A lot of society’s unspoken rules seem to suggest that we owe people something just because they’re in our lives. We’re often force-fed insinuations that tell us that we probably should act a certain way if someone acts a certain way towards us. Nothing could be further from the truth!
We’ve all been in unhappy relationships which we create. Friendships, love interests, work-related connections and of course, our marriages.
The saying goes “start as you mean to go on”. So why don’t we?
Sometimes we set our relationship boundaries in places where we have seen our parents set theirs. Other times we allow our own preferences to be eroded over time by a strong personality.
The trouble is this… when we accept someone else’s preferences as our own and feel we owe others things we don’t it causes us lasting unhappiness and thwarts our unique contribution to the world.
But there’s good news! As emotional adults, we get to change our relationships as we grow. We can reset boundaries, have conversations that are difficult, and even end relationships where our preferences are habitually disrespected. We can learn what we do and don’t owe others!
Because of that, I’ve created a list of 10 things I believe you don’t owe anyone at all.
1. Power over your emotional life. You are the only one equipped to handle your emotions and you create them by the thoughts you think. If your emotions are out of control, it’s a great time to talk to a life coach, counselor or your preferred choice of professional for help regaining control over them.
2. A say in your faith or political choices. Your choice of faith and political standing is unique to you. You owe no one a say in what you believe. Healthy dialogue encourages a sharing of personal beliefs in an atmosphere of mutual respect. If this is not possible, proceed at your own risk.
3. Control over your finances. Obviously, in partnerships, there are mutual agreements on how expenses are covered. This is not the same as someone trying to control how you spend your money. Flags should go up when someone is frequently critical or controlling about your personal spending.
4. Lying to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Lying is a dangerous activity. Are you really trying to avoid hurting their feelings or are you protecting yourself from having, to be honest? If so, deeper work should be done to figure out why you feel the need to lie to keep the relationship going. Not telling the truth is always avoiding reality at a core level.
5. A change in your physical appearance. Your style of dress is deeply personal, and all your own. Obviously, there are times when you have to clean up – going to work, a funeral, a wedding. Deeper changes like body fat, or basic physical appearance should be choices that suit your taste, never someone else’s preference.
6. Your time doing recreational activities you don’t enjoy. You don’t owe it to anyone to spend your free time engaged in activities you find neither satisfying or fruitful. If you choose to invest time doing something you don’t enjoy with someone because it’s fruitful for either them or the relationship, that’s your decision to make.
7. Knowledge of your thoughts. What you think on a moment by moment basis is yours and yours alone. You owe no-one an explanation beyond what you are comfortable with.
8. Giving up your dreams for theirs. People often make an altruistic sacrifice for someone else – an expression of good character. This should not be confused with the practice of giving up on your dreams to live a life that suits someone else. This does nothing but rob the world of your own unique and noble contributions.
9. Access to your personal space. Every relationship is different – what suits one person won’t suit another when it comes to personal space. So figure out where yours starts and theirs stops. Your phone? Your personal bank account? Are you comfortable with them going through your papers? Reading your journal? Opening your mail?
10. The right to tell you who to love. We chose our friends and intimate relationships because we love them. No one can tell you who to love because love cannot be forced. If the way you love oversteps the agreed boundaries of a relationship, then it’s time for open dialogue and honest discussion about where things are. Who you love – that’s your decision alone.
Remember, no one can know your boundaries unless you first tell them what they are. It’s kind and reasonable to encourage an atmosphere of open dialogue about it. This way you can engage in relationships authentically and joyfully, with your freedom intact.
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