Most of us are used to dealing with boundaries. When you buy a piece of property the title describes its boundaries in legal terms. Many times, there is a fence or tree line that visually sets the boundaries. These let you know what is yours.
Personal boundaries are much like that as they define who you are by stating:
What you will do and what you won't do,
What you like and what you don't like, and
How close you will get to someone and how close you will let someone get to you.
Effective boundaries have four attributes. They must be:
Often the belief is that boundaries are set by being mean, nasty, ugly, and firm. That just causes arguments, then the boundary is lost. When you are comfortable with yourself the attributes come easier because you have determined you are a kind, gentle, respectful person.
This is one of the most misunderstood subjects in interpersonal relationships. Boundaries are your principles and values in action. In other words, they define what makes you who you are - they give you substance and what others can count on. You must be comfortable with who you are, as comfortable as breathing.
What There Is About You To Love
Because boundaries define who you are they also define what there is about you to love. Think about that a moment. It is interesting to watch the reaction of someone who hears that statement for the first time. They often say they have never considered that point and want to know more. Think about the people you truly enjoy being around. What are they like? Generally they are comfortable with themselves. Their values and principles help you feel safe and comfortable being with them, and you believe you can trust who they are. Add to this list the element of fun to be with, now you have the attributes of a friend. As time progresses and these things remain constant, you develop a love for that person. The key points are: clear statement of, comfortable with, and consistently applied.
Are You a Hologram?
A hologram is a three dimensional projected image with the look of reality that is hollow and without substance. A person without boundaries appears to others as a hologram-all of the appearance of reality with no substance to hold on to or count on. Life goes on through them, over them, and on top of them. They can easily become a doormat where others wipe their feet. When this was explained to a client she exclaimed with extra wide eyes, "Oh my goodness that's how I feel. I'm Dora doormat." Remember, boundaries give you substance.
So, How Do You Do It?
Consider the following scenarios and the suggested dialog. Remember your replies need to be kind, gentle, respectful, and firm.
1. Your mate has called you a disrespectful name. Look your mate in the eyes and say, "Do not call me that name, I do not deserve to be called that name, do not call me that name ever again." You may be thinking, "Suppose the reply is, 'I'll call you any blankity-blank name I want to.'" You, again, reply with the same statement, "Do not call me that name, I do not deserve to be called that name, do not call me that name ever again." Then you leave the room. The next challenge is, how do you act when you return to the room? Because you are a kind, gentle, respectful person, that is how you treat your mate. "So, what if my spouse does it, again?" You repeat the same statement, again, and you do not vary from that statement no matter how many times it happens.
2. Your spouse has talked to you rudely, or has made fun of you, or ridiculed you in front of others. The process is the same. "Do not (talk to me rudely, or make fun of me, or ridicule me), I do not deserve to be (talked to rudely, or made fun of, or ridiculed), do not (talk to me rudely. or make fun of me, or ridicule me) ever again." The process is the same.
Two Things You Must Know
First: You must make sure you are not doing any of the above things to your mate. There is no way to expect treatment that you are not willing to give.
Second, and very important to understand: It may get worse before it gets better. The reason this happens, is your mate knows how to deal with you the way you were and now you have changed. Nobody wants you to change, so the pressure will be to get you to go back to the way you were for their convenience. Also, you are being tested to see if this new thing is just a passing fancy, or if you really mean it.
This process has worked many times and could work for you if you will keep control of yourself. Your reaction must be turned into an action.
Remember, be kind, gentle, respectful, and firm! Your spouse will then know what there is about you to love, and the love between you will grow stronger and stronger.