Sunday, July 02, 2006

What's Up with Boundaries?
Almost twenty years ago when I was a beginning teacher, my boyfriend, now husband, came and watched me teach.
"You're a great teacher, but you have rubber band boundaries."
Of course I was defensive, confused, and outraged. He didn't know what he was talking about. I could be "firm". I could say "no" once and remain consistent with that each time I was asked the same thing. I could treat each child fairly and not let one kid do something that I had formerly forbidden another to do. He was out of his mind, and there was nothing wrong with me.
Fast forward to the joys of parenting. Again he let me know that I didn't have to be "nice" all the time. And it certainly was not OK to say, yes, yes, yes, grow ever more resentful, then EXPLODE over something trivial. Reluctantly, I came around to his way of thinking. The whole idea that I could say "no" to my kids, my family and my friends, was novel. What if that made them feel bad? What if they didn't like me anymore? What if they never asked me again? Well, they didn't, they did, and they do. In fact, I think people respect others that can kindly say "no" and mean it. I know I do.
My preferred spouse and I say we are "exercising our 'no' muscle". The more we use it, the stronger it becomes, until a habit is established. Now we share our latest "nos" with each other.
"Someone just called and asked me to serve on a committee, and I skipped the whole, 'I'll give it my careful consideration', and went straight to 'I must say no, but thank you so much for thinking of me.'"
Boundaries are important. Without them we feel victimized, resentful and taken for granted. Dr. Phil says (and he makes me completely cuckoo, but I still think he's often right) says, "We teach others how to treat us." People that let us walk all over them, just keep getting walked on. People that are skilled at saying "no", or "that won't work for me", or "I'm going to need _________ to make that work for me," gain our respect. Do you respect doormats? Me neither!
So I say, "Erect the boundaries!" Run the show! Call the shots! Be firm, yet friendly! Be victimized no more! Are you with me?

7 comments:

Go Mama said...

I'm with you tap, tap, tap.

I'm practicing with my family:
No, I don't want to make dinner tonight.
No, I'm not sure when the laundry will get done.
No, you can't "stamp pad" the cat.
No, having sex won't work for me tonight.

Suzy said...

I'm on the bus!!!!
Some friends seem to think that because you're single,and have no kids, your life can be changed to meet everyone else's needs.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries...

Michelle O'Neil said...

I invited someone to join my book club recently and she said, "No." She just couldn't commit to that right now.

I was SOOO HAPPY for her and appreciated so much the lack of hemming and hawing and excuses. It is called being a grown-up!

Hurray for grown-up women!

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