Recently, the universe was kind enough (covert eye roll) to send me a major lesson in boundaries.
This lesson came packaged as a wonderful angel man, the literal man of my dreams (I mean it, he was in my dreams, even before I found him).
It was wild. He felt like everything I’d ever wished for had just been delivered in a perfect package, and the deep connection was undeniable (disclaimer: careful what you wish for, you’re going to get it eventually, and it often means more learning).
I was over the moon, jumping the gun, and totally enthralled. I couldn’t help myself; I dove in headfirst. Things went far too fast, and, in retrospect, we both had sh*t boundaries. Then he pulled what felt like a complete 180 on the romance and intimacy we had shared, and threw me into the dreaded “friend zone.” The floor dropped out on my dream, and my free fall ended as I shattered against the cold, hard floor of reality.
I found myself scrambling to adjust to what he was asking of me, to forget what had just happened. To minimize it as just a crush, deny my feelings (self), and continue to have a deep connection with him that felt far too intimate to be a friendship now. That’s when I began to go utterly insane.
As someone with a deep understanding and history of narcissistic abuse patterns, my mind really wanted to believe that this man was yet another psychopath. That I was his victim. Cue helplessness, hopelessness, and shame spirals. Cue loud, dramatic, and embarrassing PTSD reactions.
After facing reality and evidence, the truth is that he isn’t a malignant narcissist at all. My mind would have probably preferred that he was. It is deeply accustomed to using judgment as self-protection, no matter how much it harms me. No matter how much it keeps me stuck in my own toxic patterning.
In the end, there was just too much evidence to the contrary. The reality, when I got to the core of my own personal responsibility, is that I had chosen another emotionally unavailable love interest. Albeit a kind, compassionate, supportive, wonderful, and caring one. I knew this from the beginning, but I chose to ignore it, and that’s on me!
This is, after all, a well-worn pattern of mine. This is how I have stayed alone and insane for most of my adult life. This is what I learned to do in childhood to survive. This is because, much to my own disappointment, I am also emotionally unavailable and unready for deep intimacy.
It hurt to admit this. It also made me feel like a total bitch for having to end the connection. How many of us feel like it is bad or wrong to set boundaries? How many of us are deeply uncomfortable doing so, and get caught up in worry about how it will harm the other person? I know I do!
Uncomfortable truth: boundaries always mean that someone is not getting what they want. In my case, they may mean that neither party is. When setting boundaries, someone may be hurt, frustrated, confused, angered, or disappointed.
This issue, for me, has led to an avoidance of healthy boundaries my whole life and a lot of horrible experiences I would rather not recount because of the lack therein (not to mention heaps of shame). I have become exhausted of reliving this experience, of being outside of my own integrity and feeling fragmented and crazy. I much prefer the sensation of wholeness!
Reality check: we are not responsible for other’s feelings or reactions, but we are responsible for our own. We can choose to be kind and firm versus angry and hostile while setting boundaries (it’s really the only effective way, anyhow). This takes practice, patience, persistence, and is a learning process that isn’t always easy. Our conditioned patterns seem to fight their own death.
Honestly, I still feel terrible at times for not being able to be the friend this man wanted me to be. I also feel a deep sense of loss of this wonderful person in my life. But, before I had met him, something fundamental had already shifted in me; I had become irreversibly in tune with and respectful of my inner voice
This time, I took notice of how I was really feeling about this relationship. Despite how dazzling the potential seemed, what I was actually feeling was disappointment, frustration, exhaustion, and just plain old crazy. In an act of revolution, I chose to listen to my own feelings and intuition.
In doing deep work on myself, I had come to see my old patterns and beliefs and how I was using unhealthy relationships as an escape from myself. How they had become an excuse to continue to abandon myself, to externalize the fulfillment of my needs to people who couldn’t meet those needs.
And why should they? I am an adult now (much to my ego’s confusion), and I am responsible for my own needs. Learning to meet my own needs is still a process for me, and this man showing up was like a mirror of where I am at in this (ouch, cue humility).
I saw that my pattern reflected the way I had been abandoned as a child and the way I was trained to seek love outside of me. This time, however, I had already made a solemn vow to myself: I would learn to stop abandoning me for good.
This meant learning not only where my boundaries were, but actually setting and sticking to them. Here it was, my biggest test from the universe yet. My greatest opportunity to stop waiting for someone to choose me. To stop waiting for someone to want me. To stop waiting for someone to love me.
It meant walking away from something I didn’t even know that I still desired so deeply: outside love and approval. Something that would have, once, been irresistible. I tried not to walk away from him, and each time I didn’t, it felt like I was betraying my own heart. It was deeply painful. I became insane again. This time, luckily, I was unable to continue to do that to myself. This time, I finally chose me.
The recent loss still weighs on me, but my tears feel like I am shedding old parts of myself I no longer wish to carry with me. In the end, I see this is necessary for my personal growth, change, and evolution. Necessary to end my pattern of codependency and helplessness.
I also see that I need support with this process. It means committing to my own growth versus continuing to (rather violently) try to force my way into someone’s heart and acting like a martyr about it all. It means Al-Anon, Melody Beattie, and a new therapist who will help me remain accountable for everything within me.
This means taking full responsibility for my precious self to become the woman I choose to be:
A woman of deep inner peace and unconditional love.
A woman who can set boundaries without feeling like a bitch, who respects herself enough to say “No,” and stick to it.
A woman who loves herself so much that she wouldn’t betray her own heart for all the riches in the world—not even the man of her dreams.