I am a huge fan of the book “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend. I feel like there are a lot of truths about relationships present in that book that could benefit just about anyone.
One of the illiustrations that I find to be most beneficial when working with clients around relationship issues is to think of ourselves as a house sitting on a piece of property. Our property line forms a boundary separating us from the people we are in relationship with. We have a choice as to what type of boundary is present around our house. It may be a fence, or a wall, or maybe there is nothing there.
It’s easy to imagine the consequences of the various boundaries we can erect. A wall might be put up around our house if we have been abused or hurt in the past, and we decide we would rather not let anyone in than to risk being hurt again. The result is that others, both good and bad, are kept at a distance, closed off from us and we remain unable to have any real connections with others, or to receive the support we need. A house with no fence or barrier has a different problem, with little or no control over who or what enters their property or house. We may have no barrier if we are afraid of being cut off or abandoned by others, so we allow anyone in and are constantly trampled as people walk in and out of our lives with very little power to control this.
There are all different degrees to which we have boundaries/barriers to our relationships with others. The most healthy option, as highlighted in the book, is to have a fence around our house that has a gate in it. We all need a gate. There are times when we need to open that gate and allow others in to achieve happy, healthy relationships. Other people do not need to be let in to our house and it can be a wise move to close that gate to protect ourselves from damaging or potentially harmful relationships. We might benefit from evaluating what is already inside our gate and removing those things that are negative or dangerous.
I think it is important to note that the power of a gate is that it is under the control of the owner. You are the owner of your gate. You have the choice of who or what to let in, when, and for how long. You can chose to escort people out of your gate. You can kick out the bad, and take in the good. It is in your power. You hold the key, and have the final say as to how much you open or shut your gate. In extreme cases walls can be torn down, fences can be climbed, and houses can be broken into. This does not discount those situations. But with life there is always a certain amount of risk that remains out of our control. This does not relinquish us of the responsibility to manage our property as best as we can the majority of the time. Most relationships will have to submit to the boundaries that we put in place in our lives.
You may need to re-examine the boundaries you have around our house. It is never to late to make a change. Remember that you are the keeper of the gate, and only you hold the key.