You change for one of two reasons: Either you learn enough that you want to, or you've been hurt enough that you have to. -Unknown
For me, it was hurt that fueled my need to change, not only by ending my marriage but by changing some things about myself as well. While my ex-husband's abusive behavior contributed to the demise of our marriage, I realized my own behaviors were allowing this abuse to continue -- and probably attracted it in the first place. These behaviors were clear indications that I lacked any boundaries and so, with help, I finally began to establish them. Once I established and upheld them, it was easier to get out of the marriage. And as time went on, I discovered an added bonus to establishing healthy boundaries: I could finally attract the right partner who would allow me to experience the relationship of my dreams.
Healthy boundaries are a set of physical, emotional and psychological limits that you establish and expect others to respect and adhere to. Without clear boundaries, you may end up being treated with disrespect, dishonor and be devalued in your relationship. With that kind of unyielding treatment, you will surely have little or no sense of self-worth. That was my personal experience in my marriage. I was hurt enough that I knew it was time to change something in order to live a happier, healthier life. I learned the hard way just what behaviors I was exhibiting that were allowing this type of treatment to continue. Here are some of the behavioral warning signs of a lack of healthy boundaries:
- People-pleasing. One way in which you neglect to maintain healthy boundaries is being a people-pleaser. When you go out of your way to make sure another is happy to the detriment of your own happiness, your boundaries become non-existent. By doing this, you convey to the other person that you are unimportant. You also convey to them that you are responsible for their happiness so they don't have to do anything about it for themselves. In doing so, you take away their personal power to do something beneficial for themselves. Neither person benefits.
- Approval seeking. Another way in which you neglect to maintain healthy boundaries is in seeking approval. This is similar to being a people-pleaser. When you seek approval, you invite other peoples' opinions, agendas, and fears to rule your decision making. You shop for agreement and acceptance, which is confining. You invite them into your space and then give away your power. You end up disrespecting yourself in the process. When you disrespect yourself, you can't receive the respect from others that you deserve. Again, by doing this, your boundaries become non-existent.
- Being easily threatened. Both people-pleasing and seeking approval stem from fear and that fear is usually a big factor in why you don't have healthy boundaries. To make matters worse, sometimes people in your lives use the power of that fear to keep you from establishing and maintaining boundaries. There are people who are so fueled by their own fear and ego, that they will use the power of fear to keep you under control. These people don't want you to have boundaries, so they may make you feel threatened, both overtly and covertly, so you don't set or uphold your personal boundaries. When you live in this kind of fear, you may find it impossible to uphold even the smallest of limits. Yet, without limits, you are damaging yourself even more.
Lack of boundaries injures your self-esteem, sense of self-worth and your spirit. You begin to believe that you aren't worthy or important. You may render yourself powerless and continue to allow yourself to be treated with disrespect. You may even become despondent or depressed. But this doesn't have to go on forever. The damage that is done from not setting and upholding healthy boundaries is reversible with guidance, counseling and healing. Be clear about where your boundaries lie and you may find, as I did, that you can not only live a healthy and joyful life, but also have a fulfilling relationship after all.
Pamela Dussault, creator of www.PassageToInnerJoy.com, is a spiritual teacher, mentor, intuitive counselor and medium, soul mate relationship specialist, founder of the R.E.A.P. healing method, and author.