Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Value of personal Boundaries

After so many years of being married to me, my husband takes some of my eccentricities with a grain of salt. One of the things he has come to accept is that I won’t kill anything – if I find an insect in my house, I carefully scoop it up with cup and paper and I take it outside. My take is that if it’s alive it has a purpose to exist, and I have no right to terminate whatever it is here to accomplish. Life is life regardless of its form.

This past summer, I spent a couple of weeks discouraging ants from coming into the house. After a little frustration and a few good old-timer tips, I finally succeeded. I even went as far as trying to save as many ants as I could and put them back outside, which my husband could only chuckle at. “You must be the only woman alive who worries about saving ants,” he told me one night after I spent several minutes trying to scoop up as many as I could from the dishwasher before running it. Too bad if some ended up drowning, but I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving them in there if I could do something about it.

To cut a long story short, the past week we’ve had new visitors. Although we spend $40 each month on flea-preventive medicine for our cats, something didn’t work, and a couple of determined fleas made it inside. Rabbits? I think people should use fleas as the totem animal for Easter – nothing reproduces any faster.

Unable to lure them outside in any other way, I finally gave in and fogged my house, killing all the fleas that had survived everything else. While I cleaned the house after the fogging, I thought about the extermination, and wonder how many tiny lives had succumbed to the killer fog. Craziest thing was that I was the one who had “pulled the tab” on the cans.

That led me to think about the importance of preserving personal space and setting boundaries. By setting personal boundaries, we create limits for how others act and speak in our presence. They are not designed to isolate us, but rather to keep out behavior we can’t accept in our personal space.

After we identify what our personal boundaries are, we need to make sure we express them clearly and consistently, without worrying too much about others being upset by the scale of their rigidity. People get most upset when they DON’T know what their friends’ boundaries are, rather than when they know. Once they are aware of their limits, they can relax and not worry that their words or actions might offend anyone. A lack of personal boundaries - or communication of them to the other party - can only lead to strained relationships.

Of course, it would have been impossible to explain my boundaries to the fleas, so I had to resort to more drastic measures, but as long as two individuals speak the same language, there is no reason why anyone would need to silently endure.

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