Relationship boundaries are tricky and complex. As with so many things relating to boundaries we aren’t taught them and there is no definitive guide book!
I’m going to explain some simple tools to help with relationship boundaries.
We’ve all done it at one time or another: shared something with someone or a group of people and wished we hadn’t. It can be a horrible feeling and if you’ve been in that situation I do empathise. Remember we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about this: we are social beings who crave connection and sometimes we don’t get it right. To avoid confiding in the wrong people it can be helpful to have a safety circle of the people who we know we can trust. You could also decide that there are people you confide in about specific areas such as business or family. This structure can reassure us we aren’t being vulnerable with the wrong crowd. When we make a new friend we can decide if they are right for our safety circle by using the next tool….
Marbles in a jar
I have to credit the wonderful Brené Brown for this model. If you haven’t come across her I recommend her work. She is a social researcher and storyteller. A good place to start is her TED Talk on vulnerability. Anyway, the Marbles in a Jar theory is a way of gauging if we have lopsided relationships! Ideally our relationships (particularly friendships) will be fairly even in terms of how much effort is being put in. So for instance, if we do a favour for a friend like drive them to the airport we put marbles on a jar. If they buy us a thoughtful gift they put marbles in their jar. If we listen to them and support them through a difficult time we put marbles in the jar and at some point in the future they may do the same for us. The idea is that each jar has a similar number of marbles in it. If the number of marbles in each jar is very different then perhaps there is something amiss. If we do realise that we have a lopsided relationship, I’m not saying that you need to ditch that friend. It could be that you could have stronger boundaries with that friend. Realising this can save a friendship or mean that we don’t feel so depleted after certain interactions.
Do you ever find yourself stuck in the same toxic patterns again and again? Well, perhaps it is the Drama Triangle! Transactional Analysis teaches us that the Drama Triangle is when we end up moving between three destructive roles in relationships. These are rescuer, persecutor and victim. Perhaps you are someone who likes to rescue situations. It may mean you put yourself out far too often and then you become the victim and as a result you move on to being the persecutor. The cycle can be broken in the following ways:
- Rescuer: if you find yourself rescuing ask yourself what it is you want, not what you think others want.
- Victim: if you are in victim mode look for the positives in a situation or how you can move forward.
- Persecutor: if you find yourself persecuting put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
I tried to do a section in this blog about relationships families of origin but I realised that there is far too much to say in this very tricky area! So I’m going to devote some blogging time to families after I’ve done this series on boundaries. In the meantime the models above can definitely be helpful in this area.
It can be really difficult to unleash our inner goddess unless we know where we are with our relationships. I think women in particular can be expected to fulfil certain roles which deplete us. Don’t allow others to cause you to think you are being selfish by having boundaries as this is not the case.