Boundaries are a Love Language
I am planning a fun little trip to LA in September. I will fly in on a Thursday, and out on a Monday. I am specifically going to see a friend, and my husband doesn’t want to take the time off of work because we are planning a big Florida trip in October. So I will be going go by myself. And in making my plans I got in touch with my friend about dates and times and whatnot. And she very generously, and very kindly, told me that she would only have a certain amount of time to give me in the days I will be there. And can I just say, I freaking loved it!
One thing I understand now after 15 years of having boundaries around my eating is that as a person with boundaries, I love it when other people have boundaries too.
The truth is that I was not expecting my friend to give me all of that time in LA. I’m a loner, by nature. I can and do amuse myself alone. All the time. I am good at it. I enjoy my own company. But knowing, in no uncertain terms, what I can expect, what I can ask for, what is on offer, and what I will be responsible for makes my life easier.
Boundaries are a life tool. They are how I manage my priorities and my time for myself. They are how I organize and create my day and my experiences. But when offered up to someone else, they are a kind of love language. This is how you can care for me. This is how you can honor me. This is how you can respect me.
Before I got my eating under control, I did not have any boundaries. And I hated other people’s boundaries. I wanted to please people so they would like me. But that is not how people pleasing works. People pleasing makes people like what you can do for them. They stop seeing the person, and only what can be gained from the person. I didn’t have any way to say no, so I would give more than I could and then behave badly when I couldn’t take any more. I was “an exploding doormat.” I let you walk all over me until I blew up.
In setting boundaries, in taking care of my own needs first, I don’t need to blow up. I can walk away. I can disengage with love. I have told you how I will be treated. And I *will* be treated with the respect that I dictate. Or I will walk away.
My relationships are very different now than they were when I was eating compulsively. I like myself better. I like the people in my life better. Not because they are different, but because I am different. Because I have set the tone of respect and honor. Because I offer honor and expect it in return. And the people from my past who could not or would not learn to honor me and allow me to honor them, have all fallen away.
Because there is another little tidbit to this. To set a clear boundary is to preempt drama. To speak your truth, and ask for what you want, and make clear what you have the capacity to give, is to give shape to expectations.
My first boundaries were around my food. But those boundaries I set for myself forced me to set them for others. If I wasn’t going to eat sugar and carbohydrates, I had to say no when my beloved grandma wanted me to eat her spaghetti and meatballs. Or when someone brought a cake especially for my birthday, or when someone wanted a taste of my meal that I had weighed out and committed and could not share.
I am eternally grateful for the gift of having my eating under control for many reasons. But learning to have and keep boundaries is one of the most useful and freeing aspects of that gift.