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Healthy Friendships, Healthy Boundaries

This is today’s status for one of my friends on Facebook: Let go of those who bring you down and surround yourself with those who bring out the best in you, and want the best for you” It’s particularly apt for me at the moment, as the subject of what constitutes a healthy relationship has once again become something that is close to my heart.

Last week, once again, I found myself re-evaluating the value of my friendships following a series of eye-opening realizations. Not just with one person, with a handful of people covering contrasting situations and differing levels of severity. Funny, don’t you think, how sometimes the universe seems to conspire to make absolutely sure we get the point? It seems I have had to have the lesson spelled out to me in many ways, via more than one person, and on various levels – just to make certain I understand. Does that make me a particularly dumb student of life? Well, perhaps on the one hand yes it does. On the other hand, though, perhaps it’s due to something else. Perhaps my determination to find the best in people stems from something far less straightforward… I have a funny feeling that most of you here at Lovefraud will identify with what I’m about to share with you.

Being An Enabler

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been what I would call one of life’s enablers – a giver, carer, supporter and fighter for the rights of other people. I have been one of those people who will stick her neck out to protect others. I will stand up for rights, and fight against injustice. I still do it to a large extent. That, I believe, is part of what makes me successful in my chosen profession as a leadership and team development coach.

At work I am known as being someone who says it as it is and will stand up to the bully. I also encourage others to do the same, be it in their professional or personal life. I am the person who helps others identify their core values, to facilitate their discovery of what really makes them tick, to guide them in clarifying their focus for what is important to them. Not what’s important to other people – their family, their boss, their colleagues, their friends – no, what’s important to them as a human soul. For most people it can feel weird to become the centre of their own attention. For many, they have previously measured their success or failure, their likes or dislikes, their progress or regression through other people or situations.

I am grateful for my skills, and feel privileged to enjoy a career in the field of human development. I am lucky enough to work with people, often on a deeply personal level. It is a position of trust that I value extremely highly – I know I am lucky to do the work I do, and I am constantly enriched by the progress that people make through coaching and development. It’s incredibly rewarding!

So, being an ‘enabler’ therefore is a good thing…. Isn’t it? Well, yes it is…. And there can also be a downside, as all of us who have experienced any kind of abusive relationship will testify.

Boundary Blindspots

This is what has hit home to me once again this week. This is where I have discovered another aspect to my own blind spots. Since becoming free from my sociopathic husband, I have been much more mindful about the friendships I keep. Some have gone by the wayside. Others have strengthened. New ones have started, and old forgotten ones have returned. It’s been – and continues to be – an extremely cathartic and enjoyable process. And, to be honest, I thought I was doing pretty darned well!

It would appear not. It would appear that I’d once again slipped in to the trap of bending over backwards in too many ‘friendships’ that really didn’t warrant that level of attention. It appears now, that in my general sense of happiness and well being, that I had let some less than healthy aspects of some relationships thrive and take space right in front of my eyes. I’d been caring for cuckoos in the nest – blindly feeding and nurturing them to the detriment of other healthy friendships, including the one with myself.

It was my friend, Beatrix, who gave me some incredibly wise advice last summer. I’d been struggling against a backlash of unpleasant emails from somebody who I expected to know better. I felt shocked and exasperated and found myself wailing at my dear friend “But I don’t understand! I thought we’d moved past all this! We have had a really good relationship over recent times!” She looked at me at this point, and put her head to one side, a wry smile on her face “You know what, Mel?” she said “It’s amazing how many great relationships anyone can have when they bend over backwards to make them so…” She was right of course. My natural fall-back position of carer and giver meant that I had been the one putting the vast majority of effort and flexibility in to that particular relationship. I could continue doing that (and feel like a doormat in the process) or I could gently but firmly stand my ground, letting the relationship transform in the process. I chose to stand my ground, and kept that particular person at a healthy arms length.

It was Beatrix, again, who has put me on the straight and narrow today – thank you my friend. When I shared the stories of what I’d experienced over the past few days, she simply shrugged. “All of those people have behaved in exactly the way they normally do” she said “you already knew what to expect from them – so what’s the point in being upset? You’re the one who’s being unreasonable because you’re expecting them to do something different – that’s just plain crazy. Just because you’ve changed and grown, doesn’t mean they have!”

Once again she was right, of course. With each of the examples I gave her, she reminded me gently that I’d already decided some months ago to keep my distance in each case. And as my life and experiences have continued to be more joyful and rewarding, I have become more tolerant and understanding of others. And yes, as a result, perhaps I forgot some of my boundaries.

Unconsciously I had once again been putting myself out – bending, flexing, staying open, being tolerant – and in the process allowing myself to put up with situations which, while in some cases were not actually harmful to me, in all cases were certainly less than supportive.

No wonder I had been feeling angry! No wonder I’d been confused! Whilst the circumstances of last week can hardly be called ‘abusive’ they have certainly pushed the old buttons from when I have been in an abusive relationship. Betrayal, abandonment, isolation, shame – all of those insidious emotions started to re-surface. Not enough, it has to be said, to overwhelm – certainly sufficient to knock me a little off balance, and to start the “What am I doing wrong? How is this happening again?” questions poking and picking at the scars that had long since healed.

Standing My Ground

In all fairness, the behaviours of those specific people last week were probably not worthy of a prison sentence – perhaps just a caution, or a sharp rap on the knuckles. But because of what I have been through, as for so many of us here, I will no longer tolerate anything that is not supportive to me. The glaringly obvious fact that I had been blind enough to anticipate supportive behaviour from people who have shown me their true colours on countless occasions in the past, left me feeling shameful and angry. You may remember that I’m writing my first book, and that has involved going over a huge amount of old ground. So yes, I was feeling angry at my past. Yes, I was feeling angry at the way so many people who were meant to care for me, even in my childhood, have treated me badly. So yes, it’s fair to say that my emotional responses have been perhaps a little more intense than usual.

But they are no less valid – no matter the strength, or the underlying reasons.

I am standing my ground. Fairly, squarely, and with my head held high. Friendships, to me, are about a healthy symbiotic relationship. Where two people meet honestly, to share ideas, to grow, to laugh, to help each other, and to enjoy each other’s company. As the blinkers continued to fall from my eyes last week, one particular person asked whether I would remain friends with them. I responded honestly and as gently as I could. I said that in view of what I had realised, I would never turn them away if they asked for help – but that I didn’t think I would continue to be a friend. Not, at least, in the way that I value and measure my friendships.

If the only way to maintain a friendship is if I continue to bend, flex, stay quiet, support and understand the other person – while ignoring the emotional bruises I am getting in the process – well, then that’s not, in my world, a healthy relationship. It doesn’t make the other person an enemy – but if I continue being a friend on those levels, then I am being an enemy to myself. I am giving myself the message that I’m not worthy of having people around me who love me for who I am. I am telling myself, just as I was told as a child and later on by my husband, that I’m not good enough. That I’ll never measure up to much, and that nobody could possibly love me.

Well you know what? That just isn’t true. So, my friends, although I might have re-built my boundaries this week and created more distance between us, you have all helped me tremendously – thank you. It’s said that people come in to our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Well, as time continues, my lifetime friends are becoming more and more valuable to me – and top of the list is my relationship with myself.

Thank you for reading, I hope this has been useful! With love and blessings

 



35 Comments on "Healthy Friendships, Healthy Boundaries"

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  1. Ox Drover says:

    BBE and Skylar,

    Some of the “disdain for women” is CULTURAL. Many cultures, in the Middle East especially, do not value women much if any above cattle or camels….the man is EXPECTED to use women and have “temporary wives” (prostitutes) any time they want one, women are subservient and property. My own Scots-Irish culture held the woman as a second class citizen, and only in 1919 did we (women) get the vote. It is much later than that, in the 1970s when women finally got equality with their husbands in property ownership and credit scores. Even now there is the corporate “glass ceiling” keeping women’s salaries below men and their ability to rise within the corporate structure is not “equal” for sure.

    Of course the narcissistic men and psychopathic men USE THIS CULTURAL BIAS as an excuse for how they treat women and ENCOURAGE their sons to assume that attitude as well, so it cultural and genetic and environmental.



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  2. ElizabethBennett says:

    My ex-N did definitely hate women, and it became apparent in the end days of our relationship. He enjoyed getting sex from them, but that is all that they were useful for in his life-that and providing a nice superficial outside exterior reputation.



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  3. behind_blue_eyes says:

    I guess being gay I am not really exposed to misogyny but I do get glimpses of it. Of course, Wall Street is known for such.

    Sadly, with all the gains women have made, the simple fact is that in major corporations, women are underrepresented throughout the management chain. The same is true for minorities.



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  4. skylar says:

    Oxy,
    It’s very strange to see the way the N-men react when I tell them my story. They don’t seem shocked or offended by what my spath did to me. It’s like: so? And I realized that it’s because they would do the same if they could. BUT, they are only relating to the attack on me as a woman. As soon as I explain the extent of my exspath’s murderous bent, AND how he has killed MEN with the SAME “bonding” game that he was trying to kill me with, they say, “fetch me my gun.” or something to that effect. Suddenly it’s personal.

    When I tell them that the spath is bisexual, they show disgust. When I tell them how he cons millionaires, they seem impressed. When I tell them about how talented he is, flying helicopters, playing guitar, welding, designing with CAD, they are impressed. When I explain that he only does all these things as a cover to bring in his targets, they get confused.



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  5. ElizabethBennett says:

    Why am I not surprised?



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  6. MyGodIsGood says:

    Mel; thank you so much for sharing. You put a voice to so many things that I have had to deal with, that I allowed myself to be an active member of. I have taken on a new mantra, and it is called “ME”!

    I have been a reader of this blog for a few years now. It helps me so very much. I never knew what a psych-sociopath until I overheard a co-worker, who was a Psychologist, telling a story of a psychopath. What was scary about what he was talking about, the behaviors that were so much a description of a person I knew and loved dearly. It was my mother and her sick siblings. It became a quest for me to find out all I could about this disorder. It was only then in my search to find out about what this meant, described my mother and her chennanigans to a tee. Mere words could not explain the flooding of hurt and pain that rose to the forefront of this recognition. So many years lost because of this plain dysfunction that I thoguht was normal. They made me to feel that something was wrong with me all mylife. A few year of intensive psycho-therapy, and a move thousands of miles away didn’t cure it. I married twice, the very same kind of men that my mother was……..and here I am now, at peace with the knowledge that I at least, I found out and have done everything I can to get myself help. I am rattling on now, but I had to at least give a comment of thanks………that I am not alone in my quest to be all that I can be healthily!!! THANK YOU LOVEFRAUD BLOGGERS !!!



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  7. MyGodIsGood says:

    I forgot to add, that same Psychologist had a book written by Dr. Hare. I can’t remember the eexact title now, but I know it was meant for me at that very time to know the who and what I had been dealing with all my life. I was 38 years old then, I am 46 now, and I have made great strides….in my life, improvements that I canbe quite proud of. NO LONGER WILL I ACCEPT BEING A VICTIM!!! If I spend the rest of my life alone, THAT WILL NEVER BE AN OPTION AGAIN!!! Thanks for listening. God bless!



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  8. Ox Drover says:

    Dear MyGodIsGood,

    I’m glad you are here and glad that you are healing! It does take time and work, and pain to recognize that the people we love are EVIL.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Each story of success, each person who turns their lives around gives hope to others! God bless.



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