Boundary Responsibility

February 21st, 2013

Boundary responsibility has been on my mind a lot lately. Who’s responsibility are your boundaries and agreements? On the surface, this answer is simple – you are responsible for your own boundaries. You are responsible for knowing your boundaries, for communicating your boundaries and for enforcing your boundaries. So, where does My responsibility begin?

If you hug me, is it my responsibility to ask if hugging is within your boundaries? If you kiss me, is it my responsibility to make sure your primary partner is okay with that? If we curl up to cuddle, is it my responsibility to ask you if your partner would be okay seeing us like this? If you ask me to play, is it my responsibility to check with your partners?

For me, all these answers are No. I am responsible for interacting within my own boundaries and agreements, and I expect everyone else to be as responsible for their own boundaries and agreements. But there’s trouble in those expectations and assumptions.

I’ve been blamed in the past, and seen others blamed, for ‘stealing’ a partner from a ‘friend’ because I didn’t ask said ‘friend’ if it was okay to play with their partner. I use quotes here because said partner ended up dating us both for quite some time and had another partner before either of us, so I’m not sure what was stolen, and the person was never someone I considered a friend in the first place. I’ve also seen the case where an outside partner came back and said ‘well, you should have known I wouldn’t be okay with that.’ No, I’m sorry, I don’t know you as well as your partner does, so I don’t assume I know better than your partner about your agreements and boundaries.

But this has bitten me in the ass, too. When agreements and boundaries have been shared with all involved, and then broken anyway. If I know a boundary of another relationship, if I’m told an agreement, then yes, I think it does become partially my responsibility to respect and uphold it. By this I mean, not pushing to break an agreement or bypass a boundary that I know to be set. The trouble comes when it turns into enforcing someone else’s boundaries and agreements for them. I’m not okay with being put in the position of having to remind someone of their own boundaries.

The bigger trouble comes when these discussions do not occur at all, and everyone starts acting off assumptions. ‘Well, I know this isn’t what she said the boundary was, but if she’s doing it, the boundary must have changed.’ ‘He never told me what the boundaries are, so there must not be any.’ ‘Everyone else is doing it, so it must be alright.’ ‘He never said I couldn’t do this.’ ‘Well, if she wants to, it must be okay for me to do it.’

And as much as I don’t want to have to enforce someone else’e boundaries, starting the discussion about boundaries is far safer than making assumptions. And it leads to healthier relationships, and stronger friendships. Communication and honesty are essential for all my relationships.

So, here’s the question: At what point do you start this discussion?

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