I’m a hungry guy. I want it all.
I’m a demanding guy. I expect to get what I ask for.
And, I’m a respectful guy. I conform my asks to established boundaries.
Marina presented me with a unique challenge: she simply did not, would not (could not?) establish boundaries. “I want to give you all you want,” she told me. And not just that. But, “I simply won’t say ‘no’ to you.” And she wouldn’t.
You might think this would make me feel safe, that it would provide comfort. I certainly thought so. And, at first, it did.
The problem? No one can give me all I want. Because, as I said, I want it all. And all is a lot. All is too much. All is, in the end, impossible.
This all boils down to a very simple mistake: relationships need edges. They need boundaries. There needs to be a barrier between you and me, between thought and action, between possible and impossible.
If you promise me the impossible, if I allow myself to expect, to demand the impossible, then you certainly will disappoint me. I certainly will be disappointed in you, by you.
Marina offered me far more than she could deliver.
I strain, respectfully, against boundaries, taking comfort in both sides of them.
I take comfort in the knowledge boundaries provide, in the clarity they offer, in the safety they establish. I delight in taking, in getting, in having all I can, everything that lies on this side.
I am reassured by knowing what lies on the other side, just out of reach, beyond my grasp. And by knowing that the boundary protects me not just from unsatisfied desire, but from danger, from harm. This side is safe. On the other side? On the other side, there be monsters.
Boundaries establish for me the twin possibilities of knowing I can have everything that lies on this side – and that not only can I not have what’s on the other side, but that I can’t be hurt by it.
As I replay the joys (and there were many) of my time with Marina, as I replay the sorrows (many of those, too), I see all too clearly how much we suffered for our failure to establish the edges. I take responsibility for that failure. But it was one of those things for which two people each share one hundred percent of the responsibility.
I won’t make that mistake again.
Not with Marina.
Not with anyone.