Men Don't Understand Boundaries
Ok. Guys do understand some types of boundaries.
But go ahead ask a bunch of guys about their relationship boundaries. You might get a strange look. They might not really "get" what you're talking about, which is understandable.
Or they do know what you mean and won't go there. Men tend to be told that it's not manly to talk about relationships or boundaries. It's too ... eh ... "girlie", to use a PG term. (We mostly hate it when someone questions our manhood.)
So we pretty much just take that whole "talking to other guys about boundaries" thing and put that in an Al Gore-style "Lock Box".
Who cares, dude?
Ok, so what? What's the big deal with not knowing how to talk to other dudes about boundaries?
Since a lot of guys only feel comfortable talking to a woman that is either a blood relative or a romantic partner, we don't talk with women about relationship boundaries very often, either. Do you want to talk to your mom about that? (If so, you're special and your mom's great.)
If we just don't talk about boundaries, it can leave us ill-prepared to have that conversation with the women we are involved with romantically and/or sexually. (Women seem to have figured out a long time ago that boundaries are where it's at. And they would love to talk to you about them.)
Ok, and... So what?
When we don't have good boundaries in a relationship, we give away key parts of ourselves. We "sacrifice for the relationship", which is an extremely polite way of describing giving away parts of ourselves in order to be in a relationship.
If you're not sure what I mean, ask yourself how happy you are with the time you spend on the hobbies you love. How often are you having fun with your best friends? If you've given those things up "for the relationship", ask yourself if those decisions are making you more or less happy.
(This same dynamic can exist with your job, too, by the way. And it often does.)
Alright. Boundaries are still for #*&@%s
No. They are not.
Give me something I can work with here.
Fine. Let's go with Values. Guys can deal with values. They're actually pretty solid for dudes - gets you some respect to say you have values.
Get clear on what your values are. Then always make important decisions based on your values. (I'm assuming you won't come up with a set of values that makes you a dick. If you do, maybe ignore the previous sentence.)
How's about an example?
Let's assume your three biggest values are Autonomy, Adventure, and Alliteration. Your partner says to you, "I sincerely suggest skiing in Switzerland in September. Solo." At first you might be jealous that she wants to take off to Switzerland without you. (That's dickish, btw.)
If instead of acting on that jealous reaction, you said, "Wait. I am also anticipating an autonomous adventure, angling in Alaska." Hell yeah - go fishing in Alaska, dude!
Look at how you used your values!
Since you value Autonomy, you're happy to plan out your trip the way you want to do it, while she does her thing.
You each get to have the Adventure that most excites you, which will probably spur some fun times while sharing pictures and stories when you're back together.
And of course, Alliteration.
For real, man.
It's not unmanly to talk about boundaries. It actually makes your life a lot better, more enjoyable, less stressful. All it takes is just talking about what you'd like to happen most of the time* so other people will understand. You can even ask the other person what they'd like in the same situation.
* Boundaries are like drawbridges.
Try out some boundaries. Or feel free to use values if that feels better. Either way, you'll step on a lot fewer toes and maybe even go on an amazing vacation.
Now if you really want to go deep on this, we could talk about how you can start to observe what you feel inside - emotionally - when you're having boundary issues with someone. But that's even bigger stuff for another time. Emotions, right???
Jim Young lives in beautiful Western Massachusetts where there are no fences, motes, or other boundaries around his house. He's still got boundaries - and a super clear set of values - that help him find happiness every day. Like, seriously - everyday.
Jim is a Dad, a professional comedian, and a coach. He specializes in coaching male leaders through big transitions - like selling companies and making bold career changes - y'know, stuff.
"It's amazing what people are capable of."
- Jim Young (and, like, a BILLION other people)
Jim runs a small group coaching program for men that helps with developing values, boundaries, and the elusive combination of success AND happiness. He does not have a strict boundary around sharing his email address - it's firstname.lastname@example.org.