In our last blog, we looked briefly a Bad Boundaries. It’s time to look at Good Boundaries.
Boundaries are necessary and healthy. Unhealthy boundaries are rooted in fear and in a desire to control others. In contrast, healthy boundaries are rooted in deeply rooted values and a strong self of self.
Bad values are often put forward in the “imperative” (“You must do this or I will kick you out.”) while healthy values are simply stated in the “indicative” (“I need this to feel healthy and safe.”)
Healthy boundaries are stated, not debated, because they are founded in what “is” not what “ought to be.” One way to think of it is, in the words of a wise therapist, “Boundaries are rooted in who you are, not who your partner shouldn’t be.” In other words, a healthy boundary says “I value fidelity and honesty and I choose to be in a relationship with people who share those values” rather than “You shouldn’t lie or be an addict.”
In establishing healthy boundaries, it is important to figure out who you are, not who your partner ought to be. Boundaries should be rooted in your values, not your partner’s actions.
Healthy Boundaries: “I value honesty and fidelity. For my own soul’s sake, I need to be married to a person who shares those values. I can’t be married to someone who doesn’t. I can still love you, be your friend, talk with you, etc., but I can’t be your spouse/partner.”
Unhealthy Boundaries: “You really need to clean up your act because I’m sick of your behavior. You need to follow my checklist or I will kick you out.”
It is critical for the person who has been wounded/betrayed to do the hard work of discerning which of her/his values have been violated by the betrayer’s actions and build her/his boundaries around those. For example, if the betrayer used porn and the betrayed is hurt, it is critical not to focus on the betrayer’s behavior but on the values of the betrayed. For example, the betrayed could say something like “I need to be a relationship where I believe my partner values me as a whole person and does not objectify me. I choose to be married to such a person.”
Healthy boundaries give life and energy to relationships through clarity and honesty. Unhealthy boundaries, rooted in fear, drain energy and lead to further alienation, bitterness, and misunderstanding.