Boundaries are an interesting area in relationships, marking the ecological distinctions between entities. These physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual ecologies are energy in flux, yet highly organized into their given patterns, especially in beings who have been at it for awhile.
Like music, in which harmony has to do with the relationship between notes and timing, interpersonal relationships are about the delicate balance between staying closed and opening up. The conundrum in relationships is the need to keep those boundaries intact, yet also to open them up, not to mention expanding them. This works likes cellular membranes that need to keep some balance between ions, yet open to allow influx which helps to move information necessary to live, to act, and to grow.
Let’s say, for instance, that a person professes to be interested in pair bonding and the marshaling of respective energies to form new directions, new outcomes, and new realities. Are they engaging in rhetoric alone or are they including the behaviors necessary to re-focus the pattern of energy and create new patterns? Reality checks and breaching the boundaries of the former pattern are necessary to break the gravitational pull of the previous lifestyle. Commitment and passion for this break and for this creation can be measured by a person’s actual efforts, intimacy by their willingness to be open and vulnerable.
The process of closing, opening, and expanding our boundaries is the way we mate, the way we create mystery, the way we renew, the way we nurture, the way we destroy. That’s a lot of uses for a single set of behaviors. Evolution likes that kind of thing, the elegant simplicity, yet multiplicity of a given behavior. However, the number of permutations for this set of behaviors creates a complexity that can turn the process into a kind of behavioral and interpersonal quicksand.
When dealing with women, it seems that this exploration-of-boundaries habit I have developed has created some problems for both them and myself. I’ve noticed that if I’m gentle with the breaching, they may become vulnerable and flustered. The “good sense” that went into creating their ecological boundaries has now been undermined, but the gentleness of the process, while leaving them with a sense of vulnerability, also leaves them feeling safe. These paradoxical emotions then seemed to be translated into an interest in me, which, of course, is one thing I’m looking for.
We all need attractants and they don’t always have to be peacock feathers or the human version of a red-monkey butt. Women, whether by evolutionary design or some other mechanism, appear to be attractors by default. Men, on the other hand, have to come up with something–it certainly isn’t a defacto condition. It’s true that women can work on and improve what seems to be natural, but they still have something going into the attractant game. And it is also true that not all women are equal in their abilities. Still, it is my take that men operate at an inherent disadvantage which has to be overcome if there is an intent to forge connective links.
The problem with breaching boundaries, is that people still seem to go back to who they are. Yes, we like to breach and be breached as long as it doesn’t seem destructive. But we are also committed to our stories.
So I gently breach a woman’s boundaries, she opens up and becomes vulnerable.
“How did I do that?” “Who is this guy?”
That’s my “cleavage” and the promise of more.
She shows me her “cleavage” and the promise of more.
A relationship starts and the dance is in full swing.
Then we go beyond “cleavages” and begin to delve into the deeper ecologies of each other and ourselves.
Now it gets dangerous. Longer-term issues from the organized representations of our past creep into the mix. Boundaries go back up, “cleavages” are put away, and we spend a great deal of time marking our respective territories. Then we develop resentments about the entire process, and we begin to yearn for “cleavage” and the promise of more.
All right, I’m running the cleavage metaphor into the ground. Certainly there are many ways to breach these boundaries—money, influence, power, nurturing, etc. Sometimes the initial breaching is not forthcoming and takes place over time.
Let’s say for instance that a particular man or woman does not seem, on the surface, to possess anything that the other needs or wants. In some cases sheer proximity can help—the ongoing presence of the parties. And in some cases love is developed over time and through shared memories even in the absence of an initial attractant.
In any case, the promise inherent in gently crossing another’s boundaries seems to carry the idea of fixing some kind of problem. That is the promise of nurture. Perceived sophistication about the process doesn’t make this promise any less like peacock feathers or a red-monkey butt, it’s still a wild kingdom.
In my particular case, I developed a specialty (such as it is) of finding contradictions in the facade of people’s stories or underlying philosophies. This can cause a lot of obvious trouble if sarcasm, cynicism, contempt, or criticism are involved—boundaries and resolve are stiffened. And it can be said that I do not always go gently into the fray. But if handled softly, the breach can create an open vulnerability rather than a closed resistance. Interestingly enough, it also serves to keep people from breaching my boundaries which can have the effect of putting me on top of the situation. Ego and pride are well-served. I attempt to ameliorate this effect–denying that is my intent, but sometimes that can be a kind of false humbleness and simply another way to polish ego and pride.
These hidden and not so hidden agendas in my patterns (crossing other people’s boundaries which keeps them off guard, perhaps creating an interest in me, certainly keeping them from noticing my boundaries, all of which have the illusory effect of putting me in control at the same time as making others primarily responsible for any broken promises) create their own karmic residual. If I own it, it becomes impossible for me to be either a victim or a victor, even if I’ve set up the interactions and connections that way.
In all fairness, I promise to fix the problem by raising the awareness about the formation of stories. That is honest enough, and something that I follow up on. I’m a fixer.
The fallacy of this position and what has kept me in relationship trouble, is that fixing problems is itself a fallacy.
People may secretly or not-so-secretly want to have their boundaries breached, but they still want to continue with their stories. To honestly change those stories is the equivalent of ecological upheaval and that can be very disconcerting–the brick house exposed as a mere house of cards.
Gently breaching boundaries and elevating awareness about the process of creating stories and philosophies can be like having an orgasm; it can create a beautiful tension and a full-being, laser-focused, climactic centering. But it requires a refractory period–it cannot be ongoing over the long run or eventually the process becomes annoying. One can fix a car, take care of a debt, fix a bone, comfort someone, take out the trash, but one cannot keep hounding people about the fallacy of their stories. For most, those stories are as sacrosanct as a religious icon is to a true believer. And besides, in the end as well as in the process, each of us has to fix our own creations–another cannot do it for us.
So these troubles that I “find” myself in certainly have had the volcanic effect of bringing the trouble with my stories to the surface. Consciousness raising is what lights me up, but I’m obviously as thick as everyone else about parading my story, even when it is obviously not working.
So then, just how much am I into heightened awareness? Is it only as much as it takes to get me taken care of? And if so, just what is different about my approach?
The trouble is who we are. The beauty is who we are. One cannot exorcize the paradox. But as I sit here wondering about the death of my mother and another relationship and about the fallacy of my own story, I realize that life lived as a compartmentalization is fine if the ship is sinking or if the caterpillar is transforming, or if one just needs to have a safe space to rest and muse, but closing off as a primary strategy is mostly a signpost of illusion–a concession to being overwhelmed and the need to pretend otherwise. Over the long haul, it is only negative energy. Opening up puts the foolishness and vulnerability on display (though that might just be used as another set of peacock feathers or a newly brightened, red-monkey butt).
In any case, it doesn’t much matter. Protection may seem necessary to remain safe and stories may provide a viable defensive mechanism. But, in the long run at least, closing off is only a hard way to open up. Looking around at the state of relationships–the high divorce rate, the problems in business, the cross-cultural divide–it seems to me, for now, for most, the hard path appears to be the only one open to love. It also seems to me that state of affairs is not the default creation, but the created default–it doesn’t have to be, it just is.
Perhaps a little honesty, a little renewal will open the doors and make it possible to create a different default. The process is likely to feel strange and unfamiliar, but it takes a lot more energy to keep closed down then it takes to let it flow.