“My son had been out of my home for years,” a friend told me. “He wanted his independence but didn’t want to pay the price. He always needed money for food and rent. Each month, I told him this was the last time. He’d either be grateful for my help, angry that I was upset, or both. ‘Other parents help their children,’ he’d say. ‘You’re the only parent I know who’s so cheap.’
“It was a battle. Each month I lost,” this friend said. “It took a lot of getting angry, giving in, and feeling used before I could say no and then stand behind what I said.”
If a stranger demanded that we do something we didn’t want to do, we’d probably refuse. It’s harder when that person is someone we love.
Sometimes giving is a good thing. Other times it’s not. It can be hard to recognize when a pattern of being kind turns into a pattern that’s sabotaging both the other person and us. Each time an incident happens, we think, “Oh, this is just happening once. And this is the last time.” Until it happens again.
I first learned about boundaries when I loved an alcoholic. I kept thinking that rescuing that person would help him and benefit us. I wondered what would happen if I withdrew my help. Would the relationship end? Would that person die? It was hard for me to see that not saying no to him was hurting him, our relationship, and me.
Boundaries aren’t a value to be applied only in situations with alcoholism. It can be easy to get lost in what other people want in many situations—both healthy and dysfunctional—in work, recreation, and love.
Saying no to someone else and saying yes to ourselves is an important part of love.
Value: Whether we call them boundaries or limits, recognizing them is the value this week.
From the book: 52 Weeks of Conscious Contact
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