I read a quote this morning that said;
" The only people that have issues with you setting boundaries, are those that benefited from you having none"
You know sometimes you read something, or hear something on the radio or TV and it just grabs you?? This one punched me right in the guts. I've not had any words for the last couple of weeks, I've felt incredibly low and consistently overwhelmed, but not had the language to express why, so haven't blogged, which is shitty because I've actually found it to be quite helpful. Reading this quote this morning gave me something to think about.
The only experience I have in my life with setting boundaries, is that when I do, people leave.
Any time I have ever said, "woah, I'm not really comfortable with that" or "hey, I can't carry all of that on my own" or even "I'm gunna need your help with this one" the people that I share that with leave. Most recently it was "I'm in a really bad way and I don't know how to fix it, I need you to hold my hand until I work out how" and even setting the boundary of saying I can't be as strong as you are used to me being right now, caused two really important people in my life to leave.
Over time, I learned to just not have boundaries. Nothing was ever too much for me, too big an ask or too much to carry. The pain and rejection I felt from people leaving me when I set boundaries of my own, was so great, that I never wanted to be responsible for someone else feeling that way. I also wanted to avoid that pain and rejection, so consistently put the comfort of others in front of my own for fear of them leaving if I didn't.
The people that have benefited the most from me having no boundaries, are the people I've loved the most, which I guess makes sense being that by my logic, when I love someone, I just do whatever it takes to make things work. This isn't even exclusive to romantic relationships, I've experienced the same scenario over and over and over again, with anyone I've really really loved. Family, friends, best friends, lovers, and if I pull that apart, it comes from a thought process of 'if they can just see how caring/kind/understanding/accepting/loving I am, then perhaps they'll love me as much as I love them" because at the heart of it I don't really believe I'm enough just as I am.
I've always been very good at understanding the unspoken. Knowing what the rules are without having them properly explained. As a child I learned that to have a relationship with my father, I needed be interested in things he was interested in, and to not be a "drama queen", a title he punished me with any time I expressed discomfort towards a situation. From that I learned that people do not like Drama Queens (which in my mind was someone who spoke up when they were unhappy or uncomfortable or frightened about a situation) and for a little girl who so desperately wanted to be liked, that meant teaching myself to silence myself any time I felt uncomfortable. My father never showed any interest in anything I was good at. He never came to watch me perform or told me he was proud of me. He would never watch movies that I was interested in or spend time with me doing things that made me happy. So I took it upon myself to be interested in the things he liked, just to be able to be close to him. I remember even as a little girl, watching movies like Roadhouse, because that was the only way to spend time with my father. Later in life I would spend time with him in pubs, drinking beer, and watching him place bets for hours and hours at a time, just to be able to share space with him.
My father often let me down. I was often disappointed by his actions or hurt by the things he would say. But I learned that to express that hurt or disappointment was a terribly bad thing to do, that would result in him being angry at me and in turn I would be ignored or cut off from any kind of contact for long periods of time. To avoid that, I would just keep quiet. I would answer phone calls that woke me up at 5 o'clock in the morning, I would talk to strangers he had befriended in bars on the phone, I would get out of bed at 4am to have breakfast with him. I would never say that I was upset when he said or did things that hurt my feelings, I would never outwardly express my frustration and I would never let him know I was disappointed.
I think when you learn behaviors like this at the hands of a parent, it is really easy to apply them to other relationships in your life. All through my teenage years I was so desperate to be liked that I just went about my days, doing the things that I thought would make people like me. Not believing for a second that it was possible to like me just as I was. When people were awful to me, and they were awful to me a lot, I would feel it on the inside, but never show it on the outside. Never express my my hurt feelings, never set boundaries of how I expected to be treated. Always making excuses for other peoples bad behavior, for fear of them not liking me. I have always felt the need to prove myself to others, never content in the knowledge that I was enough.
As I have grown, and learned, and worked on myself, I have developed a strong sense of what I will and won't accept in my life. The result is a much smaller circle of people around me, which I'm fine with, but I will admit that my downfall is I am suspicious of everyone. I am genuinely surprised when people show me kindness and often question their motives. Where I fall down though, is when it comes to people I love. When the feelings I have for someone are particularly strong, my ability to enforce my boundaries disappears as I always put their feelings as a priority over my own, and I find myself making excuses for their disrespect and lack of consideration for me and my feelings.
I'm not blind to it. I can see the dynamic. It's just any time I try to correct it, and re-establish my boundaries, the result is to be punished for that and ultimately for that person to leave. People get used to how you let them treat you, and depending on how long that exchange has existed between you, will depend on how long it takes to correct it. In my experience, as much as it is important and valuable for me to respect myself enough to address issues and set boundaries, I've not had the experience of the other person receiving that information and loving me enough to respect those boundaries and work with me within them.
The dynamic between my ex husband and I was very similar to that of my father and I. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I married a man that manipulated me into ignoring my boundaries by telling me things like "you're not like other girls" and "you're better than that" making me believe that a woman who expresses herself is undesirable and that I was above getting upset when he hurt my feelings. The idea that he would desire me less if I responded to his behavior in a way that held him responsible for it, made me so terrified of him leaving, that I would often keep quiet or make excuses for him, so as to not draw attention to the times that he hurt me. Over the course of many years of me seemingly not having boundaries, it was particularly confronting for him when I began to enforce them and ultimately not something he was willing to work with me on.
Many, many, many different relationships over time, with different versions of the same scenario. I put up with and make excuses for someones hurtful behaviour towards me. This is usually in the form of them not treating me as a priority in their life, while expecting to be the top priority in mine. They become so used to not having to respect my feelings that they just don't, and when I am so hurt that I am pushed to the point of speaking to them about it and try to enforce boundaries they choose to leave.
I guess I don't really have a resolution for this entry......there's no end to the story because it is ongoing. I can't finish with a positive turn around and tell you how I effectively learned to handle things differently.
I'm frightened to get close to people, yet I'm so bloody lonely. My heart longs for connection, but it's less terrifying for me to keep everyone at arms length, where it's reasonable for me to keep the expectations of the friendship low. It's a weird space to be in because I know making heart connections with people will help bring me back from the awful place I've been in the last few months, but the fear of those connections then being taken away keeps me here and happiness waaaaaaaaaay over there.
Perhaps this one is a to be continued?...............