Whether a spouse, significant other, sibling, parent or child …
I have my clients read this over and over again to help them “define the parameters” of each relationship that causes them problems. Defining perimeters means understanding recognizing and being able to accept their own personal rules, ideals, and needs in each individual relationship. Some of the most difficult things we experience in relationships are realizing that love is unconditional, but relationships are not.
We can be honest and direct about our boundaries in relationships and about the parameters of a particular relationship.
Perhaps no area of our life reflects our uniqueness and individuality in recovery more than our relationships. Some of us are in a committed relationship. Some of us are dating. Some of us are not dating. Some of us are living with someone. Some of us wish we were dating. Some of us wish we were in a committed relationship. Some of us get into new relationships after recovery. Some of us stay in the relationship we were in before we began recovering.
We have other relationships too. We have friendships. Relationships with children, with parents, with extended family. We have professional relationships—relationships with people on the job.
We need to be able to be honest and direct in our relationships. One area we can be honest and direct about is the parameters of our relationships. We can define our relationships to people, an idea written about by Charlotte Kasl and others, and we can ask them to be honest and direct about defining their vision of the relationship with us.
It is confusing to be in relationships and not know where we stand—whether this is on the job, in a friendship, with family members, or in a love relationship. We have a right to be direct about how we define the relationship—what we want it to be. But relationships equal two people who have equal rights. The other person needs to be able to define the relationship too. We have a right to know and ask. So do they. Honesty is the best policy.
We can set boundaries. If someone wants a more intense relationship than we do, we can be clear and honest about what we want, about our intended level of participation. We can tell the person what to reasonably expect from us, because that is what we want to give. How the person deals with that is his or her issue. Whether or not we tell the person is ours. We can set boundaries and define friendships when those cause confusion.
We can even define relationships with children if those relationships have gotten sticky and exceeded our parameters. We need to define love relationships and what that means to each person. We have a right to ask and receive clear answers. We have a right to make our own definitions and have our own expectations. So does the other person.
Honesty and directness is the only policy. Sometimes we don’t know what we want in a relationship. Sometimes the other person doesn’t know. But the sooner we can define a relationship, with the other person’s help, the sooner we can decide on an appropriate course of conduct for ourselves.
The clearer we can become on defining relationships, the more we can take care of ourselves in that relationship. We have a right to our boundaries, wants, and needs. So does the other person. We can not force someone to be in a relationship or to participate at a level we desire if he or she does not want to. All of us have a right not to be forced.
Information is a powerful tool, and having the information about what a particular relationship is—the boundaries and definitions of it—will empower us to take care of ourselves in it. Relationships take a while to form, but at some point we can reasonably expect a clear definition of what that relationship is and what the boundaries of it are. If the definitions clash, we are free to make a new decision based on appropriate information about what we need to do to take care of ourselves.
Today, I will strive for clarity and directness in my relationships. If I now have some relationships that are murky and ill-defined, and if I have given them adequate time to form, I will begin to take action to define that relationship.
Relationships do have rules, boundaries, and limitations. If we know and understand another person’s perimeters then we can decide whether or not we can participate in that relationship. Knowing this, about ourselves and about others allows us to make better decisions as to whether or not this kind of relationship is the kind of relationship we can honestly and authentically participate in. It helps us avoid “spray painting our red flags green”
For more on this, contact Samantha.
Props to Melody Beatty – The Language of Letting Go