What is it about relationships that make them end the way they do? Is it the people we come into contact with or the decisions we make or a combination of both? As the common denominator, there may be something you're doing (or not doing) or that you allow that is a cause and effect for things going either right or wrong.
For me personally, I know that I am too nice and too giving. I give without expecting to receive, hoping that the person I give to would feel like I feel and reciprocate somehow. I never used to demand respect because I believed that it should be automatic. I dare ask to be loved because I hoped that it was also automatic. But I've learned that love is a choice, not necessarily a feeling. I never communicated how I felt for fear that I was being selfish. However, relationships are about sacrificing ones self for another's well-being and happiness... right? I forgot about what was important to me and directed my attention to what was important to the other person without batting an eye. I am an encourager and nurturer by nature. My strongest spiritual gifts are of encouragement, service, and hospitality... with administrative bringing up the rear. That's all the "good" stuff. The bad part is that because of past hurts, I've struggled with feelings of insecurity, lack of trust, among other things that has been detrimental to my relationships.
When I look back, I don't believe I ever set boundaries in my relationships - what I would tolerate and what I wouldn't. I would usually say things like - 'please don't lie to me, please don't do this, don't do that...' - but I would never reiterate my disdain for my dislikes or the consequences should they occur. So with the help of this great book recommended by a great leader at our church, I began to challenge myself to set boundaries - not just for my love relationship, but with my family, friends, business, etc, so that I would begin to have healthy and happy relationships. I read...
"Boundaries define limits, mark off dividing lines. The purpose of a boundary is to make clear separations between different turf, different territory. . . . The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves. We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us. A first step is starting to know that we have a right to protect and defend ourselves. That we have not only the right, but the duty to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us."Protecting yourself. That's what this is about. I can see it now. After my divorce, I put up a HUGE wall around my heart so I couldn't be hurt by another man... physically, mentally, emotionally, or verbally. I would let a guy only get so far and if he crossed the line, I turned around and high tailed it out of there. My mindset was that I was never going to get married again. I was never going to be vulnerable to hurt and pain ever again and I began to try to control everything to keep from being hurt. So what changed?
"It is important to state our feelings out loud, and to precede the feeling with "I feel." (When we say "I am angry, I'm hurt, etc." we are stating that the feeling is who we are. Emotions do not define us, they are a form of internal communication that help us to understand ourselves. They are a vital part of our being - as a component of the whole.) This is owning the feeling. It is important to do for ourselves. By stating the feeling out loud we are affirming that we have a right to feelings. We are affirming it to ourselves - and taking responsibility for owning ourselves and our reality. Rather the other person can hear us and understand is not as important as hearing ourselves and understanding that we have a right to our feelings. It is vitally important to own our own voice. To own our right to speak up for ourselves."
"Setting boundaries is not a more sophisticated way of manipulation - although some people will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate. The difference between setting a boundary in a healthy way and manipulating is: when we set a boundary we let go of the outcome."
"It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves - to protect ourselves when it is necessary. It is impossible to learn to be Loving to ourselves without owning our self - and owning our rights and responsibilities as co-creators of our lives."
Stay tuned for Part 2!