Healthy Boundaries Suck
By Jessica Newsome
There’s a thought I’ve been circling back to in conversations with my friends. One friend in particular is struggling to re-define her relationship with a parent who is an addict. Another isn’t sure how to handle a sometimes “mean girl” in her life—one she cannot disconnect from professionally and is therefore unable to wholly disconnect from personally as well.
Healthy boundaries suck. They mean saying no to people you love and things you want to do. They mean making lines in sand and breaking someone’s heart when you enforce them. Because when you set healthy boundaries and they take effort to maintain, it usually means the person on the other side of that boundary isn’t a healthy person. And it sucks.
Setting boundaries with an unhealthy person is exhausting, because you have to be the one to maintain it—they won’t. You have to constantly remind yourself of the things they have done wrong. You have to hold on to that feeling of being betrayed or hurt in the past. That holding runs so contrary to the ideas we have about forgiveness and believing the best in people.
One of my friends describes his relationship with his alcoholic mother as always having to hold her at arm’s length. If he doesn’t, he’ll immediately fall back into the way he’s cared for her in the past—a way that cripples him as a person and enables his mother to continue in her addiction without feeling any of the consequences he shoulders.
And it hurts. It hurts to say no more. It hurts to remind oneself of past wrongs, and to allow for little hope of change. But at the end of the day, setting healthy boundaries isn’t about the person you set boundaries for—it’s about you and the price of your healing. Everyone’s boundaries are a little different. My sister has picked up my drunk father from the police station. I won’t do it. But if it were her, or my brother, I would do it in a heartbeat. You do what you need to do to be healthy, even when it hurts.
It’s going to hurt either way, so you have to do the right one—and by that I mean you have to do the one that lets you sleep at night. There isn’t a best; there isn’t a right. There’s what what you are okay with remembering about yourself—what you can live with and what you can’t.
Jessica Newsome is a social worker who lives in Chicago, IL. She is not attached to any other writing projects at the moment but to read her outdated blog you can visit renaissance-muse.blogspot.com. Or you can try to follow her protected Twitter, @jess_news. She’s currently working on a better way to connect with readers.