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Good Fences Make …

June 29, 2009

If good fences make good neighbors then good boundaries should make good friends. But what if you have established a friendship without establishing healthy boundaries? How do you get hose fences up? And how does anyone know what healthy boundaries are anyway?

So, obviously, this is something that is going on in my life right now. Currently I am doing a lot of self-examination and as a result I have seen some emerging themes. One of these emerging themes has been abusive relationships. I’ve been aware of this theme for a long time.

One of the interesting things I have found about abusive relationships is that they almost never start out that way. And they always require someone to take a victim stance at some point. This happens in little way throughout the relationship that simply escalates to the point that they become a problem.

One person takes their anger out on the other and it gets brushed off. Then one person makes a joke at the other’s expense and it hurts, but it get ignored. Covert and passive aggressive comments get made and are left unaddressed. Then after a while one of the people in the relationship finds themselves afraid of the other and yet the fearful party still seeks the other person’s approval.

In these scenarios one person is often painted as the ‘abuser’ and the other the ‘victim.’ But the truth of the matter is that both people are destroying the relationships and themselves and both people are operating in understandable ways.

From the ‘abuser’s’ perspective the mean comments and covert manipulation put them slowly (or temporarily) in a position of power and authority over the other – and that can feel good. Furthermore, when it gets to the point that the ‘victim’ is seeking the ‘abuser’s’ approval it totally makes sense that the ‘abuser’ would feel important because of that.

From the ‘victim’s’ perspective – which I’m more familiar with – it can very comorting to feel as though you have pleased the person in the abuser role. Furthermore, while I don’t completely understand what naturally makes someone a victim or an abuser, I do know that a person who isn’t naturally abusive will sometimes allow you to be the victim in your relationship with them if you are acting like a victim. Heck, given enough time in such a situation a person who isn’t naturally abusive can become a superb abuser.

Yeah, I know about that one from experience. Yup, I turned a perfectly nice guy into a sexually and emotionally abusive boyfriend.

He’s better now, and so am I. In fact, I thought that I had conquered this whole relationship victim thing while I was dating Christopher because our relationship wasn’t abusive.

Turns out, romantic relationships aren’t the only ones that can be abusive. Why didn’t I realize this sooner? I could have saved myself from so much frustration. Heck, I may have been able to save my friendship with Alexa! It’s so obvious, why didn’t I see it?

Well I didn’t, and now I have a few relationships with some girlfriends that have slowly and covertly become hurtful. It’s feels like Alexa all over again. Now the situations are very different and on the surface they don’t seem related at all – but they feel the same, so there has to me something going on there that is similar.

With Alexa I just exited the situation without dealing with anything or solving anything – so I am sure I’m bringing some of the anger and pain from that with me. And now I have to decide whether I need to complete something with Alexa in order to deal with my current tension. Ish.

I also need do build some good strong solid fences. In order to err on the side of caution I plan on putting the fences on the very edge of my emotional property. That means I may seem distant or touchy to some of you. I hope you will forgive me, and give me a little latitude, while I clean up my property.
After a while I will be able to put some lovely gates in the fences and some of you will be able to come back in.

Some of you may have to stay outside the fence. Again, I hope you will forgive me. If I make that choice it won’t be because I don’t care about you or because I don’t think you are a wonderful person. But I am learning that I am not strong enough to have deep ties with every person I know.

Plus, right now I need to deal with people who either understand or are in the same place I am. Otherwise, I am likely to fall off of this new path I am cultivating. I am trying to create a new life. That means parts of my old life will have to die – or at least stay outside of my new fences.

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