Often when we find ourselves in an unsatisfactory relationship we ask many questions, such as why does he / she treat me this way, when will this change and what do I have to do to improve this. However, this puts all the blame for the issues on the other party and while this person may be at fault in certain areas, they are only doing what we ALLOWED them to do. This can be because we failed to practice healthy boundaries.
The important thing to remember is that we only have control over ourselves and as much as we may like to change someone else, maybe even actively try to change them, the result is often a highly dysfunctional and co dependent relationship.
The way to avoid this situation is to practice healthy boundaries before we even enter into a relationship, so that when someone enters our life who may be a potential love match, we already know what we are ready to embrace and what we cannot tolerate.
So where do some relationships go wrong?
Relationships can go wrong when we are most concerned with HAVING a relationship, with being part of a couple and not being alone. We decide that someone meets the criteria based on looks, income, instant attraction, sense of humour, and what lies on the SURFACE. These things are important but nowhere near as important as getting to know who this person really is, what they really want and how they treat us on a day to day basis – long after the initial stages. Very often we dont even ask the right questions because we dont want to scare them off by appearing pushy or too keen. So we drift along and ‘hope’ that they are thinking and feeling the same things that we are, and aiming for the same long term goals as us.
In many cases we make commitments before we really know someone. We may move in with them, marry them, have children with them – and we make many of these decisions based on how WE feel and what WE want whilst disregarding signs that the other person may not be willing, ready or able to fill the role that we have created for them whilst we pursue our own dreams.
It is VERY hard to suddenly set boundaries with someone when you have children with them, when you have shared finances and when they have been used to being able to do exactly as they please with nothing but verbal complaints from you, but absolutely no action whatsoever. This is why it is vitally important to know what you want, and recognise signs that the other person may not want the same, may not want it with you, and may be totally unable to deliver it – which is complicated further when they tell you things to the contrary.
Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.
This may sound like a harsh statement but the message is clear, if someone is not backing up words with actions then you need to be ready to face the fact that the dialogue is dreams, fantasies and an elaborate way to keep you holding to something that is always ‘ahead’ and never within your reach.
When we practice healthy boundaries we don’t rush into relationships, we don’t assume that the other person is heading in the same direction that we are, we get to know them and find out. We don’t invest our heart until we know that this is a good and safe place to do so and we detach when it becomes clear that this is not a good match – not because we don’t feel any attachment, not because we want to be alone and not because we don’t care about the other person. We do it because we love and respect ourselves enough to know when to let go. Because we understand that these situations can be a downward spiral and we realise that the legacy of a destructive and abusive relationship can live on long after the relationship itself has ended – and that can seriously affect future interactions as we become the one carrying ‘baggage’.
How can I love somebody else, if I cant love myself enough to know, when its time – time to let go.
Mary J Blige – Be Happy
Like this article? Read my book: Relationships – what you need to know