Following on from Part I, I will talk about setting boundaries in relationship that ensure that our wellbeing is nurtured. This is not gender specific, it applies to both men and women. First and foremost we need to know what our needs are in relationship for wellness and be prepared to do what is required to build that or hold that. This may include things like, how you are spoken to (not being on the other end of name calling or derogatory comments) how you are physically touched, (ensuring that your partner is mindful of your boundaries by honest, clear communication) having your partner recognise and honour your need for particular wellness practices (ie going off to participate in sport, yoga, music, meditation, heart felt hobbies etc) ensuring that particular physical health needs are recognised, understood and incorporated into the relationship, sharing the household load with children and chores. I wonder if you have ever spent the time writing down what your wellness requirements are? They may incorporate many things.
If there are clear guidelines set out at the start of a relationship then both parties can get a feel for it they can build a relationship around those joint parameters. In a solid relationship each party would work to help enhance the growth of the other by allowing and supporting their partner’s participation in these ongoing wellness practices. If there is disharmony created by some-ones needs then discussion can follow to see if there is any compromise required or if the relationship may not work for these two people. Perhaps some practices have some flexibility and some are absolutes. For me, meditation is a daily practice that is not negotiable, however WHEN I do my meditation post 7am would definitely be negotiable. “You would like me to go the movies at 7pm tonight? Yeah, I would love to do that with you. I was going to meditate for an hour tonight, but I can do it at 4pm instead if we can do the food shopping earlier today? How does that sound?” The check in at the end is really important. Negotiation. Compromise.
If you find that one of your wellbeing practices is being ignored or contravened that is the time for a boundary. Identify the particular behaviour that is affecting you and bring it to your partner’s attention. It’s good to start off with an invitation to have a chat. “Can we talk?” sets the tone for this to unfold. Take yourself off to a place where you won’t be interrupted. Identify the issue immediately by prefacing the topic: Sharing Housework. Be mindful of all or nothing statements like, ‘you always…… OR never ….. .’ A statement like, ‘I feel like I am doing a lot more of the house work in the last few weeks, particularly emptying the dishwasher and the vacuuming. I am starting to feel a bit unsettled about it. Help me to understand where you are at, with these tasks?’ This is very different to something like, ‘You NEVER do any housework anymore and I’m bloody sick of it!’ Which delivery would you rather be on the end of? If we take time to listen to the other person’s world it can be amazing to find out what is going on for them. If your partner recognised that there was an inequality at play but was not moving towards any kind of remedy, then that is the time for a boundary. “OK, so if you are not willing to share in this task, that means I am donating more of my time to the running of the household. I’m not prepared to support that particular behaviour, so I won’t be emptying the dishwasher for the next 2 weeks, so if you need anything and it’s dirty, you may need to wash things as they are required. Lets see how that works for us both and talk about this again in a fortnight.”
If the transgression is of a serious, ongoing nature, then it may be time for letting your partner know that the potential consequences are also becoming serious; (eg a partner that was gambling and creating financial difficulties) – ‘the part of you that likes to gamble is creating financial hardship in this relationship, as the bills are not getting paid. As a result, I have redirected my wages out of the joint account and created my own account. I will be contributing 50% of the money required towards the bills and I ask that you do the same. This particular behaviour will see me leaving this relationship if it continues unchecked.’ This is a far more powerful statement than something like, ‘You are a hopeless gambler! I can’t trust you with anything.’ Labeling or name calling via ‘You Are’ statements creates immediate defences. Identifying the single behaviour via ‘this particular behaviour’ lets the person know that we see a singular problem behaviour, not that the entire person is somehow errant in our view. Sometimes we can drop into name calling and labelling if we are triggered by an event that really pushes our own ‘unfinished business’ buttons.
Do your best to be patient and kind both on yourself and on your partner. After all, we are all just learners on the path of life and we haven’t really received much useful advice about how to communicate compassionately and lovingly. Learning how to communicate is essentially the KEY to all of this. The manner in which you bring things to anyone will definitely have a huge impact on the unfolding and the end result.
Sometimes you may need to create space after a discussion and a boundary has been set to allow for your partner to digest what has just transpired. If they react with anger, sulking, withdrawal, justification, grief; “OK, I can see that you are not in the right space to discuss this right now, so I am going to leave you and we can pick it up again when you are ready to talk.” Ensure that this is followed up in a timely manner and not allowed to drift off in the ‘too hard” basked for inevitably it will re-surface again. This is the growth in relationship. This is the path to a much more solid foundation and a deepening love for one another. This assists each partner to grow into a stronger more empowered individual. Boundaries are an essential part of relationship.