We saw how control is incompatible with love, and how letting it go in relationships means accepting the fact that the other is a stranger, who we will never know – let alone own – completely, and we can approach with curiosity, accepting the vulnerability that comes from standing close to someone else.
So, a balance between closeness and distance is the condition to put ourselves in a dynamic of two or more people.
A key concept in this closeness-distance duality is boundaries. As Prentis Hemphill says “boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously”.
Boundaries create what I like to call the “intermediate dimension”: a place where you are centered inside yourself – and are aware of your limits, your expectations, your qualities, your story – and from that privileged position can look at the other in its entirety and uniqueness, without making it an instrument for your own needs. So, halfway between “inside your head” and “out in world”.
Boundaries are the space that define where you end and the other begins, and that allow you to inhabit that dimension with clarity, openness, independence and engagement.
That is a dimension you seek for yourself first, and then use in the interaction with your significant ones.
Quoting from Mark Manson: “People with poor boundaries typically come in two flavors: those who take too much responsibility for the emotions/actions of others and those who expect others to take too much responsibility for their own emotions/actions.” Both conditions stem from an opaque vision of ourselves, where our desire is not something we can own and work for.
Understanding – and coming to terms with – our needs empowers us with the ability to satisfy them and distinguish them from the other person’s. And this is where boundaries become not only a wish, but a necessity.