Have you ever skipped going to the health club one day because you just absolutely had no motivation to get all sweaty and tired? Or what about gorging on a half-gallon of ice cream to cope with your stress? Ever leave the mall wondering what the heck you were thinking maxing out your credit card? Do you work more hours at your job than need be? These are situations where a boundary violation of the self has occurred and we’ve all been there.
Boundaries are the limits we set around ourselves to keep safe, centered, and accountable. They are usually drawn from our values and they define who we are and what we will and won’t accept in our lives to keep our integrity and well-being intact. The more aligned our behavior is with our defined boundaries, the more balance and harmony we tend to experience in our lives.
When we act outside the confines of our boundaries, our self-esteem can take a hit and we actually can create a whole host of other stressors that will disrupt us and leave us feeling badly and out-of-integrity. It is human nature to stumble outside our boundaries from time to time, but when it becomes a way of life, underlying issues may be at play that will require some attention and intervention to avoid ongoing conflicts in one’s life.
Not only do we have self-imposed boundaries, but boundaries also pertain to our relationships. A healthy relationship is comprised of two men with a solid sense of self and identity. Boundaries help protect the partners of a couple from abuse or outside influences of others. They help create a sense of security in the partnership, allowing safe communication of needs and feelings between the partners that helps to solidify a positive connection and intimacy. Boundaries help cement what is deemed appropriate and inappropriate conduct both within and outside the context of being a couple and help to define who you are and what you stand for as life partners.
Boundaries & Relationship Types - Here’s an illustration as to why boundaries are important to your relationship. Take out a piece of paper. At the top of the page, draw two circles on opposite sides of the page. This represents the type of relationship where the couple identifies themselves as a pair, however they have little connection with each other and live parallel lives with minimal contact, sharing, or interaction that would support an intimate commitment. This relationship exhibits boundaries that are too strong to allow closeness and which there’s too much separateness and division between the two men. Little will grow from this except more of a “roommate feeling” and dissension. This style has too much individual identity.
In the middle of the page, draw two circles with one on top of the other. This relationship type is called enmeshed, where the couple is practically one whole. You are your partner; you live and breathe your partner with very little independence and individuality. You are merged together so completely that you lose your sense of self because you’re so fused and any perceived threat that exists to your relationship is thought of as devastating. The problem with this relationship style is that partners can feel suffocated and overly-dependent on each other; controlling behaviors are not uncommon and you can feel restricted and trapped. This style has too much couple identity.
At the bottom of the page, draw two circles that are mildly intertwined at the sides. This is a healthy relationship where the partners are slightly merged. There is a healthy balance of separateness and togetherness. The couple is flexible, honoring their uniqueness as individuals and their shared connection as partners. Because of this balance, “fresh air” is constantly being breathed into the relationship, revitalizing it and making it exciting, unlike the staleness of the former relationship type where everything is about the other person. This style works because the boundaries aren’t too rigid or loose and they take into account that healthy relationships have both individual and couple identities. This is what you want to shoot for!
(Part Two - Tomorrow)
© Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach
The suggestions and feedback offered in this column are but one perspective of multiple approaches to dealing with problems or challenges. Information provided in articles and advice columns should not be used as a substitute for coaching or therapy when these services are needed. None of this information should be your only source when making important life decisions. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a particular problem, nor should it take the place of a consultation with a trained professional. It is your responsibility to consult a professional prior to making any life decisions.
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER, is one of the leading love coaches for the gay community. As a licensed dating and relationship coach, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, DHS, MSW has over 18 years experience as a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping GLBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He holds a doctorate degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Western Michigan University. He also runs a successful private therapy practice, Personal Victory Counseling, Inc. http://thegaylovecoach.com