20 Mar Too Reactive In Your Relationship? You Need A Better Boundary.
Are you super reactive to stuff your partner says about you?
Do you get triggered, even when you know what they’re saying isn’t true?
If so, you’re wasting heaps of precious energy and creating unnecessary drama for yourself personally and also for your relationship. You don’t need to do this anymore.
Ready to learn how to be less sensitive and reactive to stuff your partner says about you, or to you?
It all starts with a healthy psychological, relational boundary.
Think of a boundary just like a toy train track encircling a child. It keeps him in, at the same time as keeping the outside world out. It defines his little patch of the floor: what’s inside it, and what’s not.
Think of relational psychological boundaries just like these train tracks. Your own boundary separates you from the outside world (which includes everyone you relate to, including your partner). It creates your own little patch, and defines what’s inside it, and what’s not.
First though, a word about what a healthy relational boundary is NOT.
A healthy relational boundary is NOT one that partners hide behind, shutting each other out, pretending they don’t hear each other, or acting like they don’t care what each other is saying (these are examples of relational boundaries that are “closed off” and they’re NOT relationally healthy at all).
In healthy relationships, both partners have boundaries that allow them to be both connected… and separate… AT THE SAME TIME… a tricky combination that requires real skill.
To be connected as well as seperate means having boundaries that are open enough to let each other in (all of ourselves, including our emotions and thoughts) and yet are closed enough to prevent us from losing ourselves in our partner (including his or her emotions and thoughts).
Whaaaat? No wonder so many couples find this so tricky.
Partners in really healthy relationships know how to be the gatekeepers of their own relational psychological boundaries. This means they each get to choose when and how much they open their boundary gates, and to whom.
Once this happens, partners start feeling safe with each other, and aren’t reactive anymore.
Practice this Boundary Visualisation exercise daily to help you build your own healthy relational boundary:
• Close your eyes
• In your mind’s eye, visualise a special place (either real or imagined) – somewhere that you feel absolutely contented, peaceful, and safe. It might be a place in nature, a place from your childhood, a place you’ve seen in a picture, or a place that you are completely making up
• See, hear, smell, and feel it – really “put yourself” there. Breathe deeply and enjoy it fully
• Now imagine encircling yourself in this space with a 360 degree ring at about arms length around yourself – like a force field/bubble, that separates you from the “outside” world
• Allow yourself to experience what it’s like to be inside this boundary, knowing that it’s separate from the “outside” world
• When you’re ready to come out of your visualisation, count to three, then open your eyes
• Look around you and retain the feeling of being encircled within this same boundary – safe, peaceful, and contented
• This boundary separates you from the “outside” and you control if, how, and when it opens
• You can choose whether to open the gate to whatever someone says or does, or you can choose to keep it closed
• If what your partner is saying or doing feels right, you can choose to let it in
• If what your partner is saying or doing feels wrong, you can choose to keep your boundary closed – at these times you can say to yourself: “What he/she is saying is not my stuff/it’s not about me”
• If you respect and trust your partner enough to be influenced by him or her, you might choose to “let in” what you’re hearing even at those times when it might feel wrong. Take it in, assess it, then choose to either keep it or send it back out through your own boundary gates.
Pamela Pannifex is a psychotherapist, marriage therapist, naturopath and founder of Sunshine Holistic Counselling on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Credit is due to Terry Real of Relational Life Institute for the ideas in this blog. Pamela has been helping people create personal wellbeing and relationships that thrive for over 25 years. Contact Pamela here.