Monday, February 13, 2012

Setting Boundaries and Turning It (And Them) Over.

Major life decisions can start out with a mild unease, building slowly over a long period of time, to become an ever-present ache in the heart and soul.

Setting a boundary with another person can feel like an impossiblity, if we are terrified of what that boundary-setting might cause to happen. When I consider the outcome of setting a boundary, and get wound up in awfulising and fearing the future, I'm a lot less likely to set it and maintain it.

I was listening to an Al-Anon speaker I really like, Ellen C, and she spoke of how so many co-dependents will draw a line in the sand, and say, "See this line? You better not step over this line, or something bad is going to happen, and you won't like it!"
Of course the alcoholic promptly stomps all over that line. So what do we often do? We move back a few feet, and say "Okay, here's a new line - you better not cross this line, buster!"

Stomp stomp stomp. Glare.

We move back a few feet and start drawing another new line...stomp stomp...another new line even further back...and we do this over and over and over again.

I was thinking about that this afternoon, and could absolutely see where I've done this with the main alcoholic in my life. I've done that same backing up and backing up and backing up that so many of us do, until we're standing on our tiptoes on about a half inch of land, and they've got the entire rest of it, 40 acres to roam around in, while we're pushing up against the fence with the cows on the other side trying to bite the parts of us being shoved through the fence holes, and then we wonder why they don't respect us or our boundaries?

If I move my boundaries at the slightest sign of someone else's displeasure or anger or hurt or whatever they use to manipulate me, the bad news is that I have no boundaries - it's like trying to keep livestock contained with toilet paper strung from post to post - and then feeling all resentful and frustrated that the darn cows got out again

I'm faced with an understanding about how my own desire for control, and my fear, has caused me to move my boundaries in one area of my life right back to the fenceline. And then I've complained and whined about having to stand on my tiptoes, with no room to move around. I've backed myself into this corner.

Setting a new boundary has already caused a lot of flack - fury, resentment, ignoring, and nastiness - all of which have worked in the past, to cause me to relent and move back a few steps. But this time, it's maintain the boundary, or leave the relationship - the only choices left to me. And I've made my peace with both of them. I'm willing to accept whatever outcome results, because I've turned it all over to my HP.

I've let go. Completely. And the relief is so overwhelming, I cannot tell you what it feels like. It brings tears to my eyes to have finally said - "No more - it's your thing, you deal with it, I'm going to be busy doing what I need to do for me."

Ellen C also said, that when we do the right thing for us, it's also the right thing for the other person, too. They may not be able to see that, we may not be able to see that, but our Higher Power has a longer perspective.


  1. I agree, doing the right thing for us is also the right thing for them.

  2. I've wondered at how easy it is for me to let my boundaries be breached. I think it goes back to wanting to be loved and being willing to do just about anything for that. I am glad that I have the self-esteem now to state my boundary and maintain it as needed. I am not afraid to lose others because of declaring what I want. It is a good feeling.

  3. I have been setting boundries ever since I can remember and the one thing i found for me was they always changed. Depending on my mood of the day, my boundries changed and therefore i was not consistant and others did take it seriously... the definition of insanity. In my recovery today, i use the word appropriate and inappropriate behavior, this helps me to determine my own behavior and i am able to now put a stop to an inappropriate behavior in others directed towards me. This was a long and hard process and i found it difficult to learn the difference. Thank's to our spiritual principles of the program, i am no longer confused. I now know what an approrpiate and inapropriate behavior is wether it is my own or someone's behavior directed to me. This works for me! I can't change others behaviors, i can only be an example by praticing what I have learned and not be a doormat.

  4. As trust is rebuilt , boundaries expand , only to retract again at a relapse. One experienced person in our Al-anon group reflecting on boundaries said the most important boundaries are those set on oneself not on the addict.

  5. This is particularly good for me. I have read this a few times tonight, having done exactly what the passage says, backing up and drawing another line.. ultimately I had to be clear that my boundary needed to be respected or I would have to protect it, even if thay meant leaving the relationship. My qualifier got the point. He has since tried to draw me out, but I understand that in order for him to respect my boundaries, I also must respect my own boundaries.