Boundaries, Red Flags and Emotional Savings Accounts

Boundaries, Red Flags and Emotional Savings Accounts

Talking through a shift from an attempt to establish objective boundaries, to the much healthier subjective boundaries, how this reflects on whether or not something is a red flag. Finally, how to maintain a long term relationship while accepting that everyone on the face of the planet is annoying in the day to day, no matter how hard we try.

Episode Transcript:

Good morning everybody. Yesterday I was driving home after a little time in the office, and it occurred to me that there is a lot of confusion around boundaries, what would be considered a red flag, how you navigate boundaries, A lot of just really decent good-hearted folks come into therapy, and they intend the best, and they want to do right by themselves, and they want to do right by other people. But there is no guidebook for This is objectively appropriate behavior. You're entitled to feel offended. This is legitimately a red flag. There are some things that I think pretty much everyone would agree are red flags, but most people are not coming in going, I feel confused about whether my partner should be able to get angry and punch me in the face. This is one of my favorite conversations. One of my favorite conversations is around boundaries because boundaries, at the heart of it, getting healthier has everything to do with the relationship to self. But being able to navigate the world has everything to do with relationship to others. And so at some point, people get somewhat comfortable with self. Then we still have to deal with the complexity of dealing with others. So let's just start with a few confounding truths when it relates to boundaries, what are red flags, how to date, how to tell if dating is going well, etc. One is, unless you subscribe to a particular religion that has fairly specific prescriptions for how we should treat one another, that are not interpretable, that are not able to be interpreted. The truth is boundaries and boundary discussions are subjective. It's a moving target and there is no guidebook and there is no manual. Now most therapists, myself included, feel that we have a pretty good insight into how to navigate boundaries, what boundaries are and what should be boundaries. There's certain arrogance in there. Right? Over my career, I've had to own that I come from a pretty wasp background that's fairly comfortable setting boundaries and putting distance with people that you're uncomfortable with. And there are cultures in which this simply doesn't happen no matter what. People can torment each other for decades within a family, but the loyalty to the family just means putting distance is just not something traditionally that has happened. And so if I were to wade in as a therapist and go, oh, you know, this is just unacceptable. And the way this person treats you and what's going on is unhealthy. And you have every right to cut off that relationship and to disinvite them, you know, et cetera, et cetera. Has a certain arrogance in it because that's coming very much from my very wasp background in which that's, I don't want to say normal, but that's sort of expected if people behave badly. Over a long period of time and it creates a certain amount of toxicity in your life, it's recommended that you put significant boundaries and maybe only invite them to really obvious things, et cetera, et cetera, right? But that is subjective. And that is informed by my personality. It's informed by the fact that I am an introvert. It's informed by my culture being vaguely Danish Germanic some French thrown in, you know, White Anglo Saxon Protestant, All of that stuff plays in. And I've worked with couples in which, you know, one person came from a communal culture in which you did not talk about cutoff. You know, the first assumption was we. The first assumption is we. And if there's something to be negotiated about you, that comes within the context that everything starts with me. And then WASP culture, the first assumption is I. And then if there are things to be negotiated in relationship to a community that then happens in the environment and the assumption of the importance of I. I'm not here arguing for what's better or worse. I'm here saying that this is subjective. So this is confounding when we talk about boundaries and what is a red flag and what works and what doesn't and what you have a right to and what you don't have a right to. So what I'm arguing is that most people when they come into therapy and most people when they struggle in their dynamics with family members or their spouses, attempt to navigate boundaries by implying or explicitly stating that my boundary is objective. That's why you should respect it. It's not just that I don't like what you're doing. It is that what you're doing is objectively wrong. Most people would agree. The people who don't agree are unhealthy people. And you should do what I'm asking you to do, not because it necessarily just makes me uncomfortable, but because what you're doing is wrong. Now, the challenge with this kind of boundary setting is it does two things. One is a little subtle. What it does is it takes away your right to be honored and loved. When you refer to an external objective boundary, you're not giving your partner the opportunity and the right to do the most loving, most connected thing, which is to say, this is part of who you are. And I don't care what society says this is important to you, and you feel healthier, and you feel happier, and you have a stronger connection with me. You feel more loved, and I'm going to do it because of that. I don't need a reason. I don't need some objective reason. Furthermore, I don't necessarily need a religion to say this is the right way to treat my partner. Furthermore, I'm going to do it because I love you. That is powerful. That's powerful. That's a powerful connection in your relationship. And when you argue for an objective boundary, you should listen to what I'm saying and respect my boundary because it is right. You have completely eliminated the possibility that that person could demonstrate generosity and love for you and to give it to you because it's important to you. Now, maybe you've done that because you've lost the hope that the other person will respect and love you as an individual and doesn't need an objective reason. Maybe you're caught in a dynamic arguing that because you've already had many conversations. Maybe you started with, you know, I hate it when you do blah, blah, blah. You know, I don't like that. And maybe they pathologized you, and maybe they did the reverse. Right. So when we set a boundary, sometimes people will say, well, that's just about you. And you're too sensitive. This is the same argument. Someone who accuses you of being too sensitive is saying there is an objective right and wrong for boundaries and how we navigate them. And when you come to me asking me to change my behavior, what you're doing is unfair because I'm doing what's acceptable and right objectively. There's some rule outside us that says that this is acceptable and correct. And in fact, the error because with objective rules, someone can be right and someone can be wrong. The error is on your part. You're too sensitive. There's some pathology, there's some weakness in you that makes you feel uncomfortable in that situation. Therefore, you should become comfortable because I'm the one whose right and the way I behave, I'm entitled to because there's an objective measure for it. So this dynamic, which is one of the most toxic dynamics, but is actually super common, at least in couples work. Is this dynamic of people trying to navigate boundaries by one person saying what you're doing is objectively wrong, it's morally wrong, there's something wrong with you, and you don't see this, and you should listen to me because I'm objectively right about how this should be done. And really avoiding even saying it bothers me or like this really bothers me because it's objectively wrong, I'm really I'm worried about you and then the other person will come back and go. Actually The way I behave is objectively right and moral. And the fact that you're uncomfortable with the way I behave is an indication of a weakness on your part, that you are overly sensitive to this thing. And I think I've kind of vaguely addressed this before, but if you're in that dynamic, I can tell you right now, there is no end. No one will ever win that argument. Ever. No one will ever win that argument. It is toxic. It, number one, eliminates the hope or the trust that the other person could respect your boundaries or navigate your boundaries with you because they love you and value you. They don't need to refer to some external source of supposedly objective rules for what's right. They value you. Furthermore, they love you. Right. So both partners have given up hope and trust that there's actual genuine love and connection. And they're now navigating boundaries with trying to at least symbolically pull in authority figures. And this happens with therapists all the time, right? People come in, and they want the therapist to align with them and say, well, you are right. That person is wrong. Dangerous on the part of the therapist. And occasionally I will do that if there's something fairly obvious that someone has a pretty toxic behavior that they're bringing. But it's never one-sided. Those toxic behaviors are often a reaction to their partner's toxic behaviors. So there's always a shared dynamic in there. So In both of those cases, that boundary navigation and referring to external objective, supposedly objective rules for what are boundaries, drags all society in, drags supposed authority figures into your relationship and says, this isn't about whether I love you. This isn't about whether we're connected. This isn't about whether we understand one another. This is about that there is a right and a wrong, and I'm right, and you're wrong. Well, you can see when you boil it down to that, like that's not going to work. Even if someone concedes the point, it's going to leave a bitter taste in their mouth. They're going to feel worse about themselves if they accept it. And there's going to be some part of them that resents it and always kind of feels like, I don't think so. Like they convinced me that I was wrong, but I actually, I don't think I was like something's going on here. That I know that there's something unfair being done to me. And so resentment will build and over time that will destroy a relationship. But right now I'm sort of speaking theoretically abstractly. Let's use an actual concrete example of how quote unquote objective boundaries are really hard to establish in a relationship. Let's take someone who lets say it's a woman who was raised in a deeply connected Christian home or Muslim home or whatever it is, it's a home that has a fairly strict adherence to some moral rules about modesty, sexual behavior in public, these sorts of things. And this woman is deeply connected to that. She believes in it. It's a great strength. So there's a healthy incorporation of that belief system for her. And that's the way she wants to live her life. Let's say she falls in love with a man. Who grew up in a culture in which people were a little rough and rowdy and pretty relaxed and there's a lot of trust. And you know both men and women will accompany their friends say for a birthday party or a bachelor party or a bachelor party and that might include going to a strip club, and it's just in fun. And this person is not a cheater. It's just like. That's just life right. We can just trust that. That's going to be okay that that person doesn't drink too much and nothing untoward happens. Okay. So you generally have two decent people But there's two different belief systems. Let's say they fall in love and that man is like, oh, it's my buddy's bachelor party. And, and, you know, we're going to go such and such, you know, strip club in Vegas and, you know, have a night of it and whatever, and I'll check in with you. And, and the woman kind of freaks out. And I was like, no, like, no, like you, that you, that we can't, that I can't do that, that you can't do that. In this situation, you can see that morally, I don't necessarily disagree with the guy. Like, I don't have an opinion about what he does. There are people who have open relationships. If they're honest, and they make rules, and they're like, look, you can sleep with other people, I can sleep with other people. We don't make it an affair. We never do it behind one another's back. Furthermore, we make sure that we always come back and connect very deeply. Our relationship is the most important. Like, I don't have an opinion about that. It doesn't necessarily work for me, but I was raised a little more towards what I'm describing with that woman. I don't have an opinion about that. There are people for whom that works, who deeply love one another. So in this situation, when there's a navigation of boundaries, the real challenge is maybe that woman will want to say, but it's wrong. Like my religion teaches me blah, blah, and she may want to impose that on that man. That's manipulation, right? I get to have what I'm comfortable with and what works for me. So a way for her to navigate that boundary is to come to that man and to say something like, I love you and I respect you. And I don't have a moral opinion about what you're doing. I don't want to be very direct and honest that I'm not comfortable with that. I will never be comfortable with that. I don't want to get into a debate about why I choose to have a life and I choose to date someone and be married to someone who doesn't go to see other women naked, and it's simply a boundary for me. I'm not okay with that, and I don't want to do that. So I'm not sure how we can do this. As I say that out loud, you can hear why people revert to trying to create objective boundaries, because there's a huge risk in what she's just said. The risk is when you set a boundary, and you're clear about your boundary, you are always risking the ending of the relationship. That's why nobody wants to set boundaries. It's not just that, oh, like therapists will send the message like, oh, we all fear that we'll, you know, end the relationship, but the truth is, is it strength? No, that's not true. When you navigate boundaries with things that matter, you do risk ending the relationship. In a respectful, caring way, but you navigate things that you should navigate before ever having a long-term relationship or getting married. Because there are things that are not about someone objectively being a bad person. There are things that you're not comfortable with and that you choose not to live with. And you are entitled to stand by those and go, this is just who I am. I'm just not interested in that life. I'm not interested in how I'll feel or what I'll think or my struggle and disconnection with my religion. That would happen if I married someone who is going to do that. So I respect you, I'm even starting to love you, but we need to have a conversation about whether this would be a regular part of your life. What if that man says, I don't even really like it. I don't care. I do it because of my friends and I really love you. And I think we have something very special, and I'm totally willing to give that up. I don't care. Like I will give that up. And if he genuinely means that, guess what? You've just very successfully navigated a big boundary complication in a way that's strengthening. If he's not honest, and this is where you must entitle yourself to your boundaries. If you become transactional and manipulative, Right? In his case, if she's really beautiful, and he's really into it, and he's like, oh my God, like, oh, I just don't want to end it over this. Like, I'm sure we can figure it out, this stuff that we all do. And if he violates who he is and what he's comfortable with and what works for him, and he violates his relationships to his friends who understand him as this person. Who will support them when they have these wild nights, as long as there's no untoward, you know, behavior of abusing people or, you know, getting involved in criminal activity, et cetera, et cetera. If he gives that up, and he really isn't comfortable with it, he's just manipulated himself and her, and he is going to slowly resent it. And it is going to cost their relationship over time. Or this also happens. He says, yes, I'm totally into that. I think maybe there's a there are men do this maybe a little more than women were at the moment or like, yeah, I don't care. Whatever men have we've been socialized to sort of like, big deal. Who cares? But then maybe slowly over time, it's, it's his best friend, and maybe he's like, you know what? I'm just not going to tell her he sneaks one in, or they fight about it. And he goes and does it anyway. Then she's going to really resent because she's going to be like, I was honest, and you asked me to marry you, and we got married. And now we have kids, and we have this huge investment, but you low-key lied or manipulated because you were going to continue doing that kind of stuff. And now I'm stuck. Like, what do I do? There is no way to lie about boundaries or be mushy about boundaries. That does not significantly threaten a long-term relationship. So when you navigate relationships, sorry, when you navigate boundaries, it can risk the relationship at the moment. But all you're doing by being transactional or manipulative or not really facing it or challenging it is kicking the ball down the road such that you have way more investment so that when it becomes toxic and both of you can't handle the conflict anymore, it ends the relationship. Now there are kids involved or now there's like five years, 10 years, 20 years because I was uncomfortable, and I didn't want to navigate the boundary at the beginning. This is why I like the conversation around boundaries. We're all uncomfortable with boundaries. Nobody wants to navigate it. It's uncomfortable. But the mistake that we make is A, we try to make it objective in order to manipulate or convince the other person that they're wrong. When we do this, this cuts off my right to receive actual care and love from the person I'm talking to. That they go, I don't, I don't give a shit what society says. You're important to me and I love you, and I'm going to navigate this with you, and I'm going to find a way to make you comfortable with this because I respect you and I love you. End of story. So when you make it objective, you just cut off that trust, you cut off your ability to receive that, and you cut off their ability to offer it. Number two, if you're not receiving and offering those things, your relationship is in trouble over the long term. Because it is, when you try to make boundaries objective, it is about someone being right and someone is wrong. So unless you're one of those really, really traditional religious cultures where You have this top-down, there are elders, women or men or whatever, patriarchs or matriarchs who are the final decision-makers, and marriages and families are constructed within that. And when there are conflicts, those people then typically, this happens more in tribal cultures or tightly communal cultures or deeply religious cultures, where both the couple will go to the religious authority or whomever and error it out and that religious authority will say you know what I have to say that actually he's right, or she's right, or you're both wrong, and they're gonna hand down a ruling. So that model works. If you accept it right where you can go you know what okay. So it wasn't really about you and I fighting someone had to hand down right a ruling. But that's not the modern world, that's certainly not the modern world. We tend not to refer to religious authorities to sort out most of what happens in our marriages. There are people who do, or in our relationships. So let's talk about what we need to get right in relationships. Let's talk about red flags, what it means. When I first thought through this, it was because the idea of red flags came up, and I thought, how do people know what the hell red flags are? I have so many clients who come in, and they're trying to navigate, you know, a lot I'm doing this or that, or my husband or my wife or my partner, or I'm dating someone. Like, I feel like this is a red flag, but you know, they're confused. Like, is it a red flag or is there something wrong with me? Is my trauma jumping up and telling me that this is horribly threatening or is this actually a red flag? By the way, nine times out of 10, if you feel like it's a red flag, it is for a couple of reasons. So let's talk about what we accept as red flags generally. If you do not agree to an open relationship, if you choose a monogamous relationship and your partner lies to you and goes out and sleeps with other people, red flag, not going to work. If your partner has rage problems, if someone comes in, they're like, yeah, I dated this guy. I dated this woman and, and we sort of were on our first or second date and two cars got to the parking space at the same time, and we didn't get it. And this person got out was just in a rage and a fury and screaming and cursing at the other person saying, I'll kill you. I'll kill you. I had to get out of the car and be like, well, we'll calm down. It's okay. We'll find another place. And they calm down and apologize. And so is that a red flag? That's a red flag. Don't do it. Politely tell them you really enjoyed and never go on another date and do not create a relationship with that person because their rage will get worse, and it will be primarily directed at you. If you like that, God bless. That's a red flag. Nobody's confused about that. There are things that, yeah, it's probably, we can probably agree. You see people that are cruel or rude to waiters. You know, that's someone who has a difficulty with hierarchy. That's someone who actually believes that if I'm in a position of power, I have a right to treat you badly. And they're slowly going to establish a position of power with you, and they're going to treat you badly. If you don't like that, that's a big red flag. People who are cruel to animals or children. I don't think I'm not going to go into debating, right? I think we're probably all on the same page. So there are some things. That are red flags. There's like, yeah, you don't need to ask about that. If you're really not into mind-altering substances, and the first or second date, your date just gets staggering drunk or is like, hey, by the way, you know, I sniffed some heroin before we and I'm in this amazing state and I think you should too. Hey, if that's not your like red flag, bail, bail, bail. So there's more to be said on that, but that's not what this podcast is about. So let's go to in the affirmative. Dating is so confusing. Boundaries are so confusing. Human dynamics and relationships are so confusing, so complex. There are a couple of images. I want to offer you to help navigate these things rather than always being about what you avoid. Well, if you see that, you should avoid it. If you see that, oh, that's trouble. It's like, okay, so what the hell does it look like? I have clients who are like, I don't mean to cross boundaries, but like, what is your marriage like? And it's a totally legit question. Like they're not trying to cross boundaries. They're just literally like, okay, all the, don't do this, don't do this, don't do this, adds up to, so tell me what the hell to do. And if you're a therapist, I assume you've navigated this. Do you and your wife have a relationship that's healthy? I like my relationship, and we've navigated a lot of stuff. Tons of boundaries. Yeah, yeah. I'm lucky. That's good. So here's the first image that occurred to me yesterday of a really, perfect way of explaining how a long-term relationship can really, really work and what you need to see in it to know that it's going to work. All human beings are annoying. We all have unconscious tape loops playing in our heads, compulsive behaviors, things that we do over and over and over. I'm compulsively early or on time. Compulsively. If you do not participate with me, I start pushing and my energy becomes pushing and pushing and insistent and urgent and _______. Annoying as hell, I'm sure. It even annoys me to do it. My wife has behaviors that like compulsive behaviors. And I'm like, Oh my God, like, like you. Just stop doing that. Everyone, every human animal on the face of the planet, if you spend five, 10, 15, 30, 40 years with them, they're going to have behaviors that just wear on you, that wear on anybody that spends that much time with them. If that's a fact. And I see couples who come in and are navigating all that stuff, but you do this, but you have no idea how annoying it looks. Okay. You're never going to succeed in navigating all the little annoying things that your partner does. The reason some people succeed is that they have a savings account. They have a bank account of so much love and trust and joy and good sex and fun conversations and moments of feeling resourced. That is built up so deep that those day-to-day annoyances kind of like eats into it a little, eats into it, like maybe it eats into it 50% during a really hard time. And then they get right back to filling that bank up. It isn't that there aren't annoying behaviors that they can even talk about and laugh about. There are. They're like everybody else. The difference between them and someone who ends a relationship or gets divorced is the people who end up fighting and fighting and fighting ad nauseam about this little personality quirks have avoided the huge red flag conversations and the huge boundary conversations. And the lack of having done that has significantly just slammed any goodwill and any love and any trust and any security that was in that relationship. So they've been operating at zero or at a debt. They're operating at an emotional debt. And guess what happens when you operate at an emotional debt? You're scared to even go address the stuff that created the emotional debt, significant disconnections. So you fight with intensity and passion and anger and deep resentment and toxic coping skills and pathologizing and objectifying and insulting. You navigate all of this petty annoying stuff. The other people will give you advice. That doesn't help you. They're like, oh, can't you see that that's not what life is about? And you should be forgiving of one another. And you know, it's OK. Humans are just here. That's not going to help you. We all know theoretically that that's true. No one is directing you and saying the reason you're fighting about the fact that one person leaves the cabinet doors open, and the other person likes them shut and tidy. The reason we're fighting about that like its life or death is because the stuff that is life or death to our relationship has never been navigated, or we're hiding from ourselves. We're afraid to navigate it because we're pretty sure that if we actually set boundaries about things that mattered, it would end the relationship. And that's real. When people come into couples therapy, there is always a risk that both of you getting healthy or one of you getting healthy, the relationship getting healthy means that it ends. It means that you finally realize, I don't hate you, I'm not mad at you, I love you. You don't hate me. You're not mad at me. Furthermore, you love me, but there are fundamental problems that in order to navigate those one person or the other person has to violate themselves. Right. Going back to the example of the woman who deeply believes that there should be modesty and, and you should not be looking at another naked woman. This is, this is a healthy relationship she has to her religion. If she were to give in because she loves that man and go, I'll try to look the other way, and you'll go to strip clubs every once in a while with your buddies, it is going to hurt her. It's going to violate her. It's going to violate who she is. And there's no way for her to survive that intact. If the marriage survives intact, she will be a slave to it. She will be cut down. She'll be miserable. Furthermore, she will not be a good mother. There's no way to do that. There's no way to violate yourself in a relationship and think that it's going to work out. No human animal can violate him or herself over long periods of time and survive it in any healthy, non-toxic state. You will become toxic to self and others. You can't avoid it., you're not God. you're not Buddha. you're not Jesus. you're not whomever. So people who are fighting about those things that appear petty are not fighting about the petty things. They're fighting because they have both violated themselves deeply on important issues. Some of these issues are, I'm this religion, you're that religion. I need you to convert because I'm not okay. Well, you better have that conversation before you get married, or before you have kids. And it might end the relationship, and should end the relationship if someone has to violate themselves. I made that mistake in a very, very big way and I hurt someone early on in my life where I was so enamored and in love and I committed to someone who was from a religion that I was like, I can do that. I was that guy. Thing is like, that's not a problem for me. Until at a deep, deep level, I realized it was a problem for me. And then suddenly we had invested five or six years. So that's on me, right? I was young. I don't, it's like, I'm not trying to toss recriminations.I understand why it happened, but there are a lot of costs there. I hurt myself. I hurt someone else because I pretended that I could do something that was actually violating for me. Couldn't function that way as if that thing was true for me because that thing was not true for me And I had to exit the relationship. So go back to the image. To have a successful long-term relationship and to not have the annoying obnoxious things that are true of every human being on the face of the planet and wear out your relationship, you must navigate the things. That is not about you saying it's a red flag. Right? The guy who's like, I, this is the way I live. Like I go with my buddies. I've been this way my whole life. Like it would, it would violate me to not That guy is going to have to say to that woman, I can't do that for you. I'm not going to argue that anyone's right or wrong, but we're at an impasse, and we should maybe take a pass on this relationship. You must do that early and often. If you do not, you will do it in divorce court. You must do that early and often. Now here's the positive, here's what you gain. When you navigate those things, every time you find that you're able to offer grace and love and appreciation for whom that person is and how they are, without referring to some external thing that tells you, yes, I've been told that I should treat you that way, that's Screw that you think someone gets to receive love that way. I've been told that I probably should respect or does that feel like someone that you want to hang out with and hug and Have sex with and have open warm conversations and laugh like hell. No, that's like transactional like Business. Colleagues don't even like to hear that kind of crap. Well, the boss said that I should probably do, even in business, people are smart enough, like even if it's not true to be like, you know what, I do want to respect that boundary and I hope you feel comfortable with how I'm meeting this, even if they don't mean it. And that's just business. That's not in your relationship. So in your relationship, you must navigate who the other person is and who you are so that you can receive trust. So that you can experience that it's not about some rule that this person wants you to have this because they love you and value you and choose you. When you experience that genuinely at a gut level, that bank, and every time you exercise that day to day, Right? Um, trust me, I didn't figure this out for a long time. There are obvious things with my wife. My wife is Mexican and food and sharing food is very, very important. I'm a wild animal. It's ridiculous. Like I'll throw together a half sandwich and eat it over the sink and just go do something else. I'm fine with that. I don't have a problem. But how much would it take for me to offer her something that is so deeply important? That has such a bank of well-being and love. And if I want generosity, if I want to experience generosity about things that are quirky for me that I don't want to explain to the world why I'm like this, I'm like this. I like to get on a mountain and forgo the human race and just be a wild animal. I don't want to explain it to you. I don't care. I don't give a shit. It's who I am. And I need my wife to love and accept who I am and help me be who I am and not get in the way. Okay. How, how, why would I expect her to offer me that generosity? If I don't look at the thing that she was very clear, which again, guys, by the way, I was a complete idiot. Like it took me easily a decade to really internalize. Dude, sit down and have a meal with your, this is incredibly important to your wife. Be generous because it doesn't hurt me, and it doesn't cost me. And if I want her generosity, not some objective like, well, that's probably not healthy. Like you should probably talk to your therapist about the fact that you like to get out on a mountain and get away from the human. Or me going like, oh my God, well, you know, you have an unhealthy relationship to food. We didn't say those things. What I'm saying, those are the sorts of things that people do when they feel threatened by who someone is, and they don't want to generously give. But when you generously give, The interest compounds on that thing. And every time you share it and give it, that person knows that they're being seen and heard and loved. Right. And then the little irritating things like, for example, the disconnection between time, you know, like my wife and I are never going to be on the same page. I am compulsively on time. She outside of business, business, she's always on time, but in the rest of our lives, she's compulsively late. Whatever. When we had nothing in the tank, that was a huge conflict that we both felt like, oh my God, why is this other person like out of their mind about this? But you fill the tank, right? You fill that savings account. And suddenly it's like, be late sometimes. Or my wife is like, my husband's going to rush. I'm just going to let go and go with it and try to help him. Like, oh, let's get our kids out the door. Hmm. He was rushing and rushing as if we were 15 minutes late and my daughter's still going to be at school, you know, eight tell eight minutes before. OK. The underlying message here, the really, really important thing is a must navigate those things that will violate you. There is no referring to an external authority. If it deeply violates you, it doesn't matter what someone else says. If you allow someone to put you in a position where you must violate a part of who you are to be in the relationship, it will end the relationship, or it will end you. There's no other way. It will end the relationship, or it will end you as a healthy, adaptive person. You'll live a miserable life. Lots of people do it. If you want to do it, go ahead. Who am I? I don't. I don't want to. We talked about things that we can probably all agree that are red flags. But if you want to know that a thing is a red flag, check in with yourself. Does it feel like a red flag? Then it is. And when someone's like, oh my God, you call that a red flag? No, there's no objective measure. It's a red flag for you because you're not comfortable with it. And this is what, again, I'm probably biased because people who come in to therapy are sort of struggling with this stuff. But when people struggle with this stuff, what they really lack is an entitlement. People accuse themselves of being selfish, and they come in, and I can see them struggling with the idea like, am I being selfish? It's like, it's not about being selfish. If you do something to violate yourself, you will not be capable of being a loving, contributing member of your couple or of your community or of your family. It is selfish to sacrifice yourself. It's selfish to sacrifice yourself. When you have needs, right? Not the kind of needs like, oh, I need to eat regularly, and I need exercise. That's for you to manage. Don't put that on your partner. But needs like, I live this kind of religious life and I do not accept my partner going to a strip club. Or I have the kind of life in which I go with buddies to a strip club. This doesn't mean anything to me. I can't be in a relationship where religious restrictions are imposed on me. You cannot refer to society. You're navigating a close intimate personal relationship with another human being. you better navigate it as you with that other person on what works for the two of you, right? So you're going to have to do the scary risky thing of entitling yourself to go, I'm not comfortable with it. It has nothing to do with whether it's right or wrong. I'm not comfortable. That doesn't work for me. And to do that, you've got to check in with your body. Like, how badly do you feel sick to your stomach? And how tight, how much does your body tighten up? And are you having paranoid thoughts and anxiety over this thing happening? So many times people come into therapy, they're like, something wrong with me. Are you sure something's wrong with you? Or maybe you're dealing with a situation that isn't good for you. And I don't care that the rest of the world's okay with that situation. It's not good for you. Maybe you don't have a mental health issue. Maybe your only mental health issue is that you force yourself to do things that are not good for you. Because you think the rest of the world is like, oh, you're too sensitive. Something's wrong with you. And you need to go to therapy and fix yourself because you don't do these things that other people are okay doing. Everybody has things that the rest of the world might commonly do that they're not okay with. It's not your job to navigate that or to pathologize yourself and say that you're mentally ill. And that's even more important within your relationship. That at the deep, important things that you be on the same page with your partner or with your community members or with your family. When it comes to how you're treated and things that you will be expected to do, ways in which you will participate. I'm using super obvious examples, right? If you're halal or kosher, and you strictly don't eat pork, if there's a family barbecue, let's say it's in Hawaii, and they're roasting a pig. If you deeply believe in that prohibition, then that community group is going to have to navigate like, we understand you can't come, or you're going to have to navigate that you can't come. Or if you're marrying into that family and for them, it's deeply spiritual that you roast a pig, like that's not going to work. Before you get in too deep, you need to navigate and go, oh, that's not going to work. That's not a great example, right? There are many, many examples and my brain isn't just, isn't firing them out right now, but you get the point. So let's review again. There are very few red flags that everyone agrees on. Stuff like punching people in the face or like flying into a rage or insulting or hurting children or animals are pretty obvious. I think most people accept that that's a red flag. Not everyone. Most things where people go, is this a red flag? Or I think this is a red flag, it's subjective. What is a red flag? Is a thing that violates you that you do not choose to be part of your reality for the rest of your life. Navigate those early and often, because if you don't, you will be navigating them in divorce court or in a breakup. But more importantly, far, far more importantly, You will not be able to accept your partner's idiosyncrasies and irritating little habits and day-to-day unconscious behaviors with love and acceptance. If you have allowed those huge violations or those huge boundary negotiations to go unnavigated. So your relationship savings account is on zero or below zero. The only people who survive a relationship with the savings at zero or below zero spend their entire relationship fighting and picking at one another, and they die hating one another. And they do it because they believe that. right my grandparents did that because they didn't believe in divorce, so they just were miserable for most of their lives most of their marriage. You must fill that savings account. And that comes, this is why the boundaries are important. That comes exactly from those boundaries that would result in people being violated. Because when you find someone who can navigate those with you and who can say, I don't care what the world says, this is important to you. This is important to you. I want you to have this because I see how much you live and thrive in connection to this thing, and it doesn't cost me anything. Those acts fill that bank so deeply that you can then navigate the ways in which we all hurt one another. Maybe at some point in your relationship you'll significantly hurt one another. That happens, but you can survive it and even become stronger if you have so much capital in that bank. From giving the other person themselves, from seeing the other person, from entitling them to live in a way that is thriving and healthy for them. And then to also receive that gives rather than going from an objective transactional standpoint. That gives and receives trust. It gives and receives grace. It gives and receives genuine love, not transactional. Like everyone says, this is how it should do. So I'm going to do this for you because I love you. That feels like crap. Don't do it. Don't do it. That feels like crap. Nobody wants that. That's not love. That's transactional. To genuinely give like, I like you, specifically you and the way you are and the things that are important to you. I enjoy that. It's important to you and I want you to live in what's important to you because I love you. That relationship will just expand and compound with all of that love and all of that love and trust and seeing one another will allow you to navigate the difficulties of life and if you want a long-term relationship then you will have one. So that was a conversation about, it started with me thinking about red flags, how to navigate it, boundaries, how to navigate it. I really enjoyed that one. I enjoy navigating that. Furthermore, I hope that's of some help and you guys have a wonderful day, and I'll see you next time. Take care.

Meet your hosts:

Jon Sorensen


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