As we get older, we tend to realize that our idea of "normal" doesn't really exist. Most of us grew up around some sort of familial dysfunction - whether it be divorce, family secrets, emotional abandonment - the list goes on. And while none of these issues are certainly the fault of, or controllable by us as children, deep-seeded issues are hard to change. They can manifest in our adult lives in any number of ways; especially in our dating/relationship experiences. One common issue that presents itself in our adult relationships, is the creating and maintaining of personal boundaries. As children these lines are often blurred and confusing because our role models are confused themselves. So what are some boundaries (or lack thereof) we should be aware of in our adult relationships? We all know that recognizing them is at least half the battle...
5 Definable Boundaries in Relationships
1. Settling. When we grow up among dysfunction and watch our parents existing in unhappy situations, it tells us this is ok, and that it's "normal". And while none of us can realistically be happy 100% of the time, watching our role models do nothing about the unhappiness in their lives does nothing to teach us the skills needed to make improvements. It also sends the message that things can't be fixed and you should probably just let them be. We create our own reality, and it's only ourselves who can make the changes we want in life; they'll never happen on their own.
2. Lack of Self. This is sadly such a common problem in today's relationships. When one person has a more dominant personality compared to the other, this imbalance of energy can easily be abused by both parties. It can result in the focus being mostly on one person; with both partners catering to that one person's needs more often than the other. Because the less dominant person is by nature more passive, they can take on the role of being a doormat, giving up their interests and freedoms because it's just easier to go along with the stronger personality. This is where resentment and misunderstanding will build up, one person feeling like they're worth less than the other. Everyone is completely unique in this world and it's up to us to honour that in ourselves. We must consistently make an effort not to lose touch with our own personal dreams and passions, they're what make us wonderful in the first place!
3. Rescuing. It's easy to mistake rescuing for love when we're children. If we're exposed to a parent who has addictions for instance, (emotional or substance-based), we learn that enabling them can get us favourable attention. Even if we're being hurt by the addictive behaviour, we feel powerless to change the addiction (and we are), and so it's easier to change our own behaviour to go along with it. True sharing and love between two people gets morphed into looking after someone and/or feeling sorry for them. Love is a two-way street and should only make you feel good; it never harms, so if one person isn't getting their needs met, real love is not being exchanged.
4. Reality vs. Hope. It's human nature to hope for things to change and have a better outcome. As children we often haven't much choice other than to live in the future, where we know (or at least hope) things will get better. This can very much be carried into our adult lives, where we're in love with the potential of someone or what we think the relationship could be, but not being realistic about what is actually, and clearly happening in the now. The present is the only thing that actually exists and matters. Check in with yourself often - are you happy now? Are you being treated well now?
5. Guilt/Over-responsibility. Somewhere along the line, people can learn to believe they're responsible for another person's happiness. When the other person isn't happy, they blame themselves and feel guilty for failing at this task. This is completely backwards thinking, and is the cause for many boundaries disappearing in adult relationships, especially when the other person allows and agrees with this belief. You have one person who is "responsible" for two, when in reality we can only be responsible for our own happiness and well-being. When we take our happiness into our own hands and find our authentic selves, our lives are far more fulfilled. Our happiness can then be healthily reflected onto our partner.
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