Collapsed, Rigid and Healthy Boundaries

“No” is a complete sentence.”              ― Anne Lamott

Entering into the New Year, we find ourselves getting out more, getting fit, eating better, spending time with old friends, and meeting new friends.  Often though with amazing technology we also connect through our phones and computers, using social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and dating sites.

In my mental health counseling office, recently a client shared with me she saw her boyfriend change his relationship status on Facebook from single to being in relationship with another woman.  A different client shared she couldn’t create a separate email from her husband because he checked her phone everyday to see who she texted and emailed.

A woman I know met a man on line and fell in love. They talked on the phone and Skyped for months and then he had a crisis and needed some financial support. She sent him money and didn’t hear from him again.

These situations lead me to reflect on the impact technology has on boundaries. It appears there is an intimacy created online that is not grounded in reality. Take this opportunity to assess your own boundaries.

Do you have rigid, collapsed or healthy boundaries?

Are you more likely to allow others to cross your boundaries or do you cross others boundaries?

Do you find you get too close to people physically and you see them back away?

Do you find yourself alone in a corner in a group and not reaching out to others?

Note that the way you set your boundaries changes over time. You also may behave differently depending on the situation and how you feel at the time. This is a general guideline you can use.

Collapsed Boundaries can be identified by: 

  • Sharing too much personal information too soon.
  • Saying yes when you want to say no for fear of rejection.
  • Doing anything to avoid conflict.
  • Having a high tolerance for abuse.

Rigid Boundaries can be identified by: 

  • Saying no to a request if it will involve close interaction.
  • Staying so busy you don’t take time for intimate relationships.
  • Being unable to identify you own feelings, wants or needs.
  • Making little self-disclosure and holding people at a distance.

Healthy Boundaries can be identified by:

  • Having the ability to say yes and to say no.
  • Being able to hear no from others and seek other resources to get your needs met.
  • You reveal information about yourself gradually and self-disclose appropriately.
  • You have relationships with shared responsibility for the relationship without blaming.

Check out the full Boundary Self-Assessment.


Listen before it’s too Late!

 

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

 

It is an enlightening view, sitting in my chair in my office as a mental health counselor. I am honored to sit with clients as they share about their lives and their relationships and I see themes unfold.

We have ended the year and are into the New Year.  As I look ahead at new beginnings, it reminds me of one of the most common themes. When working with couples, I notice that, for most, by the time they enter my office, it’s too late.

couples

Too often one of them attempted continually to communicate with the other, without being heard. Sadly, I watch their last attempt to keep the marriage together. The partner, let’s say the man, who has not really heard, but has listened as if she was nagging or on a rampage over something, finally understands. It is too late now for him to realize that what she was saying was important. So important, that the marriage is now over. I see him groveling and trying to make sense of it all. In the safety of another person (me) she says, “I’m sorry, but it is just too late.”

Many of us have ended relationships before the New Year. I remember myself, many years ago, sitting outside Nordstroms, having coffee with my lover on December 29th. I said, “I am sorry, but it’s over.” This was difficult to say and it was painful. I had felt though, that what I said over and over, didn’t matter and I was “pushing the river,” in order to create a change for us. It didn’t work. Once I was honest and ended the relationship; although painful, it was also exhilarating.

When I am with clients and they are suffering over a relationship, I often ask, “when did you first know this was not the right situation for you?” More than I would like to hear, they say, “in the beginning.” If not, they knew years before they decided to make a change.

Whether it be a love relationship, a work relationship or a family situation, “when you begin to lose your voice, your self-esteem, your sense of personal power; it is time to make some kind of a shift.”