Posted by: Marie | September 15, 2010

(401) Unhealthy dancing

Post #401
[Private journal entry written on Monday, March 29, 2010]

I am on “spring break” from my school district job. I am still teaching piano lessons, but the days off from the school district job has given me a very relaxed schedule.

The first day of the break, I slept until 11am . . . I normally get up around 5:45am. I slept in because I was physically tired from pushing through a hard schedule. As soon as I woke up, I was excited to start the day . . . I jumped up and started right in on my “to do” list.

Everyday since then, I have gotten up early and have gotten so much done. This is the first time in . . . well, forever . . . that I haven’t been fighting depression on my “days off”. This is a whole new experience . . . feeling excited about life and being in motion even when it is not absolutely required of me. It is very nice!

Photo by Martin Chen

This is the best I have felt in months.

Oh . . and, my friend, Alice, Jr., who lives in my bathroom window well, woke up today from her long winter nap and started creating quite a ruckus! My foster kitten isn’t sure what to think of it, LOL . . .

This past week, one of the readers of my blog, Susan, engaged in a conversation with me about boundaries. Here is some of her writing that held high value for me (pulled from multiple comments on the same post):

“There is nothing we can do to work things out with those who have made it clear that they don’t value us, our thoughts, feelings and choices by intentionally violating a boundary that has been set. This is how we continue to find ourselves repeating the same unhealthy dance in relationships time and time again.

“When we stop doing the dance and resetting limits over and over that have already been violated – and in cases like this where it is pretty much said ‘I get to choose what is good for you and your boundary has no bearing on me’…”


“That is the conundrum for some of us who have survived childhood with less than a clear sense of who we are, where we start and stop and where others start and stop. We have a tendency to trust and believe others opinions about ourselves rather than learning to define who we are.

“In my journey I have come to understand that whatever boundaries I have set for myself are just fine. If they are unreasonable – no one has the right to define that – except me.

“And if I am changing or adjusting my limits out of fear of anothers reaction or response – then I am not truly being autonomous as I need anothers validation to be ok with my choices but am perhaps in another relationship that is unbalanced in power and control.

“On the idea of your boundaries being unreasonable…if my boundaries are based more on trying to force you to comply with something that I am demanding, I am not setting a boundary as much as I am trying to force your compliance.”


“As it was described to me: a boundary is when I set a limit and I let go of the outcome or of what you might chose to do with or about it. My boundaries are about what I will accept, not what I am trying to get you to do. And if you have set a limit then I respect it or ask if we can negotiate a different agreement. But there is no power struggle.

“If we cannot come to an agreement on the furniture in your example – then you would be free to leave the living situation but not to attempt to bully or force me to change my boundary of not sitting on the furniture that I purchased. Boundaries are about what I will accept and what I will do if you disregard my limits – not about forcing you to do what I am demanding.”

So, after reading Susan’s words, I have began to look at how I was trying to control Mark’s behavior . . . sometimes I set true boundaries, but other times I used my “boundaries” to try to control him.

I tried to control him because I was very attached to the continuation of the relationship . . . I didn’t think I could do better than what I had with him.

And, here is an additional thought . . . Susan says (and I agree) that we can always leave a relationship if boundaries are repeatedly violated. In my experience, in almost every relationship, especially with men, my boundaries are repeatedly violated. So, I repeatedly leave.

I don’t want to always be leaving. By always leaving, I’m perpetually alone.

How do I change this pattern?


  1. Choose different men. :-)

    I know that sounds overly simplistic, but it’s also the actual answer to your question.

    My therapist, who was a pretty pragmatic woman, suggested a “three strikes and you’re out” rule for the early stages of dating. If you set a boundary and it’s violated, give benefit of the doubt, explain it again, confirm understanding, and see what happens. If it happens again after that, describe the violation, describe the boundary you thought you set, ask if there’s something going on with the other person that is causing them to be unable to understand or respect the boundary, and see what happens. If there is a third violation — it’s not going to work.

    I found this to be invaluable advice.

    • Hey, David –

      I remember you saying something along these lines before . . . I like the idea of having a process of sorts for knowing when a relationship is not going to work to due to disrespect of boundaries.

      A second part of the issue for me is identifying my boundaries . . . I’m still getting used to the idea that it is acceptable for me to define and protect boundaries.

      – Marie

  2. I guess by examining the process of choosing.

    If you do wish to influence the other to change them, this means them accepting (at least some parts of) who they are. It doesn’t mean that you need to take anything you find unacceptable from them.

    This is my perspective on the matter.

    • Hey, Evan –

      It seems there is going to be parts and behaviors of any person we are not going to like. Maybe it is a question of how tolerant I choose/want to be . . . ??

      – Marie

  3. I definitely agree with David’s take on this, though I will say that if my wife had used the “3 strikes” rule then we wouldn’t be married right now…

    That’s why there’s really no formula for success, because every situation is truly unique. But it’s important to trust ourselves and follow our gut about what is working and what isn’t.

    As you get healthier, you naturally choose healthier people to surround yourself with.

    • I think that rule changes once you know each other a little more. :-) But it sure is a great way to tell up front whether someone has respect/empathy issues. I can say with complete honesty that I’ve never had to even think of it with my current girlfriend, whom I’ve been with for almost two years. Using the three strikes concept, though, really alerted me to my own tendency to downplay or dismiss my own boundaries, and once I woke up to that … I stopped dating women to whom the three strike rule would need to be applied. And then everything was so much easier — eureka!

    • Hey, Aaron –

      I have found that most people do not change their ways of being . . . what you see one year is pretty much going to be what you see in five or ten years. So, the fact that you have been able to dramatically shift how you are showing up in the world may cause your situation to be an exception to the “three strikes” rule.

      I, too, have a tendency to downplay or dismiss my own boundaries . . . that’s something I’m still working on.

      – Marie

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