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Boundaries and Relationships

Have you ever had this amazing revelation and you go to share it with a friend and you can practically hear them thinking, “well, duh!” I recently had that experience. So, for all of you who know about and use boundaries, this will be old news but for me – and I think people like me – this is life-changing.

I first learned about boundaries in the 1990’s when Henry Cloud & John Townsend came out with their game-changing book, “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life,” It really revolutionized the way I looked at life. I felt empowered to develop healthy relationships and control the way I interacted with the world. I learned I could say, “no” to people. Later I learned I could say, “no” to myself.

My amazing revelation was the realization that other people could say, “no” to me and it DIDN’T MAKE ME A BAD PERSON! I was so desperately lonely. I felt abandoned. My pain at my lack of close relationships with others was deep and pervasive. I have many people that care about me but few truly intimate friendships – the kind where you can bare your soul and they ease your pain rather than minimizing it.

I was in my group and learned about the different levels of relationships: self, intimates, family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. I realized I had people in the wrong groups. I had friends that I was expecting intimacy with and expecting friendship from people who were really just acquaintances. I was mad at them for not behaving at the level I put them instead of where our relationship really was.

I also realized I wasn’t respecting THEIR boundaries. They only had a finite amount of time so while they may have wanted to be there for me, they had their own families to take care of and their own friends to support. I also had to acknowledge that they might not have wanted to be in a relationship with me. I don’t need to be friends with everyone and I need to respect those that choose other people instead of me. But most importantly, I had to realize that their boundaries didn’t define my self-worth. I am lovable. I am a good, supportive friend. I try my best to be a good Christian and all-around good person. That reality doesn’t shift dependent on other’s feelings for me. I can set boundaries around my relationships and so can others. Sometimes, we just have to say, “no” and that’s okay.

Photo by Dave McDermott on Unsplash

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