Someone from my family of origin who I was very close to growing up and trusted my whole life just isn’t that “best friend” and protector anymore. This person has betrayed my trust and behaved very badly.
It’s hard to acknowledge it when you see someone changing in front of your eyes, but life experiences can sometimes alter who they are to the point you don’t know them anymore. The person I knew is gone.
As a coach, I want to believe in people. I’m naturally pretty trusting of my fellow humans and I always look for the best in them. Some people might even call me a Pollyanna or at least naive.
I tried to imagine the relationship could be repaired. Maybe I just needed to be more flexible and more forgiving.
But this person has consistently betrayed me and deliberately tried to hurt me. Maybe out of resentment. Maybe out of jealousy. Friends and family have tried to point this out to me. And yet, because of all I stand for as a coach, and because of my past happy relationship with this person, I’ve wanted to take the higher ground whenever possible.
That works … most of the time. Blessed are the peacemakers. But sometimes, you just have to face a harsh reality, even if you don’t want to. Sometimes we have to say, “You can’t do this to me anymore.”
In life, when someone “crosses the line,” you have to be able to say, “Nope. That doesn’t work for me.”
And, if the other person is willing to listen, you need to be able to assert yourself and ask for what you want and need.
“Here’s what I need from you…”
Now, you can say it all very nicely and skillfully, but when someone is treating you badly or taking advantage of you, you have to be able to say, “That’s not acceptable” in some form or fashion.
You have to establish clear boundaries. And by boundaries, I mean limits on the behavior of the folks you live and work with. A boundary establishes those things someone can’t do TO you or AROUND you. What kinds of things? Anything that make you feel like a doormat or a punching bag.
I work with clients to develop healthy boundaries all the time. Boundaries with family, at work, in their businesses. And here I was trying to roll with the punches.
But there comes a time when you have to draw a line in the sand. In many cases, the infraction in question isn’t that serious and things can be worked out. Maybe the kids expect you to wait on them or a co-worker keeps leaving you with extra work to finish. But sometimes, as in my case, you have to go so far as to not allow someone in your life anymore. That’s the most difficult boundary of all.
Do I grieve for who that person isn’t anymore? Yes. I do. And yet, I know I can’t tolerate the abusive behavior any longer. I have to put up a shield and distance myself.
Your life is like a garden. What would happen if you didn’t protect your garden from the bunnies and the deer? You wouldn’t have one. You’d have a dirt patch.
A boundary is the fence that protects the garden. It safeguards the tender plants inside, so they can grow strong and tall.
Part of maintaining a positive, possibility-filled “garden” involves simply pulling the weeds … dealing with the annoying infringements on your time, energy, helpful nature, etc.
And part depends on putting up fences to keep those “who would trespass against us” from trampling all over our little piece of paradise.
After all, what’s just as important as emphasizing the positive in life?
Knowing when to shield yourself against the negative.