This is the last half of the final installment of the five part series, "Barriers to Joy" by Rev. Dr. Trey Kuhne, LMFT. This series has been a great examination of the things that interfere with the active, intentional experience of joy in our lives. I truly appreciate Dr. Kuhne for generously allowing me to publish his series on my blog. Here is Part Five(b):
In the last installment, I introduced the idea that having unclear boundaries in relationships can cause deep hurt and suffering when our emotional, physical, and/or spiritual space is not respected appropriately. The most caring persons can enter into our “space” without our permission and do so much harm even without being fully aware that they are causing this harm.
A common issue I hear from counseling is where the parents or in-laws will intrude upon a couple's space in the home. Perhaps it is to help take care of the children; perhaps it is to help clean the home; perhaps it is to assist in some way. Even in loving care, when one's personal, emotional, or spiritual space is entered into without permission/invitation of the other(s) then suffering and hurt can take place — deep, deep hurt.
This may be a difficult topic to fully understand. This is not to implicate the parents or in-laws out there. This is just the common issue I hear. It could be grandparents, friends, family, even strangers. Boundaries are important because they help to define the who, the what, and the how of ourselves and assist in the ways we relate to others. For the most part, boundaries are transparent and we don't see the markers of others because of what we have established in the relationship.
But what if you have a relationship with another where the boundaries are not clearly defined and you feel that someone is using you, taking control of you in some way, and you are suffering because of it? What can you do? For some, the application of “the rule of time” (time will heal all wounds) is the first choice. I don't think that is a very healthy option to choose.
The very best way to deal with unclear boundaries in relationships is to deal directly with the person(s) you are relating to. Usually the offending person does not mean to hurt and is doing so without full awareness. Taking the time and effort to talk with them usually relieves this fear and helps establish a better and healthier relationship. But what about the parents who come over to the house unexpectantly and then take complete charge of everything? First rule of thumb: reassess where the authority lies. The husband and the wife are the authorities in their own home, not the parents, the parents- in- law or the grand parents.
Same rule applies to all relationships. Reassess where the authority lies. It is from this personal authority within us (being human being, being a child of God, being a person) that we can speak and clearly communicate to others what our needs are in the relationship. If someone is crossing our boundaries without our permission, then we can speak from that authority and tell them what we are experiencing. Bottom line: each of us has the authority to set forth parameters of the relationship.
Healthy relationships exist in good and close communication. Whether husbands, wives, parents, in-laws, or good friends, no relationship maintains good health without good communication. It is the fear of conflict which leads to unhealthy relationships, not truth, honesty, and clearly defined boundaries.
Reassess where the authority lies in relationships! Take the time and effort to tell those who are hurting you that you are being hurt. Chances are they will honor the opportunity to make it right and continue to be an active part of your life!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Trey Kuhne is a pastoral counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist with Pathways Pastoral Counseling located at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, 400 Dupre Drive, Spartanburg, SC 29307. He specializes in working with individuals, couples and families. Call (864) 542-3019 for an appointment. He may be reach via email at: [email protected].