We all want to be with people who act like adults in relationships. Unfortunately, our capacity to be adults in our relationships is greatly hindered by our capacity to take ownership and responsibility for ourselves and our loved ones.
Boundaries are a sense of self such as personal preferences and aversions, personal desires, personal needs and personal emotions. They are essentially your personal truth at any moment. When we were young many of us grow up in a household where we are not allowed to have boundaries. We were not allowed to define ourselves because our parents perceived it as a personal threat to their personal preferences, desires, needs, feelings and therefore personal truths. Therefore, asserting our personal boundaries was met with disapproval, withdrawal and punishment. We needed closeness with our parents desperately. The only way to achieve this and reduce the conflict between us and them was to abandon our boundaries. We did things not because doing those things was a decision coming from our free will, but because we wanted to not get in trouble. This pattern of doing things just because we don’t want to get in trouble is a pattern that we carry into our adult relationships and because of it, we re-enact a child and punitive parent style relationship in our friendships and partnerships and work relationships and end up feeling miserably resentful and controlled in our relationships.
The first thing you need to accept is that free will is an absolute of your existence. You had free will even as a baby and child. It is just that the consequences of exercising your free will as a child are often too great and so you make the decision to comply. You are actually using your free will to decide against yourself in this scenario. Because of this, it doesn’t feel like that decision is actually your decision. It feels like you are forced into it. It feels like someone is putting you in the position where there is only one decision to make. And they have put you in that position. But you still could hypothetically choose not to comply. You could choose to bear the brunt of the consequences instead. None of us would expect a child to do this. It is out of the choice to self-preserve that they choose to abandon themselves for the sake of fusion with their parent. But we have to see that it is actually a choice they are making with their own free will to do so. We need to see it is a choice they are making in order to see the meaning of ‘owning a decision’. If in this scenario, a child really owned that they are consciously choosing for the sake of themselves to comply, they would feel their own free will and therefore not feel controlled. They would be hurt and angry that their parent did not accept them for who they are at all, but resentment would not be the emotion they felt towards their parent.
We see this dynamic all the time in adult relationships where one person complies with another person so as to not get in trouble and to maintain closeness or harmony with them, but does not really own their free will involved in that decision and so they feel controlled and resentful. And this leads to all kinds subconscious behaviors that destroy the relationship. For example, a wife asserts that she needs to see more of her husband. She has been expressing insecurity about whether the marriage will actually last because he is so unavailable. When his work day ends, he wants to go out to drink with his colleagues at the bar. But he rushes home instead, after expressing to his friends that he can’t because “the ball and chain” referring to his wife. He is doing this purely to avoid the consequences. He is not doing this because he really owns her happiness as part of his best interests and therefore really owns the decision as the decision that is best for him to make. He hasn’t owned it as a self serving decision. He also hasn’t really considered whether he genuinely wants to make a stand against having to be available. Therefore, when he comes home, he is irritable, acts as if he doesn’t want to be there and does little things like spend a long time undressing and checking his phone as an act of rebellion against the oppressor, his wife. In reality, she isn’t the oppressor at all. He has projected his own mother onto his wife.
Another example is friend one tells friend two to invest money with the new product they are selling. Friend two is afraid to insult friend one and create a conflict by saying no. So, he says yes. He did not say yes because it is a decision he really owned, he didn’t make it his. Therefore, he didn’t assume the risks involved as his own chosen risks. The investment turns out to be bad and so he loses the money. Now friend two is really upset at friend one. Friend two feels resentful and as if he was duped. Now, he distrusts friend one and expects friend one to make amends. This confuses friend one because even though friend one feels guilty that he was the one to suggest the investment, he assumed friend two chose to take the risk out of his own free will.
The amount of examples I could give for this dynamic are endless. But it all really boils down to one concept: We must learn to feel the reality of our free will in our relationships and in every choice we make. If we make a decision, we must make it because we really consciously take that choice to be in alignment with our own boundaries. We must make the decision our decision, not a decision we are being forced into against our will. No one can actually force you to do something against your free will. What they can do is to put you in a position where making the choice they want you to make is the only decision that will ensure your self-preservation and so most people make that choice.
If you struggle with this dynamic in your life, it is a near guarantee that you also struggle with transactional style of relationships. When we do things to avoid being in trouble, we comply with other people and all too often expect them to do the same for us when things really matter to us. When they don’t, we feel this is wildly unfair. We essentially comply to ensure that they will comply as well. For this reason, after you watch this video [read this article], I strongly encourage you to watch my video titled: Cut The Invisible Strings.
Any time you do anything, you need to ask yourself “Why am I doing this? Am I doing this simply to stay out of trouble or avoid consequences?” If so, you are at a crossroads. Either you own that decision completely, so you find a way to change your perspective so that you can make that decision something you are doing because it is the best decision for you to make with your own free will and because of that you want to because it is self serving as well. Or, you decide there is a genuine need conflict and so, taking care to take the other person as part of yourself instead of wage war against them, you are going to enter into a conscious conflict so you can both arrive at a decision that is in alignment with both of your individual best interests, a decision that both of you can individually own and feel good about.
On the rare occasion, genuine incompatibilities make it so when this occurs, there is no way for two people’s best interests to be in alignment and this leads to either a change in the type of relationship itself or to an end in the relationships. But it is the rare occasion and even if this is painful, it is better than feeling like you have given your needs, desires, feelings, and personal truth up to stay in a relationship and are therefore miserable in the relationship.
Becoming an adult in our relationships has first and foremost to do with owning our free will and exercising it. We must use our free will to own the decision to include someone as part of ourselves and therefore to take the other person’s best interests as a genuine part of our best interests. It is at this point that we become responsible, not only for ourselves, but also for those that we love. Not because we feel forced against our will to do it, but because we genuinely want to do it.