On boundaries: how they’ve changed my experience of friendship

Lately, I’ve been seeing some interesting shifts with the way in which I am experiencing friendship. For years I understood boundaries purely cerebrally, and struggled to find a way to really let the ideas sink deeper and peter into my life. The idea of a boundaries always drew up images of a solitary existence. While I embraced this as a kind of solitude at one time in my life, there came another time when I began to really crave connection, and I began to understand the importance and need for healthy, dependable relationships. Forging those has been a whole adventure of it’s own with so many hiccups and milestones alike.

I didn’t realise this before, but for the longest time I saw a boundaried existence and loneliness as by-products of each other. For the longest time, I didn’t see the middle ground that exists between setting healthy boundaries and simultaneously forging deep and wonderful connections.

I am slowly getting this now that I am experiencing a physical healthy distancing from people, even those I love and hold close. And I am doing my best not to mistake this for the old loneliness. This manifests more as a healthy space between me and the other, and it’s so fascinating to note that it’s the same space that acts as a protective boundary in some relationships, yet deepens my capacity to relate and to connect in others.

In just the last week alone, I experienced both in two separate instances. And both times, I experienced it as a safe, welcome distance between me and the other person. Being someone who usually knows no other way but to go all in, sometimes to the point of being completely enmeshed or losing myself totally to the relationship, and therefore experiencing constant lack from an imbalance in giving and taking, this has been a welcome change.

And what a relief it is. To be better with space between us, minus the throes of fear and peak abandonment that it once resulted in. To enjoy the poise and grace that comes with the space. To watch what happens in the many moments of pause that increase and grow, when there is this space in a relationship. To let go of the need to be seen as good, or well-meaning and kind at all times. To no longer mistake the desperate need and expectation of the other to change or deliver in ways differently from the way they can, as kindness and concern. To just let it go, entirely, as fulcrum on which the future of the relationship hinges. To be okay with people as they are (within healthy limits, of course). To be okay with the uncertainty that comes from not always being on the same page as the people I choose to surround myself with.

This has 100% happened because I am seeing the minutest ways in which I am getting better with a very conscious understanding of:

  • boundaries, how they won’t lead me to impossible loneliness and why they’re actually good for relationships
  • kindness and compassion and when I tend to allow them come into play
  • my tendencies to judge and how they have an impact on the quality of relationships
  • and of course, the overarching process that is meeting myself in a good way, feeling whole and at home with myself

There’s a lot of nuance involved in each of these, and I’m only recording this in brief to remember this feeling of ease and relief that I’ve experienced this past week. The sense of space, again, is really hitting the spot for me.

One year ago: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Three years ago: How blue

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