Experiencing a long-lasting friendship can be incredible. It feels great having someone in our corner, especially when we’re confident they’ll be there forever. The longer we are friends with someone the more we lower our guard to build new boundaries for them. It can be a beautiful experience to fall in love and explore a relationship.
Sometimes it is not so wonderful. Some people don’t want to be a part of the construction crew and build something new. They are content with jumping the wall and doing as they please.
I’ve had many people in my life take that course of action, Ino and Pea Weasel are prime examples. Being abused, violated and betrayed are all insightful experiences that test our resolve and push us harder to protect ourselves. We learn over time the best defense is effective personal boundaries. They serve as our eternal champion protecting us from harm. As our guardians they are the supporting structures of our relationship bridges.
These bridges are our relationships and they are the roads that connect people. They require upkeep and understanding and must be built from a foundation of empathy and respect. Everyone in the world is an island and these bridges connects us. The stronger we build and upkeep them the less likely they are to crumble or burn.
If we are living safely we have a strong wall around our island. This is our outer boundary, it protects us from the harm others may try to commit against us. Beyond this wall is another surrounding our palace, this wall is our inner boundary. It protects us from everything unhealthy we may try to do to ourselves.
In relationships we must maintain a vigilant eye on many moving parts. Our first concern is our palace, are we enjoying our stay? The most important relationship we can have is within ourselves. Are we doing everything we can to live the highest quality of life? Are we chasing our dreams? How are we feeling? Are we happy with our relationships and are they happy with us?
The second most important is a tie between our inner and outer boundaries. Are we doing everything we can to reinforce them? When was the last time one was breached and why was that allowed? What can we do to prevent that from happening in the future?
Next, we have our bridge. Are we spending enough time and resources to maintain it? Do we even like it being there, and if not, what must we do to remove it?
Finally, our last concern is the outer boundary of those around us. Are we respecting their walls? How dangerous are their boundaries, could they compromise ours? Are we empathizing and doing our best to treat others better than we have been treated?
Our Boundaries are not the same for everyone
When I was going through chemotherapy I was prohibited from hugging people. My immune system was so weak it was simply too risky to touch anyone. I had to be extremely careful about who and what I interacted with. The chemotherapy made me feel like death, so there was no way I was going to risk my life for a hug or a handshake.
I was coupled at the time and though I was told not to touch, there was no way I would deny myself any touch. Her hugs and kisses and the occasional massage were the only exceptions.
One day I was standing in line waiting to buy a delicious liquid refreshment at Picassos my favorite coffee house. I was chatting it up with a young man named Tello when a close friend of mine walked through the door. Immediately my friend wanted to give me a hug, but I had to quickly refuse and inform them I can no longer hug people.
Tello took this as a challenge. He said, “I’m going to give you a hug.”
I turned to him and with a stern voice I commanded him not to touch me.
Strangely Tello ignored my demand and continued forward to embrace me. I was filled with a cocktail of anger and fear, my survival mechanism kicked in and I yelled at him. “If you try to hug me I am going to knock you to the floor!” I meant it. Though I hurt all over there was no way I was going to let him touch me without consequence.
His eyes locked with mine and his urgency slowed to a halt.
“If you ever try to touch me without permission, I will hurt you.” I warned Tello.
In a loving relationship our boundaries can be a gentle hand, encouraging words, even a stern look. We can secure our walls without weaponizing them. In most situations we don’t have to aggressively enforce our boundaries like I did with Tello.
The core principles of personal advocacy: Hope, Wisdom and Forgiveness are easily applied here. Empathize, take a moment to imagine what their intent was when they crossed your boundary. Were they trying to hurt and take advantage of you or was this a misunderstanding? Whatever the answer is we must make it clear to them they crossed the line. Then we must embrace Hope and have faith we will both learn and grow from this experience.
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