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Relationships, Boundaries, and Breakups


Many seek help when they are going through difficulties in an important relationship. The emotional pain can be so intense that it hurts physically. Some have an authentic identity crisis. At the very least there is a fear of an uncertain future. The process of recovery and reflection can be agonizing but those who ignore this important work often repeat the same mistakes. Some of the contributing factors in unsuccessful relationships may include but are not limited to codependency, poor communication skills, and lack of healthy boundaries.

There are two types of boundaries: defining and protective. You determine your defining boundaries when you acknowledge your values and what needs come out of those values. Protective boundaries are often created through the treatment process.

Think of it in terms of your body. Your skin pretty much doesn’t change except for aging through the years. It’s the container that holds us together and by which people recognize us. When people see you, they identify you through your appearance.

Now think about your clothing. We wear clothing to protect us from the elements around us. We change our clothing according to seasonal weather and how casual or formal the circumstances and elements around us are.

Our defining boundaries might change a little but not that much through the years, like our skin. Our protective boundaries may change based on the elements around us, like our clothing. You adjust them based on how safe you are. In some relationships you may only need the emotional equivalency of shorts and a T shirt. In others you may need bomb squad gear.

Set and keep your defining boundaries—your skin—as a permanent part of who you are. But allow some adjustments in your protective boundaries based on the amount of safety you need in a relationship.

You have to understand that the other person has a choice. Anyone at any time can reject your boundaries. You have to accept that reality. Your choice to have a boundary must be protected and his/her choice to not agree with yours must also be protected.

For example, if your partner is refuses to recognize that his/her actions are destructive to you, it is essential to set a boundary around that behavior. If it is angry outbursts against you, you will need to explain that when an angry outburst happens, you will leave the room and, if you have to, leave the house until your partner recognizes how deeply his/her actions are hurting you. Your partner may not accept that boundary and get angrier and meaner. Your partner may decide to leave the relationship rather than change.

So is it worth it to set those boundaries? In a case like this did the boundaries cause the breakup? The problem was not the boundaries. You didn’t leave your partner or your commitment to your partner. It was the partner who made the choice to leave; you did not force the partner out. Your partner’s dysfunctional behavior cannot be allowed to keep you from doing the right thing.

The point is this: your boundaries will create a space, a separation between you and someone in your life. That person will have the choice to bridge the separation by making changes and becoming more loving or to increase the distance by moving further away or even leaving the relationship. You can do everything you can to keep the relationship together but you can never make a person stay with you. Staying or going is always a choice every person has. Boundaries aren’t guarantees of responsibility or concern in another. They can, however, bring reality and clarity, protect you, and show someone the path to change. They can provide a foundation for a recommitted relationship.

Boundaries protect you even if the outcome is different than you hoped for because you get the information you need about the character of the other person and the problem you are experiencing. In the case of a broken relationship, if you have kept a journal through the process, you can now revisit those early entries before you set the boundary and focus on the peace in your life now without anger and blame. You can grieve the loss of your “dreams” for the relationship but understand that you are being re-created for a better future.

Source:  Beyond Boundaries

Bonnie Harken, NCLC, Founder and CEO of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion.  Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective.  Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you. Call 800-348-0937 or visit www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com for more information. All inquiries are confidential.