By Brittany and Candace
One of the hardest things in life is realizing there are boundaries, or limitations, on what we can accomplish, how we can act, or what we can do. Sometimes these boundaries are arbitrary, or socially conceived based on the schema and expectations external forces have for us. Other times they are tangible rules and regulations imposed by people we despise, revere, or respect. It’s true that “the sky is the limit” to what we may conceive, and possibly achieve, but in our dealings with others we must adhere to norms. We are not programmed to consider boundaries in the “emotional” sense, however, until it is often “too late.”
Setting boundaries for ourselves is often the reaction to someone carelessly treading over and through our sacred places, rather than the pre-meditation. This seems counter-intuitive but we are a society that romanticizes the act of “falling” in love and favors notions of kismet, vulnerability, and the delicious randomness of that time. We walk around dazed and ill prepared for the ways lack of consideration and drama (that is independent of you and even indiscriminate) can wreck our inherent fragility. Like virgins that may be new to the act of sex, but may be familiar with intimacy we believe that our previous experiences with hurt can prepare us for the shameful realization that our essence, our goodness was diminished (even temporarily) for intentions that were not our own.
But as with anything subject to time, we heal and we learn from our mistakes. One of the biggest lessons is that boundaries do not necessarily “restrict” you from love. They do not bar positivity and light from coming in, they slow down baggage, weight, material (anything that is not light). In healing, many of us may identify the boundaries that need to be set either with the one that hurt us or (even better) with the ones that may love us in the future. Slowly we celebrate our new-found certainty and restored sanctity. We regain our confidence and hope. We become happier and, because of this, our light shines brighter.
This light inevitably attracts those broken ones that hurt us. They come back for validation that you are still prone to their magic, or for reassurance. They are entranced by this new facet or they cannot bear the thought that you have found something they seek. And because this energy is selfish it rocks the foundation you just built. What are you supposed to do and why is this new glitch so devastating?
We've all had the dreaded encounter of seeing your ex for the first time after your breakup. You go from being the reasonably composed, socially adjusted, emotionally mature woman you've been working on getting back to being, to a wreck in ten seconds flat. For those of you who have watched countless episodes of 'Sex in the City' like me, this is basically the Carrie-and-Big-effect. Its how a sophisticated, educated and dazzling woman can morph into a cast member of ‘Basketball Wives’ at the speed-of-light.
|"The Carrie-and-Big-effect." Photo from annawalker1992.blogspot.com|
But what happens when you move past this stage? When you are no longer emotionally overwrought but merely indifferent to the presence of your former flame? You wish them no ill-will and in fact you genuinely desire their happiness, but that is where it ends. You're not interested in re-opening the lines for mutual friends, participating in group hangouts or even getting together to reminisce about the highlights of your failed relationship. While your heart has been mended, it seems as though your ex is still seeking closure. The young man who appeared so callous as you cried about the ending of a love you thought was forever is suddenly distraught by the notion that his all-access pass to your mind, body and soul has been revoked. And why? After all of this time why now?
My best-friend Morgan, who is a sage when it comes to dynamics between men and women, best explains it as this, “Women are more fluid than men. To picture it we are more linear while they are cyclical. A woman begins to mourn a relationship the moment it's over, while a man may not process his emotions about the same event until months or even years later.” Those months or years of emotional delay can be filled with seeming happiness and maybe a new girlfriend or two, but his day of mourning will still come, and he will be on your doorstep, the other end of your line, or showing up in the mentions of your Twitter feed looking for closure.
So what are you supposed to do? What is your obligation to this person whom you only have the best wishes for, but who you do not wish to have as a part of your life?
The short answer: Do whatever feels right to you.
Too often as women we are herded into archaic notions of gender roles that serve only to our detriment. I am reminded of my well-intentioned mother telling me to still be nice to my ex, even after he had hop-scotched all over my heart and blew in and out of my life leaving destruction in his wake. And I realized my mother meant well, but she was of a different time. A time when women were praised for their politeness and compliance. And a time where “causing a scene” was a heinous offense. But ladies it's 2012 and we live in a world where we are truly free to do whatever the hell we want. YOLO anyone?
So when you get that random text from your ex, or see a friend request from a familiar-but-forgotten-face remember the progress you've made and the work you put in to move on from the situation you shared with that person. And don't let anyone cross your personal boundary and ruin your state of peace in an effort to find themselves. They have their journey and you should remain firmly planted in your own.
Brittany is a regular contributor; you can read her bio here. Candace is an NYU and Spelman-educated journalist currently completing a fellowship at the Village Voice in New York City.