Setting Clear Boundaries


How many of us are the type that would offer the shirt off our back if the opportunity presented itself?  At times, I’ve dropped everything for an acquaintance knowing that it probably wouldn’t be reciprocated.  It’s important to me that I’m in a place where I can help other people, but sometimes this goes too far, and it’s easy to lose balance.  What about when people from the past who have hurt us, reach out and want to “start over” in a relationship?  Although I’m open minded and optimistic most of the time, I find my deeply hidden inner skeptic to be pretty right-on when I feel the tug from within to walk away from someone who has not been healthy for me in the past.  Sure, people change, but after what I’ve been through to overcome my own demons, I’m realizing that people don’t change that easily.  If they haven’t been working an honest program, or going through some serious psychotherapy, or taken a sabbatical to India for at least a year (and a half), I seriously doubt they are much different than the last time you met up with them.  To actually transform is a huge deal, and you don’t see this occur very often.  Working the steps of recovery is one of the most efficient ways to transcend old behaviors.  The only other way I’ve seen people change is when they take a physical journey away from the town they grew up in, shed their old skins during scorching dessert walks, overcame their fears in the hollows of forest darkness, climbed to the top of impossible mountains, walked through fire and brimstone, sought after a higher purpose for their life, and discovered themselves along the way.  People don’t change by sitting in front of the TV watching Dr. Phil, going to church on Sundays and reading self-help books.  I swear to God.

I truly believed that because I transformed my life, my relationships were going to get better, but very much on the contrary.  If anything, they became more desolate and somewhat frustrating.  As I’m learning to be less guarded, I’ve also got to know where to draw the lines.  Old relationships that were co-dependent don’t work since I’ve been in recovery, and as I’m becoming more aware of myself and my behaviors, I’m seeing other people’s behaviors in 3D IMAX.  It is no picnic.  Sometimes I want to scream, or run away for good, but my job is to keep myself centered, and to clean up my side of the street in all relationships.  I’m no angel, and people are used to me being a certain way.  I’m sure it’s difficult to accept me in my new skin, which is probably pretty boring and unimpressive.  I’m so over impressing people that it could come off as me being indifferent.  It doesn’t really matter to me because for the first time in my life, I’m feeling good el’ naturale, but I can’t say that I don’t long for really healthy relationships.  So far, my two best relationships are with minors.  My two children are probably the healthiest human beings I know.  They are the only ones who actually “get” me.  They’ve been through the fire right along with me, and they’ve witness the behavior transformation first hand.  When other people think of me as still “messed up,” my two kids are championing me and patting me on the back while bearing proud smiles.  Sometimes they even brag about me to their friends.

It goes without saying that we’ve got to avoid unhealthy relationships, but what about ones that are already set in motion?  What about family?  What if you long to be close to someone who is unavailable emotionally?  This is difficult, but since I’ve accepted the fact that most people don’t transform, I’m learning to accept others “as is.”  Compassion is a beautiful thing, and not judging people is imperative.  I believe everyone I encounter is in my life for a reason; to teach me something, but I am also very careful not to get sucked into any drama.  Like anything else, it’s a balance.  I still have so much to learn, and most of the time, I’m learning it through each one of my relationships.  If I am living a healthy lifestyle, and keeping myself aligned and in-tune, no one has the power to throw me off track.  If I start feeling off-track, it probably isn’t because of another person.  It’s because I stepped off-track myself.  Sometimes people enter our lives to throw us for a loop (spiritually speaking), and this is always a learning experience.  I don’t see anyone as a threat, or purposely malicious.  Self-awareness has taught me to be aware of others, therefore, I don’t have to worry about ulterior motives from others.  If I am aware, I can avoid the traps and simply love the human being for who they are.

This takes a lot of time.  I am nearing three years sober, and for the first couple of years, I avoided a lot of people.  Now I’m stronger, and learning to be more open.  I know what path I’m on, and clear on my personal journey.  When people come alongside me on my path, I welcome them.  I no longer keep the guard up or fear what I’m getting into.  It’s best to remain open and make decisions while in motion.  When I’m clear, people see this and they don’t seem to try to get me to waiver.  I’m no longer trying to change everyone, so this makes my life a lot easier.  The only person I have control over is me, so while having relationships now, I’m learning to allow other people to simply be.

Drop the judgment, load yourself up with compassion, stay present and be aware of any emotion responses you are having; this is key to having a good relationship with yourself.  Once you maintain this, you can extend it out to others.  Know what your feeling while dealing with other people at all times.  Be aware if you are still people pleasing, seeking approval, doing something out of guilt, or falling victim to someone’s power struggle.  If you discover yourself doing any of these things, I suggest staying away from that person until you’ve gotten stronger in yourself.  Sometimes people that bring this out in us, are not the unhealthy ones.  They are simple a mirror reflecting what we need to work on in ourselves.  Once you overcome the need for approval, pleasing others, feeling guilty or being a victim, you will see that the people who brought these things out in you, as wonderful teachers.

In all relationships, the boundaries we set are for our own balance and well-being.  It’s for us to learn how to stand on our own two feet without the need to control, or to be subjected to being controlled.  It’s an important element of recovery, but always know that your emotions are the compass to knowing which boundaries need to be set.  Always be aware of your emotional responses around other people.  This in itself takes a lot of time and practice, but once you master this, you will always know exactly where you stand, and you will be clear on what you need at any given time.  Trust yourself, and give yourself the freedom to explore.  Make mistakes and learn along the way.  Most people are doing their best, and this is important to keep in mind as you navigate in your relationships.