SETTING AND RESPECTING LIMITS

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      Most important, however, a woman needs to recognize her boundaries of what she can give without resenting her partner,  Instead of expecting her partner to even the score, she needs to keep it even by regulating how much she gives.

     Lets look at an example. Jim was thirty-nine and his wife, Susan, was forty-one when they came for counseling. Susan wanted a divorce. She complained that she had been giving more than he had for twelve years and could not take it any more. She blamed Jim for being lethargic, selfish, controlling, and unromantic. She said she had nothing left to give and was ready to leave. He convinced her to come to therapy, but she was doubtful. In a six-month period they were able to move through the three steps for healing a relationship. Today they are happily married with three children.

       Step 1: Motivation

I explained to Jim that his wife was experience twelve years of accumulated resentment. If he wanted to save this marriage, he would have to do a lot of listening for her to be motivated to work on their marriage. For the first six sessions together, I encouraged  Susan to share her feelings and helped Jim patiently to understand her negative feelings. This was the hardest part of their healing process. As he began to really hear her pain and unfulfilled needs, he became increasingly motivated and confident that he could make the changes necessary to have a loving relationship.

        Before Susan could be motivated to work on their relationship, she needed to be haired and feel that Jim validates her feeling: this was the first step. After Susan felt understood, they were able to proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Responsibility

The second step was taking responsibility. Jim needed to take responsibility for not supporting his wife, while Susan needed to take responsibility for not setting boundaries. Jim apologized for the ways he had hurt her. Susan realized that just as he had stepped over her boundaries by treating her in disrespectful ways (such as yelling, grumbling, resisting request, and invalidating feelings), she had not set her boundaries. Although she did not need to apologize, she din acknowledge some responsibility for their problems.

        As she gradually accepted that her inability to set limits and her tendency to give more had contributed to their problems, she was able to be give more forgiving. taking responsibility for her problems was essential to releasing her resentment. In this way they both were motivated to learn new ways of supporting each other through respecting limits.

Step 3: Practice

Jim particularly needed to learn how to respect her boundaries, while Susan needed to learn how to set them. Both of them needed to learn how to express honest feelings in a respectful way. They agreed in this third step to practice setting and respecting limits, knowing that at times they would make mistakes Being able to make mistakes gave them a safety net while they both practiced. These are some example of what they learned and practice:

  • Susan practiced saying “I don’t like the way you are talking. Please stop yelling or I will leave the room.” After leaving the room a few times, she didn’t need to do it anymore.
  • When Jim would make request that she would later resent doing, she practiced saying “No, I need to relax” or “No, I’m too busy today.” She discovered that he was more attentive to her because he understood how busy or tired she was.
  • Susan told Jim that she wanted to go on a vacation, and when he said he was too busy she said that she would go alone. Suddenly he shifted his schedule and wanted to go.
  • When they talked and Jim interrupted, she practiced saying “I’m not finished, please hear me out.” Suddenly he started listening more and interrupting less.
  • Susan’s most difficult task was to practice asking for what she wanted. She said to me, “Why should  I have to ask, after all I have done for him?” I explained that making him responsible for knowing fer wants was not only unrealistic but a big part of her  problem. She needed to be responsible for getting her needs fulfilled.
  • Jim’s most difficult challenge was to be respectful of her change and not expect her to be the same accommodating partner partner he originally married. He recognize that it was as difficult for her to set limits as it was for him to adjust to them. He understood that they would become graceful as they had more practice.

 

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