Be the one who’s willing to take a different step in the dance.
I believe that even the brightest and most evolved of us still have at least one area in life where our boundaries are a little fuzzy. We make concessions and exceptions for people or situations that we know aren’t really in our best interest. We gloss over red flags and neatly tuck them away in our psyches.
Friday night I went out on a date. We had spent hours on the phone last week in conversation. Mr. X is an intelligent, double-degreed engineer for a large firm downtown (confirmed on LinkedIn) and has a good sense of humor. He alluded to a high level of success, but we still somehow ended up on a tea date due to an alleged company dinner that had come up that evening.
He was late—that don’t impress me much, as Shania would say—but the conversation went well. Afterward we had a friendly chat and a farewell in the car on a busy Mission street.
After some light banter the conversation suddenly took a hard left (pun intended).
“Why don’t you touch me?”
“My – – – – is hard. Touch it and see.”
It was reminiscent of this Seinfeld episode (another short while and it would likely have been same same). It’s amazing how many sitcom moments my life brings me.
Swept up in the chance of a summer romance, I realized I’d ignored a couple of red flags. One was a hint of what may come in the body of a text conversation. Right then and there, I should have drawn a line in the sand and ended the dialogue.
I am diligently working on a new book and it’s exciting because my writer’s block has lifted. My coach has me on stringent accountability deadlines and I am glad for it. I’m implementing new health habits and it’s time consuming, but rewarding. I wasted my valuable time when, had I been clearer on my parameters, I would not have dithered away precious hours I’ll never get back for much adieu about nothing.
I have a history of being foiled by a trail of frogs and even at this stage I continue to learn something new about my blurry boundaries. Amazingly, I have a reset button and still believe in love while remaining a romantic at heart. But I have adopted some new guidelines in the wake of the ‘Stiffy Incident’.
Firstly, tea/coffee dates are off the table. I can and do take myself on latte dates everyday. If a man does not have enough interest to invest in something a little more compelling than tea or coffee to get to know me and vice versa then I highly doubt he’s the man for me.
Secondly, listen. A man will tell you who he is. Take heed and if need be, break the connection.
Thirdly, when a situation arises like the one in my car Friday night, immediately eject the perp. Do not sashay around the stupidity for one minute longer than need be.
You may be tolerating lateness, thoughtlessness, a narcissist partner, allowing yourself to be taken for granted or taken advantage of, or even buying false promises from a married lover. And no matter what you tell yourself, you know it’s not acceptable.
Broken boundaries can occur in many areas of our lives: with bosses, with landlords, with colleagues, with family, with friends, and even with pets that rule the roost.
I had a friend who was a master at getting others—me especially—to do her bidding for her in the guise of ‘damsel in distress’ by feigning a lot of ignorance and confusion. She expected undying support through her many dramas. Yet when I confided in her one day about a cancer scare I was going through and the tests I required, her rapid response was, “You’ll be fine.” That’s it. Nothing more. No discussion, no offer to come with me, and not a single question later on about the test results. I never mentioned it again, but it was a turning point of awareness in how far I had allowed the boundaries to be crossed in a no give-take type of friendship.
Work is a common place for margins being overstepped be it the management or the employees. I recall when I was in my early 20s how at trade shows we, as sales reps, were required to man the hospitality suites until the last drunk had left. We had to entertain clients sometimes until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and then turn around and get up at 7:00 a.m. to work all day on our feet flogging our wares at the many trade shows.
I doubt the new entitlement generation would ever go that far. I had a right to get an appropriate amount of sleep, but worried that I may be reprimanded or fired, so I hung in and abused my body for the sake of my job. After a number of years of this, I finally put my foot down and left at a reasonable hour so that I would be refreshed for my actual job the following day.
Kids are a biggie for pushing parents past appropriate limits. I used to watch The Nanny occasionally out of morbid fascination for how out of control children can become. I loved how the British nanny would lay down the law with both children and parents.
I have never had children, but I think I have an ironclad solution for my sister or any parent with disrespectful teenagers who overstep boundaries. Most parents would give me a myriad of excuses of why it can’t be done, but I guarantee it can be done. I would use it because there is not a chance in hell that I would work my tail off to hand over my time and hard earned money while being disrespected. I know me and there is no way I would sacrifice myself to raise children only to have them take for granted the luxuries of their lives with nary a thank you.
My plan? Keep your iPhone, your X-Box, your T.V. Fill your boots. What I would implement is a new stringent rule: until all disrespect and boundary pushing stopped, all meal preparation would cease and chauffeur services would end. And absolutely all purchases of clothing or extras would come to a screeching halt. I would buy the bare basics of food stock for the kid(s) to prepare themselves. No specialty treats, no favorite foods, no luxury items. They would either have to take the bus or walk to all and any activities. I would go on strike until all sass mouthing came to a complete standstill and an apology was given.
At first you would have a War of the Roses scene from hell. This is always the hard part of any boundary setting, be it with your boss, your spouse, or your kids. Nobody wants you to change. Nobody wants new rules when they’ve been allowed to run roughshod over you or they have you trained as their personal concierge. But I know that once you traverse that rocky mountain with its dicey terrain, once you make it over to the other side without giving up or caving in, it’s a whole new vista.
Why do we allow our personal boundaries to be broken and disregarded? Our early role modeling may have created an environment where invaded boundaries were a lifestyle. We certainly fear the consequences and worry about what we think we may lose or else we would have already laid down the law.
For the sake of a good time, love, or security we may allow another to go too far. It may be that we are too complacent to make the necessary changes that we know we need to make. Even when we get nudges from our spirit, we justify. We succumb to pressure. We dishonor ourselves.
When the cost becomes too high, it is time to stake a claim on your borderline. There is a sublime sense of empowerment when you take charge and stand up for your personal boundaries. Today just may be the day you declare no more. Today could be the day you decree a new normal. Today may be a day of reckoning—one that sets you free from the stamp of someone’s footprints walking all over your dearest self.
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Post © Wanda St.Hilaire