships, but recognizing that if we’re marrying, this relationship takes preeminence over the rest.
Hope you’re still with me – I’d never heard of Boundaries before, but I understood the concept – believing that we all need/have a set of life-guiding values that help us know what to say “Yes” & “No” to. And why. Maybe not everyone has these. The values help us to not be tossed to & fro by someone else’s ‘vision’ for our life – no matter how influential or significant the role they play (or want to play) in our life. Or have played in the past. Seems it usually pops up with extended family (parents, siblings, & others of that ilk) & close friends, but it sometimes happens elsewhere…
This isn’t a unique issue that only a few ‘weak’ people struggle with; from my experience in pre/post marriage counseling, the area of ‘preference of spouse’ & knowing, establishing, & maintaining healthy boundaries is a major, major issue for a lot of couples. And if it isn’t for one spouse, it often is for the other. Which means its a problem for both. (Kind of along the lines of “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Or something like that.)
Why did it change my life/marriage? I’ll get there. It’s dinner time – & I’ll pick up my ramblings when I get a chance. Ciao!