How Do I Know What Boundaries Are?
Many books have been written on the subject of boundaries. Is it possible to be an I and still be a We? Where do I end and my partner begins? Many of us have been pondering this notion. How do I get close without getting lost while in a committed relationship?
Many believe that the lack of knowledge of where one begins and ends in relation to where another person begins and ends is called co-dependency and is a negative thing to be avoided at all costs.
I have noticed that all working relationships have some degree of haze surrounding the boundaries of the persons within it, i.e. some degree of co-dependency. I believe that relationships are alive, and that the people within them often overlap in order to achieve comfortable levels of intimacy. Relationships take on a life of their own, separate and apart from the I or the you. The question many have asked is: How can I tell if I am getting lost within the life of the relationship? And yet some of us do keep our sense of self and do not get lost in the forest of relationship. Others forget to leave breadcrumbs when they go into relationship and so they get lost.
What prevents us from maintaining our identity in a relationship? Perhaps we did not have a clear sense of self when we went into relationship and so the relationship became who we are. It is possible that you lost your sense of self while trying to accommodate the other person or other half of the relationship. It may be time for you to look for your I.
In all relationships there is some melding of identity. It is a matter of degree that determines whether you have entered an unhealthy realm of codependency, or if you are in a healthy relationship that has achieved a deep level of intimacy.
Common questions in understanding boundaries are:
- How can I tell when someone has overstepped my emotional boundaries?
- What can I do to become clear of my spatial boundaries?
- Do my moods affect my spatial/emotional boundaries?
As you begin to build awareness as to what/where your boundaries are you may want to use the following suggestions as helpful tools.
- The next time you feel that someone is being intrusive or not considering you, it may be because they have overstepped your emotional boundaries. Start to record what words and patterns trigger this reaction from you. This will help you to know when people are overstepping your boundaries!
- Have a person you are very intimate with stand opposite you about 10 feet away. Ask them to slowly walk towards you. Stop them when you begin to feel uncomfortable. Ask them to take a step or two back, until you feel comfortable. Note the amount of space you need to feel uncomfortable. Do this again with the same person when you are annoyed with them. Is there a difference in when you become uncomfortable?
- Now repeat this exercise with someone you are acquaintances with. Notice what the differences are, and the similarities.