This article was first published on tinybuddha.com. You can view it here as well.
Relationships are tough. Even more difficult is maintaining healthy boundaries within a relationship.
My head hurts and I feel like I’m going to throw up. Let me explain. I’m in a loving, healthy relationship with a beautiful woman, and I’m proud to call her my partner.
Great, so why do I feel like I want to throw up? Well, because last night was a tough night for us, for me, and today I have an emotional hangover.
Here’s the breakdown. She was going to her girlfriend’s house for dinner and girl time. Great. I was home cooking myself dinner and doing a little reading and television viewing. Great again.
I sent her a text at 9:40 asking if she was having a good time. No response. Okay, no worries. An hour and a half later, worries—a head full of them.
Is she okay? Why no reply? Did I do something wrong?
She always replies to my texts. Always. So why not now?
A healthy response would’ve been to tell myself she’s having a great time and will call when she’s on her way home. I didn’t have a healthy response.
I leaked. Leaked all over the place. Leaked as in my boundaries were nowhere to be found, and hence what should have been kept in my head instead leaked all over our relationship.
I texted a pissy good night text saying I was going to bed and hoped she was having fun. Tough to tell tone via text, but anyone could have seen that I was pissy.
A leak = poor containment. I wasn’t containing.
She said she was having a blast and that I was entitled to be upset. Not good enough. By now I was shaking.
Containment breach! Containment breach! We have leak in the dam.
I couldn’t stop. I texted her saying her behavior was anything but normal. That she always texted me back.
This didn’t help. Stop Zach! I couldn’t.
The scared, wounded little kid had his hands on the steering wheel. He was in charge, not me.
I called her. Told her how she had hurt me, that her lack of communication triggered my abandonment issues.
I blamed her for my own stuff. Great boyfriend I am. Actually, I am a good boyfriend; I just had a tough night.
My lack of containment led to my leaking all over the place, all over her. Bad boundaries, it happens to the best of us.
Here’s the growth. Yes growth. There’s growth all over this and I’m thankful for the opportunity.
Today I can own my part, which was assuming, taking things personally, lack of containment, and blaming. My breach of containment led to all of this. There’s growth because I can see my part, learn, and make amends.
There’s growth because although I have an emotional hangover, I know in my heart that the relationship is not over. In years past I would have shut down and never recovered from something like this. Not the case today.
As my therapist told me (yes, I texted him about this), we have to make mistakes to learn and grow.
Sometimes containment means holding back our own crazy and being the functional adult who can move beyond it. Other times we leak looking for the other person to be responsible for us. It’s about practice and progress, not perfection.
Relationships are tough, but I’d rather say relationships are rewarding if we’re willing to look at our part and do the work. It’s a daily practice. And not just with a significant other.
I’m talking about relationships in all areas of our lives: work relationships, sibling relationships., relationships with our parents—all of this and so much more. The biggest for me is relationship with self. I wasn’t taught growing up how to like and love myself.
I was taught that everything is my fault and that I don’t matter. Makes having a loving relationship with myself tough work. It’s a daily practice, as mentioned.
If daily is what’s needed, then daily it is. Some days are better than others but still daily, nonetheless.
I call it re-parenting.
I call it love.