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  • Boundaries: You Don’t Have to Pour Yourself Out

    Last week I did a video on boundaries in relationships on Facebook Live. Here is a conversation I had on that same topic on my personal Facebook page recently that seems like a perfect addition to what I already did on video. I hope you find it helpful.

    Setting Boundaries Doesn’t Mean You Are Bad

    If you are pouring yourself completely out for another person, bleeding yourself dry, exhausting yourself, driving yourself crazy with worry, anxiety, your head constantly spinning trying to think of the next thing you can do to “help” someone, then there are two parties who don’t understand boundaries—you and the person you’re fruitlessly killing yourself on behalf of. That person believes you owe them this level of sacrifice as a friend or family member, and apparently you believe it too.

    If you are carrying someone, you may resent it, be angry with them, be completely burned out, but you are under the illusion that all of this is required of you in order to consider yourself a good person, friend, or family member.

    To Set Boundaries Is To Embrace Your Power

    For many years, a person I know had a habit of constantly committing to do things he did not want to do. When it would come time to actually do that thing, he would be filled with anger and resentment toward the person or group he had committed to.

    “They asked me to do this thing and guilted me into it.”

    But in reality, no one *makes* anyone feel guilty (or anything else for that matter). His guilt, like all guilt in these situations, came from his own sense of obligation. No one had done anything wrong by asking him to do these things, and it was his responsibility to either say yes and do it with a good heart, or say no if he really felt he could not do it or did not want to do it. His resentment was there because he was holding the wrong party accountable! He’s the one who had the power to say yes or no, but he habitually ceded that power to the asker, then resented them for it.

    I have worked with many women who are in terrible relationships, and they are angry at the men they continue choosing to stay with. “I wish he would just let me go.” Let them? If they actually chose to go, he could not stop them. They are angry at him for not making a choice that is actually theirs to make. That should be empowering and ennobling, but the existentialists taught us we sometimes choose powerlessness because we fear the responsibility that comes with exercising our power.

    I believe this is a major reason we do not exercise good boundaries. We are afraid to choose, for a million reasons, and prefer instead to just passively let things happen to us, and then blame other people, or God, or bad luck, or whatever else we can find to blame.

    This is important stuff about boundaries. The video focuses on the fact that you are largely powerless to “get” other people to do things, but also on the small but important things you actually can do if you want to influence your intimate partner or someone else to change.