It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it. ― Mandy Hale
I have opened up about my relationship woes. Realising my attraction to the Mr Unavailable was the first step to changing these dire patterns and improving my self-esteem. The awareness didn’t stop it though, it wasn’t enough. The attraction doesn’t just go away and you don’t just forget the people you once liked. I did and do, feel at risk of repeating the same mistakes. A significant highlight that has come from my break with dating is forming clear, honest, individual boundaries. Having these in place, 100% make me feel better about myself and gives me a clearer direction of where I am headed in life and love. I hope that you too, can love yourself enough to secure your own boundaries and stick to them, despite the pull to go back to Mr Wrong.
What is a Boundary?
A boundary is the limits you put in place within your relationships. As much as possible, boundaries will prevent us from being manipulated and taken advantage of.
Boundaries are different for everyone. That’s why later in this post, you may relate to some of my boundaries and not to others, that’s OK.
We do need to be mindful with our boundaries, of course we don’t want to build up walls and never let anyone in, at the same time, we want to live in accordance with our values.
The best person to know when a boundary is being pushed, is you. You will feel it. Something will be triggered inside you, it’s up to you to figure out if this is a reasonable, healthy boundary being pushed, or, if it is an insecurity that needs your attention – it can be a mixture of both, no one said this stuff is easy. Trial and error will be your best friend.
A whole Lotta History
What does the history of your standards and boundaries look like? Before you read any further, I encourage you to explore this about yourself.
The truth is, I always thought I had secure boundaries and standards around how I expect to be treated. It wasn’t until I hit 30 that I had my wakeup call.
Literally, on my 30th birthday, I was being ghosted out by someone who had previously morphed themselves into my ‘dream’ man (I had never experienced it to this extent before). The more he pulled back? The more he pulled me in. It felt very familiar.
Looking back at the patterns of my relationships and attractions over the last ten years, I can see, there is nothing secure about them at all.
They all came in different suits and consisted of a mixture of unrequited love, settling, crushing and accepting poor treatment – it had become the norm.
For anyone that knows me, there may seem to be a contradiction here. Because we all know, if I feel disrespected, I am the first to stand up for myself.
I have no qualms with texting the person pulling back to ask where I stand.
That, it seems, tricked me into thinking I had the perfect standards. Cross my boundaries and I will politely (mostly) tell you about it.
However, what I have come to realise, is if by the time someone crosses me, I have grown to admire them, it’s a very different story. At that point, whilst I will stand up for myself; I will believe the lies that come back my way. You had my permission to keep disrespecting me, keep pushing me, and keep hurting me.
If I ever took a thing from therapy, it was that ‘letting go’ is my biggest challenge.
This applies to any relationships, but particularly romantic. In fact, it is not unheard of that when I have developed a crush, I will take it until the bitter end.
I forgive myself for my lack of boundaries and the excessive ego stroking I have committed.
I understand it. I grew up witnessing extremely volatile relationships all around me and often, people leaving.
So somewhere as a young child, I set a clear standard; “I will never let a man treat me badly” – or something along those lines. As I have mentioned previously on my blog, these standards related to no violence and abuse. Whilst that is of course (!!!), a good thing to live by, it still doesn’t make for seeking out healthy relationships.
I stuck to that promise. I have always been attracted to guys who are kind at heart, I think. But, at the risk of this sounding contradictory, certainly during the time these people spent with me, they did not always know how to treat another human being with respect and honesty.
As I’ve said before, I don’t place blame on them. It’s not a coincidence that I experienced it time and time again. Why would someone put in the extra effort of communication and honesty, when I accepted otherwise.
The Problem with Low Standards:
If you are sticking around despite being stood up, getting ignored, having the hot and cold treatment, and experiencing general confusion, then it’s fair to say; you do not have secure boundaries in place.
Putting up with this is coming from a place of not loving or valuing yourself enough. You are allowing this person to walk all over you. Your happiness is placed firmly in their hands. That is not OK.
You are two people with equal value. Your time is as valuable as theirs, your mental health is as valuable as theirs and your future is as valuable as theirs.
You have a lot to offer and if this person is not seeing that or treating you as a worthy human being, it’s time to move on and hold out for a person who does.
Until you put your standards in place and believe that you deserve those standards, you will keep attracting the same old person, and they will keep pushing your boundaries.
Prior to forgiving myself; For a long time, I resisted creating valuable boundaries and standards. It was hard to think about without becoming frustrated. The way I have acted and the treatment I allowed in my life, makes me feel bad for my younger self, it was my job to look after her and I felt I had let her down. How many tears could I have saved her?
Truth be told, I resisted too because with my standards in place, who the hell am I attracted to?!
Well it’s hard to know. Because the emotionally available guy, he doesn’t come along as easily. And he is new to me, so he doesn’t stand out as easily.
But I can tell you this; Having my standards firmly in place and focusing on my own life, has restored my faith in relationships.
Before I actually got pen to paper, my new boundaries were naturally falling into place. I have put a lot of time and effort into learning to value myself. As a side effect, I have noticed the boundaries formed without me needing to do much at all. So step number 1; love yourself.
As I dip my toes back into the world of dating, I decided I wanted to put what I learned onto paper. Because then there is no going back; unless I choose to go against my values and against my standards. More fool me if I do.
For me I looked backwards. I knew the obvious ones that we should all be living by in any relationship. Respect, Kindness, Support and understanding. (I hope abuse goes without saying).
They were too vague and keeping them that simple, meant I could bend my standards as I see fit. And trust me, history has shown that a 6ft4 Irish man walking into my life could do that.
I re-visited all my relationship and dating experiences in the past ten years, but particularly 25 onward. I singled out:
I found similarities between the treatment of someone I was with for 5 years compared to 8 weeks. No joke.
A word of warning if you intend to use the same process; you will get agitated as you remember, it’s OK, it’s all for the greater good. The main thing is, you won’t allow that to happen again.
I am going to share with you the regrets I experienced (I know, no such things as regrets but you know what I mean) and the standard that is now in place. I know that sometimes someone really is busy, or they made a mistake. I will always consider that in real time, of course. But I have enough experience to know the difference. No one… NO ONE that likes you is too busy to initiate conversation with you.
I also know that sometimes, it is my own insecurity, and I have taken that into consideration too. I am always working on myself to be a better person, and I will continue to do so, but not when it is because someone has manipulated me into thinking it is my own insecurity.
Here is what I now live by with dating, personal relationships and hopefully; future relationships. If I miss any out that apply to you, or you have any considerations for mine, let me know in the comments below.
Regret: Allowing someone to hurt me over and over (and over) again in the same way.
Boundary: If a person behaves in a way that they know is hurting me, I will walk away.
This regret is the one that can still create a whole load of emotions if I allow myself to go back there. I clearly remember thinking “this is never going to stop”. I knew that the ONLY way I could relieve myself from this pain would be to walk. I didn’t walk.
This is not a case of differences in opinion. Both parties agreed that the behaviour was wrong. Very clear, calm (not always) conversations about were had.
If another person loves you and continues to act in a way that they know is hurting you, that is a big problem.
If after calm consideration, seeking the opinion of someone you trust, you decide this behaviour is unacceptable; then it is time to take action.
Believe in yourself. Value yourself. Understand, you deserve better. Do not convince yourself (or let anyone else convince you) this is in your head.
If you continue to allow yourself to be in this situation, that is now your problem. Walk away, with your head and standards held high.
Regret: Travelling across town or city to meet someone who has already planted seeds of doubt and/or that I barely know. Boundary: Not to over invest time and energy when there is little or no reciprocation
Yup, I packed a bag and traveled to a different city for someone who delivered the full hot and cold experience. Urgh.
This will show up in other ways too; trekking across the city for a date, rearranging plans and keeping your evenings free on the off chance they will be available for you.
Keep in mind, that a respectful person who values you, will value your time.
I have a technique I use that really helps me to identify how much effort is coming my way. Remember, it takes seconds (!!!) to send a text.
Regret: Sticking around after I had acknowledged to myself, friends and said person, they are being hot and cold. Boundary: I will be clear with this person that hot and cold treatment isn’t for me.
Look, what I actually believe is that the right person will already have reached out and explained what is going on. If it takes you asking what is going on for someone to reply with having problems at work or being busy, that is a huge red flag for me, and I’m 99% sure they are a time waster. (Not much winds me up more in this dating world, than someone wasting another person’s precious time on this Earth).
However, I know how it is… benefit of the doubt bla bla. So I am up for explaining early doors when the shift becomes apparent (or before if appropriate) that hot and cold isn’t for me. If it isn’t over at this point, it’s time to pull back on the energy and keep a watchful eye on things. Usually, when they have you safe and sweet, things will turn chilly again. At some point, it’s time to find your strength. If you are willing to share healthy boundaries, you will attract a healthy relationship; at that point, dedicating your efforts to someone blowing hot and cold will be a joke to you.
Regret: Looking after the person too much and taking responsibility for their feelings. Boundary: It’s 50/50 (and 2019). We’re in this together.
Yup. I said it. It’s not my job to look after a grown person. It’s not my job to clean up after another person or nag them. It’s not my job to make someone not feel stress or upset,and certainly I am not responsible for anyone’s happiness.
I want to contribute to another person’s happiness, but taking responsibility for it is a whole other ball game.
In the past, I would feel an immense sense of guilt when I didn’t cook for a partner, if I suggested we miss an event for my niece’s birthday or if I picked the restaurant in case they don’t like it. That is my doing, that is the value I placed on another person’s feelings over mine. And of course, that led to resentment on my part.
By the way, if the other person has come down with flu or I fancy doing something nice for him, sure I will do those things. And yes, I can let go of the odd annoying habit, but this boundary goes deeper than that. My reason for doing those things did not come from a place of self-love. It came from a place of insecurity and people pleasing.
Regret: Opening up too soon. Boundary: Only open up when I know where I stand
This is one of those boundaries that comes with a very fine line. We don’t want to build walls up, but we do have to tune in to ourselves and decide when vulnerable feels too vulnerable.
There is a lot to say about vulnerability. Getting to know someone truly, requires sharing deeper parts of yourself and that is always going to be a risk. Don’t be pressured into sharing the big stuff until you know who you are sharing it with.
For me, When I have opened up too early about certain life situations, I have been left feeling resentful towards the other person. The truth is, they were unable to appreciate the importance of such conversations for me, because to them, it may have been the equivalent to discussing how you like your eggs.
It’s up to you to share when you are ready, my advice would be, to have the foundations built before you open up old wounds for this person.
They is my current top five regrets that have led to secure boundaries on my part. There are plenty more that come to mind, but they don’t feel as important as this five right now, and many boundaries go without saying.
Setting your boundaries is not an easy thing to do but it is 100% necessary if you intend to have a healthy, happy relationship. If you find it hard to identify and stick to boundaries, get in contact and book a 90 minute Clarity Coaching Call.
Carly Ann xx