Healthy Boundaries: Drawing a Line in the Sand

March 20, 2013

in Relationships

boundaries in relationships“Work” tends to have a negative connotation when used in context with relationships, but it is the best way to describe a necessary component to be successful. Being kind, considerate, and forgiving are a few good examples of qualities essential to forging a solid relationship as well. There are numerous ways to create a successful relationship, but one that never came to mind for me was creating boundaries.

It took 43 years and a lot of missteps along the way to recognize how important boundaries are in any relationship, not just romantic ones. It always felt selfish and inflexible to me to draw a line in the sand and state to a partner, “Don’t cross it.” I was always the understanding, overly-forgiving, less demanding one in a relationship–the one who never spoke up to state my needs and expectations.

Not surprisingly, this led to feeling unfulfilled, quiet resentment, and pent up frustrations. And unhealthy, imbalanced relationships, of course.  As recently as last summer, I had continued to forge ahead in yet another relationship that was doomed to fail for numerous reasons while my initial, weakly draw line had become trampled upon and no longer discernible in the sand. I was tired of having the same results with a different man. After that break up, I finally had to face this shortcoming I possessed.

How did the relationship evolve from a happy, promising beginning to an unfulfilling end?

It’s simple, really; I allowed it, yet again, to happen.

And with that realization came the sharpening of my stick. If I was going to begin dating again, I was going to draw a deep, moat-like line in the sand for anyone interested in dating me. I would no longer be overly-understanding, leading to another frustrating and unfulfilling relationship. I would rather be alone than bored, let down, and unhappy while dating. It wasn’t worth it anymore.

With the line drawn, I began dating again. And, when starting to date Sean, I did the unprecedented; I sharpened my stick even more. It only made sense if I was going to exclusively date him to ensure I would be happy. I found myself telling him very clearly where my line was and speaking up when he was encroaching upon it.

What happened as a result was amazing.

Sean saw the line, examined it, appreciated the effort I made to draw it, and continues to respect the line daily.

Something else wonderful also happened.

I found myself happy and fulfilled.

This first-time relationship with clearly-defined boundaries has taught me a great deal. The most important lesson I have learned is that a boundary is not synonymous with selfish or inflexible; it’s an important component to a successful relationship. Also, success isn’t measured by how the other is feeling, but rather the well being of both people.

 I love Sean and myself.

My line in the sand is one way I work towards long-term success for both of us.

healthy boundaries

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Trish March 20, 2013 at 11:06 am

You are so inspiring. Sadly I didn’t draw the line in the sand 40 years ago. I spent my days thinking if my other half was happy than I would be happy. But all I did was create a selfish other half, because since I encouraged it, he thought it was right! His personality is quiet and mine is outgoing – challenging to say the least. Now the kids have moved on and it is just the two of us and I have tried to draw a line in the sand so I can become and enjoy who I am as a person. Guess what happened! now I’m considered mean and he is the underdog – ‘poor guy’ has emerged. Can’t seem to enjoy my identity without consequences! Suggestion: Set your boundaries early and they will learn to respect you from the beginning. I have a challenge ahead of me!

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Naked Girl in a Dress March 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm

As someone who had no boundaries for 17 years in a marriage, I can understand where you are in life at this moment. It’s great you are working hard to point out your line, and that you two are working together. If it’s needed, couples counseling might help your husband understand your perspective a bit better. Having a neutral party involved always helps. Best of luck to you!

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Jeanie Rule March 20, 2013 at 11:31 am

LOVE this Kelly! Good for you, and Sean, for honoring boundaries! I’ll be posting this, of course… : ) xo

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Naked Girl in a Dress March 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this post on your FB page today! I appreciate you and your support of my writing.

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TB at Blue Collar Workman March 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

I still don’t quite get it, but my wife talked about this early in our marriage. About how I was walking all over her. So she started to sorta set rules or something, which I shrugged and followed because I love her. And she started to get happier. I have no idea what this is all about, but it’s great if you can do it, and if a dude likes you, he should be on board too, whether or not he understands what’s happening!
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Naked Girl in a Dress March 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Great comment, TB! We don’t always understand men either. :)

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Kimberly April 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Yes, loving myself is key…I’m working on getting that solid before someone else comes along. Then he and I can only be stronger, right?

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Naked Girl in a Dress April 10, 2013 at 7:49 am

I am still finding my way as a Naked Girl, but I did recently discover that loving yourself enough to have boundaries drawn does lead to a happier relationship. I agree it’s worth working on first.

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