I’ve written about boundaries before , but it’s such a complex and universal subject that I have to keep going.
This time, I want to share the idea that boundaries are not simply lines that can’t be crossed. They can be seen that way because they can function that way. But they’re so much more than that.
I like to use a metaphor to explain the way I see it. Boundaries are the Instruction Manual of You.
You know those little booklets that come with something new? They tell you how to insert a blade or operate an appliance safely. They also tell you what a warning light means and what to do about it. Lots of other random tidbits are in there too … usually things we don’t ever reference, but when we need to know something, we can find them there.
That’s how I see boundaries. They’re the guidelines for how you operate best!
We’ve written these manuals (whether we realize it or not) as we’ve experienced the world, connected in relationships, and grown as individuals. We form them internally based on what we know we need, what our limits are, and how we work best.
And then – if we choose – we can share them with others as we develop our relationship.
Here’s where it gets good.
Because when we share that information – our Instruction Manual – through the expression of a boundary, we’re sharing something about ourselves with the world.
And in that way, a boundary is far less of a dividing line and far more of a bridge that connects us to each other.
When we offer our boundary/instruction manual, we’re saying to the other person, “I trust you enough to share this with you. I want us to understand each other because I care about our relationship. I’m being honest with you so we can best know each other. I value you and me equally.”
What a beautiful offering that is! And what an opportunity for connection too.
What I love about seeing them this way is that they feel a lot less scary to share and enforce. Offering a boundary as a point for connection means that it’s become a way to work together rather than split apart. Boundaries are now the start of a conversation rather than an abrupt ending.
Now, I know that this can all sound overly optimistic or unrealistic. I get it. We don’t always read an instruction manual when we buy something new, right? We think we can just plug that thing in and figure it out. And sometimes we can.
Our relationships probably work alright too … until something comes up.
And we can’t know how the person we are in relationship with will react when we offer our boundary/instruction manual for review together. But if we don’t, what will happen?
We may work fine for a while (how long do you leave the check engine light on?) … but we may not be working as well as we could. And that takes a toll, right?
Maybe resentment builds, or anxiety shows up. You might get quieter, or you might explode. Maybe you don’t reach out as much or take longer to respond to a text.
Whatever it is, there’s a check engine light that needs some attention.
In future posts I’ll share ways to offer your Instruction Manual to others, with specific words and ideas. But for now – see what changes when you think of boundaries in this way. Just information you can share to build connection and improve relationships.
And start looking at your Instruction Manual to see if you need to update it. You get as many editions of that thing as you need!