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the RELATIONSHIP dance WITH VICKI MINERVA Your “Yes” isn’t yes if you can’t say “No” C an you remember feeling cornered and pressed into doing something that you really didn’t want to do? Or perhaps you remember taking advantage of someone you knew was “too nice” to refuse you? If either of these scenarios speak to you, chances are you may have a problem with something called boundaries. In similar fashion to boundar- ies for property, personal boundaries help to establish limits or guidelines around physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual interactions between people. Your comfort level with per- sonal space, expectations, and the right to decide them, may be significantly different than your coworker or friend. Boundaries are shaped by a variety of things; your beliefs, past experiences, value systems, or social environment, among other things. Guaranteed, you’ll have better interactions when you respect each others’ differences. Unhealthy boundaries can create problems both by being either too rigid or too porous. If you are on the spectrum leaning towards being rigid, chances are you have a difficult time trusting people and can’t accept the influence of others. It’s as if you live in an emotional fortress and attempt to keep yourself emotionally safe by not allowing anyone in. The difficulty with that is that 1) No one is truly self-sufficient, and 2) It is a lonely way to live. No one can give constructive criticism or feedback. Neither can they offer connection and support. My guess is that you’ve been hurt some- where along the line and this has been your solution. When you have porous or non- existent boundaries, you have difficulty distinguishing where your responsibility starts or stops in relationship to those around you. One presentation is having difficulty protecting yourself. You may feel responsible for the happiness of oth- ers. You absorb perceived expectations and resulting guilt from an imaginary audience you feel the need to satisfy. You find it hard to say “no” without an ironclad excuse. You may even go against your own values because of the need to please. Whether by nature or nurture, you are hyper aware of others and attempt to keep everyone happy. It creates a lot of anxiety! The other presentation of not having boundaries is being invasive rather than defenseless. In essence you won’t take “no” for an answer. You may touch inappropriately or be confused when people are offended by your freely expressed comments. You may share intimate information too quickly (or expect it from others) and assume a greater bond exists than really does. The presentation here can be either extrava- gant with obvious intrusions, or timid but needy with the expectation that others are responsible for taking care of you. Chances are you are unaware, or not concerned, about the impact you have on those around you. Ultimately there is a healthier place in the midrange where you are able to identify your own wants, needs and feelings and can respectfully negotiate for them in relationship to the wants and needs of others. It doesn’t mean that you’ll ALWAYS get EVERYTHING, but it’s important that all parties feel like they had a voice in the process. You can say “no” to the request to take on a job you don’t want or have time for, without justifying it. You recognize the responsibility that is yours to make choices that you can live with. So why does this matter anyway? Ultimately the healthiest and most intimate relationships will be those that discern what, or whom, to let in and out. Healthy boundaries require two- way communication to express wants and needs and minimize misunder- standings. You know what you like without the influence or pressure of another’s expectation. You can say “Let me think about it” before accepting a new claim on your calendar, or say “no” to unwanted gifts or touch. It’s not selfish. It’s a way to keep yourself healthy without over- extending your- self or allowing unsafe people easy access to the tender parts of you. When you honor another’s boundaries, you respect that they bring a different set of gifts, talents, experiences. In the long run, you will find the people in your life giving more, without resentment, because there is trust that you aren’t taking advantage of them. If you have simply been unaware of your affect on others, pay attention, and practice patience while you listen. If you’re the person who doesn’t care about others, you’re the reason boundaries are important. The ability to have “yes” be yes, instead of “I can’t say no” brings integrity into a relationship. It will be uncomfortable at first, but worth it! Vicki Minerva has lived and worked in the South County area as a Marriage and Family Therapist for over 35 years. She and her hus- band George raised two beautiful daughters with the help of the village here. Her educa- tion includes a M.Div. degree from Fuller Seminary and a M.A. in Marriage, Family Counseling from Santa Clara University. You can contact her at 408.848.8793 or visit her website at vickiminerva.com My goal is to provide you with some information and help you access tools that will help you live your life and manage your relationships in healthier ways. This information is not a substitute for personal counseling and should not be taken out of context. There are many reputable therapists in the South County area should you need additional help. 82 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2016 gmhtoday.com