Boundaries require you to risk being uncomfortable. Every relationship is about respecting the differences. The differences will not be respected if they remain unspoken. The discomfort is worth it because it’s how you grow.

You can’t grow without being uncomfortable.

This post is being written at the request of a reader who is perplexed by the how. We live in a culture where saying hard things is avoided & deflected with great expertise. Lovers & spouses don’t explain why they are leaving…..they just leave.

Finding the courage to describe the truth of who you are & how you are wired is an onerous responsibility. We generally are silent & then scream about what we want when we reach our very own mysterious tipping point. Screaming only creates defensiveness in the other person so it really is a fruitless pattern.

You begin with courage, then you acknowledge where the other person is coming from. “You are someone who is full of life & sometimes you don’t realize you take up a lot of space. I am someone who finds it hard to speak up, I want you to like me & I’m afraid when I feel differently & know you may not want to hear it.” Saying this respectfully & with a dignity that allows time for a thoughtful response.

Acknowledging the other person (you are full of life) will help them listen a bit better, because they feel truly seen by you, that you do get them & like them.

If the other person is not interested in what you have to say, when said respectfully, then maybe they are being manipulative & you are allowing yourself to be manipulated. Then you must look at yourself through a more difficult lens because you are participating in erasing yourself.

Of course this still might invite defensiveness because we all are dripping with buckets of it. So then it’s important to try to stay calm & respectful, not getting caught up in the simple drama of “I’m not a bad guy, you are”. Relationships are complicated and understanding each other requires time to listen to the differences.

Another part of How? could be writing letters in a notebook that is exchanged back & forth, because it might be a less emotional way to learn about each other. Of course, this requires time, and you have to make time for what’s important. Texting about hard things does not work & is a mistake. Words on a page allow time for thoughtfulness by both parties.

We may wish to be in love with a clone but that is not reality, which is why relationships require work. I had a friend once who said “Friendships are so important to you, I don’t even think about friendship much.” I tried to explain why it was true for me but quickly realized she was giving me a boundary that her time was consumed with family & I needed to accept that which was difficult to accept.

Courage, acknowledge (or accept) where the other person is coming from then speak up. It’s not easy & it will be hard work. The differences complicate relationships & make them more fascinating, rich & interesting. It would be just as boring to live with a clone as it is to live with a drama queen.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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