Sunday, August 2, 2009

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors...Creating Boundaries

Along with passing along the usual golden nuggets of safe sex, say no to drugs, get a good education and budgeting skills, I am also vehemently urging my children to learn how to create productive boundaries. The only way I knew how to establish boundaries was to move as far away from the boundary encroacher as I possibly could. This process was incomplete, because given the opportunity the boundary encroacher would again cross my borders. Sometimes I feel that I'm selfish or that I might hurt someones feelings when I define the limits with people that I'm the closest to. It's important to establish boundaries, because ultimately the boundaries are there to limit conflict. Some of us may not realize when people have crossed our boundaries until it's too late. I'll give an example of what a subtle crossing looks like:

My daughter (age 6) and I rode with my parents to watch a football game in Fort Stockton that featured a very talented running back. The trip was a total of 2 hours and along the way, my daughter fell asleep. When we arrived, the game was already in progress and as I was waking up my sleeping angel, she was a tad bit grumpy. I decided I would take her to the restroom so that she could wash her face and possibly empty her bladder after the long ride and then stop at the concession stand to get her a soda to help improve her mood. My mommy insisted that no, she'll just carry Annie and let her sleep. I insisted back that she needed to wake up, and the trip to the bathroom and concession stand would aid in the process. My mommy ignored me, pushed past me, scooped up the too big for carrying child and struggled to lug her all the way to the stadium. I stood there for several minutes, mouth opened...dumbfounded! Some of you may think, "That wasn't so bad." Oh, yes it was. See, my mommy, had undermined my mommy authority. Very Bad.

I've honed my boundary setting skills over the last six months. It's been a difficult process, but very rewarding. Most of us parents don't realize we've failed to instill this skill in our children because basically either we're huge offenders or have ourselves yet mastered this process.

Here's a quick list of what boundary crossing looks like:
1. Controlling or manipulating others with guilt, fear, emotional withdrawal, or any other handy device.
2. Asking people to own what we are responsible for. (blaming)
3. Getting needs met at the expense of others.
4. Taking advantage of or exploiting weakness in another person.
5. Failing to honor what another person values.

Failing to learn how to establish boundaries is a very serious matter. I read an article by Dr. Nancy Allison and this has stuck with me since, "Persons with unclear boundaries establish the "locus of control" outside themselves. They allow others to define who they are, what they think, where they go. Intimacy for this individual can easily lead to abuse if those with whom they relate prove untrustworthy."


Durango said...

So? How did this resolve? Did you deal with mommy in a win way? Or does the pattern continue?

Cheap Tricks and Costly Truths said...

The pattern continued until the Joy Land/Lubbock incident a couple of months ago.

Previously, I would just remove myself, avoid contact with the boundary breaker, instead of dealing with establishing firm boundaries. Mommy doesn't listen, she's always one upping you...her stories are better, her experiences more enlightening, her ailments far more debilitating. She needs constant validation, to be noticed and recognized.

That particular day...I spoke with daddy. If he chooses (which most cases he doesn't, but it always helps him to understand the lack of subsequent visits) to share the conversation with mommy, then he can. The only time mommy views me as an adult is when I'm married (that should explain some of out of one, right into another syndrome that I have). She doesn't view marriage as a partnership, but that one is the 'boss' (can you guess whose the boss?). In her eyes, since I no longer have a boss...then she figures it's her right/responsibility to play that role.

The past 4 years as a single/divorcee, has resulted in an extremely wonderful transformation and self discovery process...she was the last obstacle.