Let me tell you about a couple I saw not so long ago. Dana is a public relations executive and Allan is a chiropractor. Both of them have worked during their entire marriage of 16 years. They have two children in high school. Now that the kids are out of the house more, Dana and Allan have more free time together. Dana feels like she wants more out of life. She wants Allan to do more with her. Alan, on the other hand, is satisfied with the life that they have. Their conversation goes something like this:
Dana: Do you want to go to that concert in the park next week? It’s free, and she’s supposed to be great.
Allan: You know I hate concerts.
Dana: You don’t have to continue to hate something just because you hated it before. You can change. Let’s give it a try.
Allan: I hate crowds. I hate the traffic getting there. And ever since that Rolling Stones concert, where I lost my hearing, I have no interest in concerts. My ears were buzzing for two days afterwards.
Dana: That was ten years ago. We can bring you earplugs. Come on, I want to go. Can’t you do it for me?
Allan: I don’t want to go.
Dana: You know we never do anything anymore.
Allan: Go with a friend.
Dana: But I want to go with you. I want to share things with you. Not just be at home with the TV. We need to do more, learn more, grow more.
Allan: You’ve been talking to Cyndi again, haven’t you?
Dana: Don’t condescend me. It’s not Cyndi, it’s me.
Allan: I’m happy staying home at night. I’m tired. I like watching TV and seeing the kids and you. I don’t need anything else.
Dana: Well I do. I need to feel that I’m being challenged. I’ve been doing the same accounts at work for the past three years.
Allan: Take a course. Take physics if you want to be challenged.
Dana: That’s not funny. I’m not kidding. I want more. I want you to grow with me. I want you to have some interests. You have no interests.
Allan: What is this, high school? You want me to list my interests like I did in the yearbook? Cause I still have them: jogging, listening to music, going for walks.
Dana: I know.
Allan: It used to be enough for you. I don’t know why it’s not enough now.
Dana: I just feel like I want more. Remember when we traveled together in Europe and you said how much you’d like to go back to these places when we had money. Well we can now. Why don’t we?
Allan: I don’t want to travel. I don’t need Europe. I don’t want to go to a museum. I want to go to the beach and sleep in my own bed.
Dana: Allan, I’m bored.
Allan: I wouldn’t be happy traveling.
Dana: I don’t care. Do it for me. Go to the concert. Go to Paris. Just do something.
Allan: Why do you feel you have to do something to be happy? Why can’t you be satisfied with what we have? I feel like you’re always looking off to the future and missing the now, missing the present. How about right now, Dana? Feel it. We’ve got something. Something beautiful.
Dana: I know. It’s not that I’m not happy. It’s just that I want more. I love you and I love the kids. But I can’t believe that this is it. What do I have to look forward to?
Allan: How about being with me? How about watching your kids grow up? I feel like you’re chasing a dream only you don’t even know what it is. You want more. Why can’t you see the cup as it is? Full.
Dana: I imagined my life would have more… more glitter.
Allan: Well then it’s time to grow up. Life isn’t about glitter. It’s about well… I don’t know what the opposite of glitter is.
Dana: You’re right. Still I have something nagging at me.
Allan: Sweetie. You’re making me feel bad. Like I’m not enough for you. I’ve spent all of my time for the past 18 years on you and the kids…and now you’re telling me it’s not enough. Well I don’t think you’re being fair. If anything I’ve been too good to you. You know sometimes it’s hard to appreciate what you have. Until it’s gone.
Dana: I do appreciate you. I’m just afraid I’m going to wake up in 20 years and l regret all of the things I didn’t do.
Allan: Why worry about 20 years from now? I don’t get it. Why can’t you just be happy?
Dana: I’m not asking for so much,
Allan. A lot of people go to Europe. Allan: Yeah, and a lot don’t
One measure of a healthy self esteem is how we manage our emotional boundaries. Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to protect ourselves from being manipulated by emotionally needy others. Healthy boundaries eliminate the need for blaming or scapegoating. They eliminate guilting, manipulating, victimizing and matyrdom. If everyone in the relationship is responsible for their own behaviors, thoughts and feelings it eliminates a lot of games.
Having healthy boundaries also makes the resolution of problems much more simple and clear. If someone hurts you, having healthy boundaries allows you to experience the hurt, know that you have a right to protest the hurt and stand up for yourself. You can do this without guilting or blaming, but by simply stating that you are feeling hurt and asking that the behavior not be repeated. If the person who caused the hurt decides to keep hurting you, healthy boundaries will allow you to walk away from someone who is hurting you. People with healthy boundaries do not allow themselves to be mistreated or abused.
Healthy boundaries are not selfish. They allow a person to have a clear sense of how they experience things. They also allow a person to have empathy for others, without taking responsibility for them. Healthy boundaries create a good balance between taking care of yourself and being there for others without being manipulated or exploited.