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?
August 9th, 2011
Post three of The Ethical Slut, Part Two, is about Emotions and Validation. The previous post, on Fear and Jealousy, touched on some of these things, but this post goes for all emotions, positive and negative, and on into love and validation.
“Nobody makes anybody feel anything.” (119) “See if you can write about or talk to your friend about your feelings without blaming anybody.” (145) This is one of the hardest things for some people to accept. In a culture of lawsuits over spilled coffee, personal responsibility is all too uncommon. A person is responsible for their own actions (and reactions). For example, if someone spills grape juice on your favorite shirt, that is all they did. How you feel, and react, is your choice, your responsibility, not theirs. Which is also the same in reverse…
“What you are not responsible for is your lover’s emotions. You can choose to be supportive… but it is not your job to fix anything.” (119) The same as your lover is not making you feel anything, you are not making them feel anything either. You cannot change someone’s feelings, or fix how they feel. You can choose to support them, and be there for them, while they do so for themselves. But they have to do the work (as you have to do your own).
“Asking someone to listen to your feelings is different from dropping them in his lap and leaving them there.” (121) However, you do have to be careful that when you are sharing and working through your feelings, with someone else’s support, that you don’t take advantage of that person. You should not try to make it their responsibility to fix how you feel, or take care of your emotions. Nor let someone do that to you. Don’t dump your problems and emotions on someone else and expect them to fix it.
“We need to make the ethical commitment to own our stuff, and to let you own yours.” (178) This quote sums all the above up nice and neat. Own your own stuff, and let your partners’ own theirs. Support each other, love each other, but remember to be responsible for your own emotions, actions and reactions. And always, ask for help when you need it, for support, for understanding, just don’t expect someone else to fix you.
“You need to get clear that you deserve love and nurturance and warmth and sex.” (126) “You get to have all the comfort and reassurance you want.” (183) Self-esteem is a problem, there are so many attacks against our self-esteem in the world, that sometimes we feel unworthy, or undeserving. Of love, attention, comfort and reassurance. Sometimes we feel that we shouldn’t need reassurance, because that means we’re doubting, and how dare we have doubt, what kind of person are we to have doubt? Surely we don’t deserve love if we’re doubting. Ah, such a trap we lay for ourselves. Vicious little circles. We are human, we are imperfect, but we all deserve love, nurturance, warmth, intimacy, comfort and reassurance. Having a bad day, feeling down, feeling insecure does not negate these things, in any way.
“We are all human, we are all vulnerable, and we all need validation.” (151) “Make a list of everything you value about your relationship.” (150) I put these two together because validation can come from different sources. It doesn’t have to come directly from your partner. It can come from a picture on the shelf, it can come from happy memories, it can come from a list of wonderful things about your relationship. And yes, sometimes we need it to come from our partner. We all are vulnerable and scared sometimes, and need to hear ‘I love you’ or ‘I want you’ or ‘I need you.’ Sometimes, all it takes is a hug, but we all need validation sometimes.
“The real test of love is when a person – including you – can know your weaknesses, your stupidities and your smallness, and still love you.” (141) “Intimacy is based on shared vulnerability.” (173) We are all human. We have our faults, our strengths, our weaknesses and our foibles. We are all vulnerable, and in that vulnerability, we find each other. We find love and closeness. We find a link to each other. Love sees and accepts all that we are. It isn’t about overlooking the negative, but acknowledging it. Blindness helps no one, acceptance and understanding keeps love strong.
“He’s here because he wants to be, wherever “here” is. We are with each other, every day, because we really want to be.” (124) I left this quote for last, even though it’s quite early in the chapter, because this is one of the most important things for me to remember. Relationships are an active choice. We have chosen to be together, we have chosen to stay together. Every day, we choose to continue the relationship. There are bumps and blips and roadblocks, but every day the relationship continues, it is an active choice by the people in that relationship. If that’s not validation, I don’t know what is.