Learning to pay attention to the little things we can do to create healthier relationships
This series continues to talk about the intricacies of being in relationships with another people and how our insecurities can lead to boundary crossings that make healthy relationships impossible. In this section I will be talking about things that violate our physical and emotional boundaries. Why Respecting Boundaries Is Crucial, Part 1
Sexual Impulsivity. Do you jump into a sexual relationship on first impulse? I talk to people who are distressed by the number of sexual partners they have had and the apparent lack of interest those partners have in any lasting relationship or in a relationship that happens outside of the bedroom. If this sounds familiar to you, you may be confusing sex with intimacy. Especially when you have lived a life that has not gained relationships that validate you for being you, it’s easy to find yourself trying to find closeness with others through sex. While sexual freedom and exploration can be wonderful and exciting, when it is a substitute for love and mutual respect it can become emotionally violating and confusing.
Sacrificing Sexually. Are you sexual for the satisfaction of your partner and not for yourself? Sex is one of the most physically intimate experiences we can have. It is generally tied very closely with our personal value, too. If you find, more often than not, that you are having sex just because the other person wants to and not because you do, you will begin to connect sex with negativity. Eventually you may begin to resent the other person and blame them for the choices that you have been making. It’s okay to say no. I know that may sound simplistic since there can be a consequence for saying no in some relationships. However, you need to know that you have the right to have control over your sexual experiences and if sex is not fun for you those feelings will bleed over into other areas of your self-esteem, your relationships and you entire emotional life.
Violating Values. Do you go against your own personal values to please someone else? It can be scary to say no to someone, even if they have never indicated that they are aggressive or controlling. What if they don’t like you after you say no? What if they get angry with you? What if they are disappointed in you? What if you lose them because you don’t agree with them? These are very real fears to you and yet fears that can put you in a position of feeling uncomfortable because you are not truly okay with what is happening. When we or others around us violate our value system it impacts us deeply. If we ignore our values and let someone else tell us what is right we risk losing ourselves and living an unauthentic life – trying to live as if we are someone entirely different from who we truly are.
Allowing the Uncomfortable. Do you accept gifts, food, touch or sex that you do not want? Just like when our value systems are violated, when others push something onto us that we do not want or are uncomfortable having we become distressed. It can feel as if you are being rude by putting this boundary in place. You can feel as though you might hurt the other person’s feelings if you say no. However, you need to pay attention to the warning bells inside your head. Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t and you are allowed to turn it down.
Touching. Do you touch others without asking permission first? This includes touches to the arm or back, a hand on leg, touching a pregnant belly, stroking someone’s hair and so forth. It can seem harmless, but our personal space and our bodies are sacred. While this changes from culture to culture, American personal space dictates that we prefer to be asked permission before being touched. Most pregnant women do not like to have their bellies touched unless by someone they know and trust. Laying a hand on someone’s arm, leg, or back can feel violating, controlling or just uncomfortable for them. If you are not sure whether you have a relationship with someone where this is acceptable go ahead and ask.
These boundaries are ones that keep us safe and give those we come into contact with a sense of safety. If we want to reach trusting relationships with people it’s important that we respect them and ourselves. Why Respecting Boundaries Is Crucial, Part 3