Saturday, February 12, 2011
There's a limit. And what is it? This can be a thorny question in a marriage, in a friendship, in a relationship with a relative. How many and how far an incursion do you tolerate and how quickly, under what circumstances, and how firmly do you, yourself, set a limit with someone you really care about?
The last part of the last question is the easiest to answer: Once you decide to set a limit, make it clear. It isn't fair to you nor to the other person to express your displeasure, to draw the line and then to go all wobbly about it---too confusing. If you aren't clear about what you want, the other person can't be expected to divine it and thus, they really can't comply, or even decide if they are going to comply or not. It may require you to do some thinking before speaking.
Once you are internally clear, you do have a right to say what you want. However, you may get a reaction. You have to expect that. You can't just dictate to others and have it all, always go your way. It might just be acknowledged, accepted and acted upon---that's the ideal outcome for you. A healthy alternative might be that the other interprets your statement of your preference as the initiation of a negotiation, not a final declaration; thus, you have entered a process. Or, maybe a mutually clarifying discussion will be the result---that could be enlightening. Those are productive outcomes.
Conversely, there are, of course, many negative possibilities: Anger on the part of the other, defensiveness, resistance, refusal, a feeling on their part of being offended, argument, misinterpretation, and so on. You can't make a stand without being prepared for the other(s) to react from a myriad of possible positions. Some even make a habit of ostensibly agreeing and then, blithely going on in the same way, ignoring the limit you set for yourself. This, needs must, presents you with the necessity of repeating yourself. And, if you don't, if you overlook the other overlooking you, it will be all the more difficult to be respected the next time you have to stand for yourself with this individual.
How do you know what to tolerate and what to change? If there is a problematic behavior on the part of another or, a particular behavior on the part of others that bothers you, you must watch for two things: Is is a pattern? Does that person repeat it over and over? Maybe getting your toes stepped on once can be tolerated but maybe, even twice is too much and then you have to say something. The other thing to notice is if the disliked behavior bothers you every time anyone does it? (Or is it only some people? In that case, you may be focusing on the wrong thing---back to the drawing board!). How much does it disturb you? Can you live with it, really? If it never changed, could you be okay with that? Is it something that is possible for the other to change?
For example, if someone in your circle has a very annoying laugh and, let's say, you find certain types of laughter irritating anyway, well, what are you going to do? A laugh is a natural expression, different in each person, sometimes pleasant to the ear, sometimes not. But I don't think it is possible for a person to change that in themselves. In another example, if a friend hits you and you don't like to be hit, that is an action on which they can restrain themselves.
In the world of setting limits, there are preferences and there are rights. Your home, for example is your place,---your sanctuary, some say. You have the right, to a great extent to say how things go there. If you share your home, the rights are still there but are shared and, thus, are less all-encompassing. If you don't like loud parties that go on until all hours of the morning and your partner does, a compromise has to be reached. One cannot impose their complete will upon the other. A possibility would be that parties would be allowed at certain agreed-upon intervals and would end at, say, midnight.
Sometimes a limit has been set previously but transgressed. What do you do then? How you state (re-state) your terms can be quite simple (Example: "We had an agreement."), direct, and without rancor. It seems that a low-key tone and straightforward statement have the best chance of being received well.
One of the things I notice since I participate in fitness and physical health classes (primarily Yoga and Feldenkrais) is that the teachers will usually not perform a correction on a student without asking permission first, to touch them. It seems we all have the right to decide if we will be touched by another or not. Here is an example of a culturally-set limit.
Other limits you consider setting with others may have to do with meeting times, food preferences, drug use or abstention, frequency of visits, duration of visits, in business---there may be policies that in your business you choose to require your clients/customers to adhere to. There could be many examples. These are more fitting in the category of wants than rights.
Nonetheless, you are free to draw the line anywhere in your life that you choose. If the pattern's continuation without a limit is going to put a lot of wear and tear on any relationship, it seems it might be important to put forth that limit. What about when others demonstrate the firmness of their own boundaries with you? Something to pay attention to...
To be fair, this has to work both ways.