Most things change and as with many other things in my life over the last year, my neighborhood sanctuary has changed also. Our little hideaway has been discovered and people are coming en masse. A builder came in with the intention of building 22 houses around us so there is constant movement in a once, very quiet and secluded area.
My teen daughter, who was only three when we moved in our “landhouse,” has enjoyed our nature walks through the fields by our house; horses, cows, goats, raccoon, skunks, and tons of rabbits. We regularly saw roadrunners speed around behind our house and a fox or two trot! Our least favorite visitors were the snakes and bobcats but we all found a way to survive. Well, a couple of snakes did not make it. In spite of this variety of visitors, we never seriously considered installing a gate completely around the property.
When we purchased the property, it had a raggedy fence on two sides of the property while the other two sides are open. Raising kids, taking care of people, going to school, and doing all kinds of things, the fence was kind of forgotten. We knew we would replace it some day but it was never high on the list of priorities.
After talking with her father, she asked me if we were getting a fence since the neighborhood was growing because she didn’t want one. Wild animals walk on and off the property, but let a few people move in with domesticated cats and dogs and the fence becomes a priority. She casually said, “I don’t like fences and will never have them around my house when I move out.” I just as casually replied, “I hope you are not like that with your life.” She stopped in her tracks and said, “What do you mean?”
In summary, I explained to her that fences represent boundaries. Fences are used to help you control what gets close to you and what needs to stay away. Although some things may get past the fence, the purpose of them are to help you control your environment. With a fence, you have the option of letting someone close to you or to keep them away from you. The fence is yours to manage those around you. Boundaries are the same way. By having boundaries, you get to decide if you want to see the rabbits and the horses. And if by chance, you want to see a bobcat or a snake, you can open your fence (boundaries) for a peek to see how they will act and put them out if they act as bobcats and snakes do (sneaky scoundrels).
I could tell she was listening because when I stepped down off my pedestal, she said, “Oooh, I need to think about that, fences may not be bad after all.”
Why don’t we think about boundaries in relationships? I see far too many people stay around people who treat them like snakes and prey on them like bobcats. Just like I took my hoe to the snake that got in my “struggle” garden, I will take a hoe to a person who means me no good. The boundaries are necessary for my protection and my peace of mind. Don’t you want peace of mind? Look at your boundaries and the people you allow to get close to you.
Does your fence needs some repairs or do you even have a fence? Ask yourself these three questions?
1. Are you angry all the time with the people in your immediate circle?
If you are constantly complaining about the people around you, determine if they exhibit the qualities you find attractive in a person in that role. Also, take a look at yourself and see if you exhibit those same qualities. Sometimes we get what we get and wonder why people are treating us in that manner. It’s a reflection.
If you are treating people positively and continue to receive a negative response, look at your boundaries.
2. Do you find yourself overextended because you are helping so many people?
People are naturally drawn to givers. If you are overextended, it is time to say “No.” Say it just politely as you can. No explanation needed, just say, “I won’t be able to do that this time.” It may take some time, but they will either learn how to do what they are asking you to do or ask someone else to do it for them.
3. Do you have people around you who only want to be around you when you are giving them something?
This is a strong lesson in the balance of energy in relationships. Sometimes are boundaries are erected for us. If you have people around you who only call when they want or need something from you, it is time to look at the quality of relationship and correctly label it so that you are not disappointed. Sometimes, work friends are just work friends. Running buddies are just running buddies. And so on and so on. If you correctly identify that relationship, then the boundaries are automatically erected and you know the extent of the relationship. Don’t call a running buddy if you need to borrow money for rent. And don’t call a work friend if you need someone to keep your kids. Understand the boundaries and the relationship fares better.
Boundaries condition people on how you want to be treated. If you compromise the boundaries, meaning tear a hole in the fence to let someone in for a little bit, don’t be surprised if it take a while to repair the hole. Set some healthy boundaries if you want healthy relationships.