I has come to my attention lately that one of the Great Problems in my life has to do with my lack of boundaries. It turns out, after 37 years, I am just now realizing that I get pushed around by things that I allow to get too close to me and my family to control. So I have been looking into this issue, fully intent upon resolving it.
In an effort to analyze exactly where I am lacking boundaries, I decided to start by looking at problems that might be arising from this root, so I started with, of course, the kids.
Do my kids talk back out of disrespect to me because I lack the boundary that would not allow it? How have I raised them with no fear of repercussion for their insolent tone? I look at my own childhood, and that of most adults I know. We didn't talk back because we knew that the retribution would be swift, painful, and humilating. So, out of fear for the slap across the face, or whatever form of corporal punishment a disrespectful tone warranted, we wouldn't dare. Clearly, my kids do not have this fear. Have I failed to establish this boundary by not slapping my girls? Have I modeled disrespect toward other people, of any age? Is there a way that I could have firmly established this boundary without inflicting the insult and injury that I remember from my own childhood, but even moreso from the moment that I DID unleash that punishment on one of my girls? Would it be worth it?
Do I not establish a firm enough boundary of who comes to my house when I allow most of the high school to visit for a party, including teenage boys who will be tempted to break the Cardinal Rule of The Doghouse: NO BOYS UPSTAIRS? Is there a line in the sand I am missing that would have avoided the awkwardness and frustration of chasing him and my drop dead gorgeous 17 year old out of an upstairs bedroom? Are these teenagers running all over me because I am an amoeba without standards (this I have been told repeatedly)?
How about the boundary I lack in my willingness to spend time with, unsupervised, single guys my age? Knowing full well and being informed of the absolute certainty of gossip and judgement springing from such folly, I am still lured into the trap of thinking that I am an adult (even a single one) and can have friendships with people of the opposite gender without EVERYONE deciding that we are "hooking up". Clearly I need to be more firm in my absolute refusal of quality time with anyone male, single, within 20 years of my own age, and never, ever alone.
In both of my marriages and nearly every "serious" relationship that I have had, my lack of boundaries have produced toxic relationships that I am rendered powerless to escape or avoid. Well, not exactly, but if I had had more boundaries, would my relationships all have been healthy and preserved?
Where am I missing boundaries?
Is it when I won't confront a teenager filling their pockets from my snack box, because I know what their life at home is like?
Is it when I help my daughter get a dress for her senior prom, even after she's been completely rude and impossible to me, because I know deep down, that her impossibility is the tough-guy show of her fear for the imminent and unknown future of Growing Up?
Is it when I override the guilt of condemnation and gossip to sit down with a scandal and begin to create something that I think could really be a part of my life in the next few years?
Is it when I eat the moutains of debt from a terrible marriage just to get a signature on a divorce decree without anymore heartache?
Is it when I consider letting my kids see the man they considered their stepfather for three years, even when he's toxic for me? They are so hungry for affection from any man... Am I bullied by my own longing for that kind of affirmation?
Boundaries are walls. Walls are hard, unforgiving. They don't change. I have yet to experience anything in this life that doesn't change over time.
Maybe I am looking at the wrong kind of boundaries. The only things that I really want to wall out of my life are the guilt and judgement that keep me from breathing, the anger and bitterness of responding incorrectly to life's disappointment that make my ears ring, and the aged coldness of not trusting, not believing in anyone that makes my heart ache. These are the boundaries I want to set - the rest is all learning. Sometimes from mistakes. But where there is a life with no mistakes, there is no life.