With spring approaching, the tendency is to be more active, spending time with old and new friends. Technology also has allowed for international connections on cell phones, iPads, and computers. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and dating sites such as Match.com along with blogs like this, allow for communication not previously experienced.
Spring, the time of new birth is often the time of year where singles pair up and begin new relationships. Spring tends to bloom new love. New technology can keep couples connected but also can create lack of privacy and a lack of boundaries. As a therapist, I often hear clients say they saw their boyfriend/girlfriend change their status on Facebook from single to being in relationship with . . . and they process their feelings about this change. I also hear clients say that their loved one changed their status to single. When one continually watches and checks these public Internet sites it can affect their self-esteem and make them feel crazy.
It is important to learn from past relationships; to understand your own part in how your relationship came apart. Without this self-reflection and self-inventory you will end up entering into a relationship that repeats your pattern, even though your new partner initially appears to be very different from your past partner. When you take the time to heal and forgive yourself and your partner after a relationship ends, you are able to keep your heart open.
Although, it is important to keep an open heart and create healthy boundaries, playing your relationship out on the Internet is not the best idea. Relationships go through natural stages. The first stage is the honeymoon stage when you are madly in love with your partner. You love just about everything about them. Although there may be an awareness of what may not be perfect about them, you don’t care, it doesn’t matter; your love will conquer all. You want everyone to meet your new love and you think all your friends will see them through your eyes. Songs were written for the two of you and you are ecstatic. This is when you can really over-disclose on the Internet. It would be better to express your feelings directly to the one you love or at least through a private message.
The next stage is the working stage. This is when you begin to have differences and the ‘feeling in love’ no longer solves everything. This is when you begin to practice communication and find whether or not you have the ability as a couple to find resolution. You discover whether or not you can be direct in your communication or whether there are patterns of avoidance of conflict or blaming and being critical. Power struggles are more prevalent and you begin to focus on little details that become blown out of perspective. This is where, as a therapist, I remind clients “it is never about the toilet seat.” This is when a deepening can happen in a relationship. It is also the time that some people choose divorce. At this point it is really important you use your journal if you need to express yourself and not disclose too much about yourself or your loved one online!
The next stage is when couples move into stability. There is a comfort in being together and as a couple you have worked through the independence and dependence issues and become comfortable being individuals and a couple. There are other stages, but for this blog, I will stop here as I want to talk about boundaries in relationships. At this point the relationship has moved through the ups and downs and now the information expressed on a website such as Facebook is not threatening but rather is supportive, if there is any sharing at all.
Whether you are in the beginning of a relationship or in another stage it is important to become aware of your boundaries. Assessing your boundaries will also generalize beyond your love relationship. It will help you create healthy relationships at work and with friends and family as well. Take time to reassess your boundaries.
Do you have rigid, collapsed or healthy boundaries? Are you likely to allow others to cross your boundaries or do you cross the boundaries of others? Do you find you get too close to people physically and see them back away? Do you find yourself alone in a corner in a group and not reaching out to others? The way you set your boundaries changes over time and also changes in different situations dependent upon how you feel at the time. This is a general guideline you can use. You may want to print this out and talk about it with your loved one or a friend.
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 your 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.
Take some time to explore your boundaries with your friends, family and at work. Then take time to reassess your boundaries on the internet. This may include deleting some posts!
Happy Spring and Bless your heart!