Setting boundaries.

Linda: When a partnership is in trouble, we can get to the point where we can no longer continue with the lack of respect being shown to us about any areas of our partnership, it is time for change. The time has come for an up-level in our responsibility, intentionality, and pro-active behaviors. The shift comes with recognizing that we are not a victim of our partner’s treatment of us, but a co-conspirator. For months or years, we have been teaching them what they can get away with or what we are willing to stand for. We may have believed that our only two choices were standing it (whatever the it is) or leaving the relationship. I am offering another alternative to consider. By moving out of our former passivity, drawing different boundaries, our partner’s behaviors are likely to shift. But it is not an easy transition.

Here are some common patterns that once identified can be modified.

~Your partner is angry, critical, judgmental, bossy, aggressive or controlling

~Your partner is passive, lazy, and under-functioning. By not pulling their weight, they are putting you in a position of being over-functioning to carry more physical, emotional, mental or financial weight.

~Your partner is threatened by emotional intimacy and you have accommodated their avoidant patterns allowing them to remain comfortable, but which leaves you feeling, sad, lonely and unloved.

~Your partner has entitlement and does not reciprocate your generosity, resulting in your feeling exploited, due to your giving and their taking.

~Your partner is possessive and jealous so you curtail your friendships and activities is an attempt to appease them.

~Your partner’s frequency of sexual desire, or their preferred type of sexual activity dominates your sexual connection.

~You do not enjoy the status of being number one, being relegated to inferior status to your mate’s job, the children, or other interests.

These are just a few examples of the devil’s bargain made in an attempt to keep the peace. But if we accommodate to patterns that are robbing us of our sense of self-respect, over time the price becomes too dear. There comes a time to draw boundaries differently. On things we can be sure to count on is our partner’s resistance to change. They have been indulged for so long that they have come to expect that the old patterns will continue indefinitely. They will surely attempt a change back maneuver, which often involves a guilt-trip stating that we are selfish, uncaring and unreasonable. Threats to leave the relationship are common, and in the most extreme cases, there can even be threats of suicide.

Boundary setting is an essential skill for good relationships. We must be able to say “no” if something doesn’t work for us. Once we are able to give a resounding “No”, we are empowered to give a resounding “Yes”. It is fear and confusion that prevents clear boundary setting. It’s a piece of work to get clear internally what works and doesn’t work for us and then more work to be brave enough to speak that truth. We lose power and effectiveness when we speak with anger or threats. Coming from a place inside ourselves of quiet certainty is most effective.

Sometimes we have to risk it all to have it all. We are likely to be severely tested when we establish different boundaries. It is a formidable challenge to hold fast to our new boundaries and not succumb to our partner’s manipulative tactics to go back to the old system. To establish a balance of power, reciprocity must characterize the relationship. It is helpful to remember that there is a tremendous amount at stake: our hard-won self-esteem, dignity and self-respect and a relationship that works for both of us.


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