Lately, I have found myself frequently talking with my clients about being responsible for just ourselves. In other words, personal boundaries. We have all heard about personal boundaries. "Set boundaries and enforce them for yourself," they say. Hell, I even say that to people all the time.
But I have found the part that is usually left out of this conversation, and really probably the most important part, is the boundary of the other person. The point where you stop and they begin. The boundary discussion needs to include what you are responsible for: yourself. You let the other person be responsible for their self.
Something we all struggle with is feeling responsible for other people. I like to call this "managing others." Seems kind of a silly action once you call it managing others. And that's really what it is. It is taking responsibility for that other person and adjusting your behaviors because of how you expect them to feel about something.
Have you ever not said something because you think the other person will get mad? Do you ever do something to "protect" the other person from having to do something unpleasant, like clean up after them, not out of love and wanting to serve but almost because you think they can't handle that task?
This is a problem that has developed in many relationships. Taking the burden on yourself for the other person. It's an undue burden. Often, the other person is surprised to hear that you have developed this mindset. A common response is "you don't need to do that."
Something I work on with my clients is letting go of that burden. Being responsible for their self and letting the other person be responsible for their self. It is so freeing. It also shifts the state of the relationship. You become equals when you only hold your part in the relationship. You see the other person as an individual who deserves respect and love, and can handle themselves, and the relationship becomes a strong partnership.
Now you might be saying in your head, well what if there is something the other person doesn't like and I know that about them so I prevent it from happening? Yes, how kind of you. However, the shift is letting that person tell you what they don't like, in a kind and respectful way, and then you making a choice to honor that request. You jump the gun and manage them when you think you know for them so you just "do." There's that funny little saying about assuming for others, makes us asses right? Don't be an ass.
You are better than that and I truly believe it.
This is another area I work on with my clients. Speaking up for themselves and communicating with each other in ways that are healthy and accomplish the task of creating a better connection. But that's another blog post for another time.
'Til then my friends!
Corrin Voeller is a relationship therapist in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She does in-person and online counseling and coaching with couples and individuals to improve the relationships in their lives. She lives with her husband, children, and extremely fat dog.
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