Friday, June 6, 2008

Setting boundaries

In her series of posts about parenting and the adult child, Moxie listed several bullet points which I have broken down into separate posts. Please see this post and this post to understand what the heck I'm talking about.
  • If I take steps to setting some boundaries, do I have a way to check myself so I don't get guilted or manipulated into abandoning those boundaries just to keep peace or win approval?
Boundaries used to be a BIG issue with me. For a long time, I would revert to the five year old self whenever I was around my dad. I felt stupid and clueless, clumsy and not at all like the bright, young, intelligent being I was. At some point, I experienced some enlightenment and decided that I NEEDED some boundaries so that I would not feel like an idiot whenever I saw him, or talked on the phone. What I use most to check myself on these boundaries is my own conscience. If it doesn't feel right, it ain't working. I am very true to myself and know without a doubt when I am being guilted and manipulated.
  • Am I prepared for short-term anger and hostility when I start to draw some boundaries?
It makes me ill to negotiate my own boundaries to keep peace or win approval. I had a girlfriend in high school who ended up dating somebody that I wasn't fond of. At. All. It was really tough for me because I was very good friends with the girl, but her boyfriend frightened me. I tried to redefine our friendship to the exclusion of this man (yeah, who is manipulative now?). Finally, I laid it out there that, as much as I loved her, I wasn't willing to sacrificed my own being to continue our friendship.

Oh, yeah. THAT went over like poop in a punchbowl. She said fine, if that was how I felt, then we did not need to be friends anymore. And, as much as it hurt at the time, I got over it eventually. I never felt like I lost my integrity, and to me, that was worth more than our friendship. Because if you can't be true to yourself, how can you be true to anyone else?
  • Is there anyone else who knows my parent who can help me troubleshoot and back me up in my plan?
This was tough for me growing up because the only one I felt like I could talk to, who knew my dad, was my mom. Bless her heart, too, because that's a tough position to be in. Oprah once said "When you dishonor the parent, you shame the child." My mom never talked badly about my dad. She never said what a jerk he was for being, well, such a jerk! But she did console me when I needed it, and explained to the best of her ability why I felt so let down. And she always told me how proud she was of me, for choosing to be firm on my boundaries. Once I decided I was done being the victim of my past relationship with my dad, my mom was my biggest cheerleader.

Recently my mom was talking to me about me not being raised by both her and my dad. She was asking me if I felt any kind of loss by not having two parents in the same house. I told her I didn't know any different, so no, not really. She asked if I had any anger associated with her decision to leave my dad when I was young. Again, I never knew a household with my dad and my mom, so how could I compare? But she wanted to really talk about it, dig deep, and I just didn't want to go there right then. And I told her as much: "I don't want to talk about that right now." It was to the point and succinct. My mom was a little stunned, but said "Oh-kay." And that was the end of that discussion. (That's setting boundaries!)

The more I thought about it, later, I realized something big that would have been different had my parents stayed married. My relationship with my dad would have been much different. I would probably have much more trust in that relationship than I ever will now. He probably wouldn't have treated me as he did if my mom was around to bear witness, to intercede. If they were both active parents, instead of passive judges on the others' parenting, it would have changed my life tremendously. I could play the "what-if" game forever, but my life and their marriage just didn't happen like that.

And I'm okay with that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good for you for coming so far. sounds lime you've had much to deal with, and have turned out to be a very well rounded person. good for you :) Cant be easy sharing this on a blog, so thank you for that, as those were very wise words.