Recently a Sponsee called me and asked me about some behavior his spouse had engaged in, and proposed a text response. In reading it, I explained that it felt like he was reacting from hurt, blaming, justifying and his ego was running the show. I could say that because I spotted behavior I’ve engaged in too many times to count with my spouse. He asked me to help him discover how he should respond and we agreed upon a more loving, kind response. In thinking about all of it I then sent home the following email and thought it may help someone out there, going through a similar situation. Enjoy!
If it’s not a loving thought, it’s your disease and ego talking to you.
Oh wait, what about being a doormat? Simple. If you feel you’re a doormat, act, speak and behave exactly the opposite of how you think the other is treating you. In other words, respond EXTRA loving. This is STEP#1. Be sure not to react, blame them, or explain your hurt feelings at this time. Just be 100% loving and in gratitude.
Then write everything that happened down on paper. STEP#2. What you did. How they reacted. How their reaction made you feel (like a doormat, for example). What it affected (financial, emotional, self-esteem, etc).
Then call your sponsor. This is STEP#3. Tell them that you felt someone treated you like a doormat and you feel that you may need to set some boundaries. Read to them what you wrote AND tell them the contrary (loving) action you took. Now tell them what boundaries you think you need to set in the relationship and (1) When you would like to set them, and (2) How you would like to inform the other person of these boundaries.
Assuming your sponsor agrees with you, now write down what you would say to that person to make them aware of your boundaries, remembering that these boundaries are for us, and not a tool which allows us to tell them they must honor them or else. Rather we say something like this (provided we have our sponsor’s blessing):
I wanted to tell you something going on with me. I was hoping I could speak for a minute without interruption, then I’m happy to hear your input, would that be ok? Great, thank you. When people ——- (yell at me, raise their hand in anger, put me down in front of others, etc) it makes me feel —— (bad, sad, hurt, uncomfortable, less than, angry, etc). Recently when you —- (told me I was a selfish idiot in front of our neighbor, cornered me in the kitchen and yelled at me, etc), I felt —- (bad, sad, hurt, uncomfortable, less than, angry, etc). I wanted to let you know that I am not expecting it to never happen again, but felt it only fair to let you to know that if it does I will need to —– (walk out of the room, sleep at a friends, leave the relationship, etc). I care deeply about us, but feel that I need to take this action in order to love and respect myself. I’d love to hear how you feel. (Now allow them to talk uninterrupted as long as they need to and don’t respond other than saying ‘thank you for sharing’. If they push you for a response, let them know you need some time to think about it, then call your sponsor).
Above is just a general guideline. Remember, chances are that explaining boundaries will be interpreted as a threat – that’s because it really is. It’s a statement saying “if you do this, I intend to do this”. So fully expect the other person to be angry and probably threaten you back. That would be a normal response. Don’t react to them. Again, if it gets too volatile, leave the room.
Also, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Most folks tend to want to set boundaries when what they should be doing is changing their behavior – it’s common that their behavior is the reason why the other reacted poorly to begin with.
2. Often times the other person’s behavior (which resulted in the desire to set a boundary) is vague. I’ve heard others say things like “she is disrespectful, he doesn’t care about me, she is selfish, etc”. It’s inappropriate to set boundaries around these things. Everyone is selfish, disrespectful, and uncaring at times. However, if there is some disrespectful or selfish behavior that repetitively occurs (they gamble away their paycheck, they call me fat all the time, they never help with the housework, etc), and you’ve spoken with your sponsor to determine that setting a boundary is the most appropriate way to handle it, then by all means do the work above to set one.
3. Often time the consequences for the other’s action is disproportionate to the crime. For example, “if you yell at me again I’ll move out and divorce you”. That’s why it’s important to work with your sponsor on setting boundaries PRIOR to confronting another with them.
And finally, remember that out dis-ease and ego conspire to manipulate the tools of our program in order to control others – getting them to do what we would like so we feel better. This subtle form of self-deception is often at the root of our inability to form and maintain meaningful, healthy relationships that allow us to love, and be loved, by others. Be watchful to see who is sitting at the committee table in your mind.