Life’s Lessons: Boundaries and Control

It takes time to understand that when we refuse to take on what clearly belongs to other people, and we refuse to continue “enabling” immature people, that we are doing them a favor if they will make the choice to see it as one.

Sadly enough, there are a lot of people who don’t choose to see this experience as being a necessary time of growth. They refuse to step out of their comfort zone, and as a result, their lives become more miserable.

Life is difficult enough without people being allowed to steal our God-given peace, and so we learn not to take their often vindictive actions personally, as we learn that what they do in such spiteful ways against us is all about them, and has nothing to do with us.

I can remember when learning about boundaries, thinking that this ran completely against all that I had been taught when I was growing up. However, I remember the Lord saying, “People need to begin growing up, and it is up to you to lay the groundwork within yourself so they, too, will hopefully come to this point of self-growth for themselves. However, you must learn to do this first, so you can also learn to step back, and allow them to have their choices.”

All of Life’s Lessons stem from this number one rule: The only person you can control in this life is yourself, your choices, your actions, and your reactions. For every action, there is a reaction, and for every action, there is a consequence.

Since you cannot control anyone but yourself, this means that change must begin within you first. If you don’t choose to change yourself, you cannot even hope for someone else to change themselves.

Change is scary because it represents the unknown. If you change, you will face the fear that you are setting yourself up for a definite loss in some areas, and your faith needs to become bigger than your fear.  Unfortunately, the people who are suffering from entitlement-type thinking, aren’t going to want to have to examine themselves for what they are going to need to change in themselves, in order to better relate to you.

However, standing your ground, and continuing to move forward out of these former ways of thinking, being, and relating for yourself, has its merits. As the old negative habits are shed in favor of new positive habits, peace gained within yourself is the sum total of this kind of growth.

Sometimes you have to enforce the “electric fence” of your boundary, more than once, literally “shocking” any person, that you once enabled, into beginning to pay attention to the changes you’ve made, and are not backing down from.

That’s why a situation always gets worse, before it becomes better, at least on your end of it. Yes, people will always have the option to walk away from making an emotionally healthier choice, while you stand firmly on your healthier choices because you’ve come to understand what’s truly right for yourself.

It all goes back to boundaries being for you, not for the person you set them upon/against. People have to learn there are limits to what you will tolerate from them in the way of all manner of behavior they choose to show to you and bring into your space.

Let me clarify: Boundaries are not an attempt to control others in any way. Since you’re giving them a choice to choose to act differently or walk away, this is not controlling, rather, it’s allowing them to be who they choose to be. However, you are exercising your own choices to no longer accept what you have learned as being unacceptable behavior they will try to bring into your space.

We truly do teach people how to treat us, and if we allow people to treat us badly, they will do just that.

Now, you will have people who are so emotionally immature they may choose to give you the silent treatment in an effort to “punish” you for your choices. If you’re in a good place of growth, you know to ignore that completely, because it is not worth speaking to, or speaking of. If this happens in your marriage, then you confront it, and if it continues, you let your spouse know, “Suit yourself. When you get ready to talk, you know where I am,” and then, you walk on, let them go, and let them be miserable in themselves, but don’t let them bring you down–it is so not worth getting miserable about.

When people act out in any way, again, it’s something in them that triggers these actions. Though they might try and blame you, don’t take it personally, because it is never about you, it’s always about them.

If what they do will directly affect you, slap a boundary on it. However, if what they do solely affects them, and not you, don’t get involved with it, or in it. You learn to emotionally distance yourself from whatever sin they are committing, and understand that until such a time they might choose to try and mend their side of the relationship they have broken in any way, there is nothing you can do to “fix” whatever brokenness was in them that drove them down this wrong path. It’s their responsibility to eventually choose to fix their own problems, or not.  It is not your job to “make” “force” and/or “coerce” anyone into doing what you want; that is controlling behavior that isn’t respectful of their right to choose for themselves.

People often don’t understand boundary-setting, because they tend to have problems with knowing where they end, and another person begins. Until they begin to develop personalized boundaries within their own Self, they won’t ever learn how to set other-based boundaries that call disrespectful people out on their disrespectful behavior.

While we can always influence people, we can’t make people do what we want them to do, which would be controlling behaviors–again, we can only control our own Self, and no one else.

To know how to set any boundary, one must ask themselves a major question: “Am I crossing the line into trying to control the other person in their space, or am I maintaining control of myself in my own space?” You can control what comes into your space, while you cannot control what’s going on in someone else’s space if that makes sense. Since you can’t control other people’s actions, the only aspect you have control over is what they may wrongly choose to bring into your space.

A good analogy is driving a car on the highway. Don’t we have certain rules(boundaries) that govern the speed we’re supposed to be accelerating each of our individual cars? What happens if we break the speed limit(boundary set)? Something that causes us to lose something, right? Oh yeah, that’s right, we have to get caught first. However, the odds of getting caught speeding are far greater than some people may realize.

At any rate, when caught breaking the boundary, there are consequences for that choice, and it usually means that either you’re going to get a ticket with a monetary fine you’re going to pay, OR depending on how far you had exceeded the speed limit, you could be arrested on the spot, charged with reckless driving, go to jail, have to go to court, all of which has cost you money. And if the Judge so decrees, you could be sentenced to time in jail, and possibly have to go to traffic or driving school; depending upon where you live.

All over a choice to break a boundary that you could have chosen to honor, but since you decided to choose said behavior, and get caught, (nobody who does wrong can get by with it) the penalties you will face, in time and money,  will cost you a whole lot more than your decision to break the traffic laws.  Was it worth it? Many would say no, negotiate, and pay the ticket, while others would shift all of the blame on the policeman who arrested them, the lawyer who represented them (in the case of reckless driving), and the Judge who sentenced them…and how emotionally immature is that? Yet, midlife spouses and emotionally immature people will do these things, say these things, because, in their minds, they are never at fault; it’s always someone else’s fault. At least until they find themselves in a situation they cannot talk their way out of. But even then, they may still do and say what they can to manipulate the situation so that they don’t have to take responsibility for the boundary they chose to break.

Since the court system doesn’t cater to the emotionally immature; they will find themselves being treated like the adults they are physically representing.  Yet, emotionally, they’re way behind the times, but the Judge isn’t going to listen to their immature rhetoric; what is he/she going to do?

Pass sentence(consequences for wrong actions) without worrying one bit about any tantrums the emotionally immature person may throw; in fact, the Judge won’t listen to childish fits and hold that person in contempt of court(which is showing disrespectful behavior toward the Judge).  The worse the behavior, the longer it goes on,  the longer the contempt sentence the Judge has every right to hand down.  The fact is, nobody has to deal with disrespectful behavior from anyone; so, the consequences always involve loss that is revealed/shown to the emotionally immature person who doesn’t act in a respectful way.  Food for thought.

Anything a person tries to force into your space, should not be allowed, especially when it’s anything that you do not want to happen and/or deal with, because it would directly affect you, and/or directly hurt you. No one has the right to even try to force/control/manipulate you into compromising your character, your morals, your ethics, nor do they have the right to physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually hurt you. You would draw the line, and say “No, I won’t,” “No, you won’t,” and/or “No, you can’t.”

A good example of a physical boundary is in the realm of anyone/someone coming right up to you, and actually hitting you. Would you allow people to do that? If not, why not? Well, when you allow people to mistreat you, then you’re allowing them to hurt you; and words can hit just as hard as a fist. More food for thought. The bible says that the Tongue is the smallest member of the body, but has the capacity to do the most damage. We can lift people up with our words, or tear them down.

The midlife spouse has a way of giving hope in one hand, and taking it away with the other, owing to the mixed messages they so often send the left-behind spouse. You learn to sort the garbage they spew outward, which is Truth mixed in Lies, and draw out the Truth. However, you don’t have to listen to angry confused spewing that deteriorates into cursing you, calling you names, speaking to you in a disrespectful way, because that calls for a boundary set in your own Self Respect.

The reason you cannot set a boundary on the midlife crisis affair is that it’s not about you. It’s all about the midlife spouse who is choosing to dishonor and disrespect their own Self. They’re hurting themselves, and the only reason you’re hurt is that you have feelings for them, you love them, and you have an emotional investment in them.

The only boundaries you can set on the midlife crisis affair, involve the midlife spouse’s attempts to manipulate you into partaking of/participating in their sin–talking about it to you, bringing the affair partner into your house to meet you, or moving them into the marital household, talking to the affair partner in front of you, or talking to the affair partner on the phone in front of you – things where you are going to be right there bearing direct witness. Someone once called it, “rubbing my nose in it,” which isn’t respectful, and no, you don’t have to deal with that kind of behavior.

I was never really sure if the texting part of it applied because that’s their phone, and if they choose to text anyone, you don’t have control over that part of it, and you’re not directly exposed to it unless you choose to invade their privacy, and snoop. You are never entitled to engage in direct violation (snooping) of their right to privacy.  You would be guilty of crossing the midlife spouse’s boundaries when you snoop. Food for thought.

If the midlife crisis spouse is separated from you, as in having physically moved out to move in with their affair partner, and they have visitation rights with their underage children, you can set a boundary on them bringing their phone into your house during that time. This is common courtesy, and common sense, because who are they there to visit? Their children and they’re not visiting their children if they are spending that whole time on their phone. So, you can set a boundary against them bringing their phone into the house, tell them to leave it in the car for the duration of that visit,(boundary) and if they don’t comply, they won’t be allowed into the house at all(consequences).

Whether a person is in an affair, or not, it’s actually quite rude to carry their phone into the house of someone they’re supposed to be visiting, to take phone calls, and/or text other people. If you’re going to be on your phone while visiting someone else, you might as well have stayed home, and not gone to visit at all. Just saying. Food for thought.

Within the context of the midlife crisis affair, and when the time is right, there is a relational boundary that can be set–and the timing on it is during the time when the midlife spouse can “hear” “see” and “feel” you, and they’re clearly trying to ride the relational fence; having all of their needs met between two people. Basically, just like any other boundary one would set, there is the behavior, and there are the consequences. When a person chooses the behavior, that crosses a boundary, the consequences would also be chosen.

The midlife spouse tries to have it both ways early in the affair, and a relational boundary can be set at that time, because it involves speaking the Truth in love, “As long as you are in a relationship with someone else, you cannot have a relationship with me,” is the boundary, AND the consequence set within one sentence.

It’s also a common sense aspect that you wouldn’t engage in a relationship with someone, while they are clearly in a relationship with someone else. If you did, then you would not be respecting yourself, because you wouldn’t get the whole of that person; only half of them.

You would simply speak your known Truth in this way, with the understanding that the decision to continue doing what they’re doing or discontinue what they are doing is solely up to the person you’re setting said boundary upon. If they continue, you enforce your consequences and distance yourself from the person who is sinning against you. They’ll either figure it out, or they won’t, after doing everything they possibly can to try to control, and manipulate you into allowing them to cross your boundary, simply because they can. It’s up to you to enforce the line or erase said line.

Understand that if you erase the line, and then try to redraw it again, it’s going to become harder that next time, because the boundary-breaker will first laugh, and then go to work trying that much harder to break your boundary once more, simply because they can, and because they’re not going to take you seriously, if you don’t enforce your boundary the first time, and hold it firmly, no matter what happens.

Boundaries give that person two choices–to either grow up in response or choose to walk away in reaction. Boundaries are for you, to protect you, to prevent you from being exposed to bad behaviors, disrespect, and the kinds of behaviors you know you don’t want in your life, and in your space.

You don’t have control over anyone but yourself, and don’t confuse boundaries with ultimatums, because boundaries simply involve the additional physical, emotional, and mental distancing necessary as consequences are enforced, if the boundary-breaker crosses, while ultimatums involve a total destruction of relationship, puts time limits on compliance that if said demand is not met, then the person setting the ultimatum says they’re done.

Setting down ultimatums is very controlling behavior while setting boundaries is actually allowing that person to be who they are, choose their own behavior, while you remain who you are, choose your own behavior, and choose to enforce the consequence for the crossing of any boundary you set against unacceptable behavior.

Another example of a boundary is when the left-behind spouse chooses to restrict the midlife spouse to communicating only via text for finances, and children, and make it clear that that the midlife spouse is not to call. The enforcing of said boundary is that the left-behind spouse would not answer the phone if the midlife spouse tried to directly call, and after a reasonable time, the left-behind spouse would send an answering text, reaffirming the boundary of texting only.  When engaged in texting, the left-behind spouse’s boundary would not allow the midlife spouse to deviate, or stray, from the only two subjects that would be allowed to be discussed in texting conversations – children and finances.

For the midlife spouse to comply only when he/she feels like it in text, while calling the left-behind spouse anyway, whether the call is answered or not, is a definite testing of the boundary, just to see if the left-behind spouse will accept this violation of a boundary that was set upon the midlife spouse, and, is an attempted crossing of said boundary by the midlife husband/wife, who feels entitled to do as he/she pleases in this area.

That’s why in so many cases, the midlife spouse ignores the boundary, and calls anyway, simply because he/she could, and then, it  is up to to the left-behind spouse to decide whether to allow him/her to cross said boundary by answering the phone, OR enforcing said boundary that made it clear that the left-behind spouse would not communicate with him/her except through text that involved children/finances – by simply letting the call go to voice mail, and in time, sending another text that reaffirmed the boundary the left-behind spouse set.

I’m sure there are many times, that one feels like a broken record; however, the midlife spouse is notorious for not wanting to take no for an answer, and because their entitled attitude isn’t wanting to “hear” or “see” the boundary; testing the boundary isn’t unusual.

To summarize: One person sets a boundary, (You are not to call me at all, and only to text me only about the children or finances) the other decides to either honor it, (stays within the boundaries of stated contact) or doesn’t honor it, (calls anyway, refuses to text, or texting sometimes, because that person doesn’t want to be told what to do, or their entitlement dictates they’ll call when they want to).

However, the one who sets the boundary either chooses to enforce said boundary with the consequences set(doesn’t answer the call, doesn’t allow changes of subject during texting conversation that is only restricted to children/finances), or doesn’t enforce said boundary at all (takes all calls, and texting conversations goes down other roads beyond children/finances).

When you learn the first major lesson, which is you don’t control anyone, but you, then you learn to look at your interactions more critically, to see where you might be trying to control another person’s behavior, that has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with that person.

Another example of a boundary is in the area of the show of disrespect toward you–such as yelling, and screaming at you, most especially when you have not done or said anything to cause this to happen. When you don’t have a part in what’s happening within this kind of direct-effect behavior, that is clearly abusive and meant to bully you and/or pressure you into doing something the midlife spouse wants you to do, then you set a boundary, complete with consequences on it. “If you can’t speak to me in a respectful fashion, I will not remain in the room with you/I will hang up the phone on you.” IF the bad behavior doesn’t stop, then you leave the room/hang up the phone.

Name-calling, and cursing you is another bad behavior you would set a boundary on, because it’s not respectful behavior, it’s emotionally abusive behavior and subjected to the same consequences as outlined above.

Most of the time, the strongest consequence, involved me leaving the room when my husband acted out, and/or the increase of distancing between myself and him. I didn’t throw him out of the house, because that would have been overkill. I called him out on behaviors that would directly affect me; such as driving too fast down the highway, I drew the line on listening to him curse other people, and call them names, I put him on notice that if the behavior didn’t stop I would not remain in his presence at all. With the exception of being in the car with him, because, I know, sitting in the car, I was a “captive audience,” but I could still choose to remain silent, regardless of all of the baiting he so often did.

I simply set my boundary on listening to him maliciously tearing down other people, or even spewing at me, while in the car, and no kidding, I tuned him out for as long as we were in the car, and thought about other things.

Silence speaks volumes, especially, when the midlife spouse has nothing to feed upon. And you learn not to feed the drama of a typical midlife spouse, simply because you don’t like something they said.

One final point: Choose your battles carefully, because not everything needs an answer, and silence is sometimes the best boundary you can set; because no one can argue with closed ears, and an equally closed mouth.

All food for thought.

(((HUGS)))

Since 2002, Hearts Blessing has been a pioneer in the area of knowledge and information written about the Mid Life Crisis. The owner and author of https://thestagesandlessonsofmidlife.org she writes articles that help people learn more about this confusing time of life. The main goal of this site is to help people know and understand that no matter what happens, every situation works out to the good of those who love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose. :)
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