Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘enforcing boundaries’

“A” wrote in with the following question:

I wanted to know your thoughts on the imbalance in power relationships at law firms.

My boyfriend, J,works for a partner in a firm. They’ve worked together on and off for 5 years. The partner was an associate when J joined as a trainee. They’ve been ‘friends’ but the friendship is not balanced. There’s an increasing tendency for the personal and professional relationship to blend, and not in a good way.
The partner will abuse his ability to prevent certain social situations from happening by increasing J’s work load. If we don’t agree to socialize on the weekend with him and his wife then the partner can make life difficult as well. He has a very controlling and dominating nature, and will often send emails which are childish and aggressive to J if he doesn’t get his way.

My question is … Is it ever appropriate to have a personal relationship with anyone who is in a position of power over you?

I find that it is not, and as a by stander in this merry-go round of their relationship with one another find that I am a helpless player who gets dragged in from time to time, but is unable to stand up and defend herself because, according to J, ‘he’s a partner and it’ll make work more complicated for me if we upset him.’

Also how to extract ourselves from this? J is in the process of applying for a new position elsewhere, but he still intimates that in the future he’ll want to continue being friends with this partner. Is this some kind of negative symbiotic relationship, whose negative side he cannot recognize because he’s been in it for so long?

And here’s my answer:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It turns out that A.M.’s question was a two-parter. Here’s part two:

What strategies can you suggest for dealing with passive-aggression, in both the workplace and in intimate relationships? Is there an effective way to set boundaries with a person who is setting out to undermine them? How can you best maintain your integrity and self-esteem when subjected to it, and avoid being a target in the future?

And here’s my answer:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »

This week’s Ask The People’s Therapist question comes from Stephanie, who’s having problems dealing with her best friend:

I don’t know what to do and I am pretty angry and annoyed with myself lately.  I have basically enabled a close friend of mine by consistently giving in to her wants/desires and not setting up proper boundaries over the 22 years of our friendship, saying yes to activities and outings even when I would rather not have.

In the beginning, I thought her behavior was funny and was flattered that she insisted on including me in every area of her life.  Even at times that I didn’t feel quite up to it, her strong personality won and her persuasiveness and persistence was easier to give into than fight.

Truthfully, most of her friends don’t have the balls to say no to her.  In recent years, she has become bitter that she never married and seems to expect me to be there for her even more.   It’s gotten to the point where I’ve put myself in a bad position.  I am angry at myself for not knowing how to say no.  That if I said how I really feel now, it would shock her and hurt her feelings and probably create permanent weirdness in our friendship.

I am scared to bring it up verbally.  I’d rather create space and boundaries through my actions.   What would you suggest I do to take some of the pressure off of myself?

And here’s my answer:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »

My patient was beside himself.  The younger woman he’d been dating was jerking him around, he fumed.  Last week, when he was finally out on a date with someone else, starting to enjoy himself, she’d left him an open-ended text message, asking what he was up to and whether he wanted to get together sometime.

Suddenly, in the middle of this date with another woman, he could think of nothing but her, and his hopes were once again raised that their relationship could be what he’d long desired.

Feeling too distracted to wait, he interrupted the date and hurried to the men’s room to reply to the text.  She answered right away, proposing that they go see a movie together the next day.  He dropped all other plans to be with her.

The next day they ended up returning to his place where, to his surprise, things turned steamy.  They had terrific sex, and he was asking himself afterward if this meant they were back together as a couple.  That’s when she started gathering her things to leave, and delivered a speech about how she didn’t want this to “mean anything” – just “no big deal.”

Since then several days had gone by, he hadn’t heard from her, and things were right back to where they were before.  He hesitated to contact her to ask her out again, since she’d made it clear in her speech that she liked to be the one to contact him, not the other way around.  So he didn’t know what to do.  Meanwhile, the other person he was dating was calling and asking what was wrong and he didn’t know what to tell her.

This was the last straw, he insisted.  It was like running in a maze.  He was going to cut this young woman off once and for all. This was it.  He’d give her an earful.  He didn’t care if he never spoke to her again.

I could see why he was angry.  Clearly, the young woman he’d been dating was ambivalent about their relationship, and it felt like she was sending him mixed signals.  One minute she behaved as if they were together.  The next she said she wasn’t sure. Then, when he was convinced it was over and crawled off to lick his wounds, she would appear out of nowhere, as though nothing had happened.

It might be she was simply too young.  He was more than 20 years older, and he knew what he wanted – commitment.  She had less experience with relationships and avoided the topic, and it was causing a lot of friction.

He told me he wanted to confront her with his anger – burn bridges, end it, have it over with and done.

I suggested something better:  enforcing boundaries.

Burning bridges – discharging anger in an attacking way and cutting off communication – is destructive and creates hurt and misunderstanding.  I proposed using direct communication instead:  telling her what concessions he was willing to make for their relationship – and where he drew a line.

We spent some time together exploring precisely what his boundaries were.  Interestingly, the more we defined his needs, the more sympathetic he grew to hers.

He began to realize that, to some degree, she had communicated her own boundaries to him.  She didn’t want commitment, at least not now.  She was willing to date him, but with the understanding that it was entirely open.  She didn’t know where she stood, and she couldn’t pretend she did.  She was still feeling her way and wanted the freedom to do just that.

It was his turn to decide where his boundaries lay, and to communicate them back clearly and actively.  He’d been avoiding that task, he realized, because he’d been hoping her boundaries would shift to suit his own desires.

He decided to write her a letter.  In it he explained his boundaries.  He communicated clearly that they were at different stages in their lives, and that a committed relationship was his first priority.

He didn’t feel that he was rushing her – they’d been dating for over six months.  And his purpose wasn’t to threaten or to pressure – it was simply to tell her where he stood.

If she didn’t wish to commit to him, that was her choice, but he was going to discontinue their romantic relationship so he could move on.  He needed space to find what he really wanted, and that meant asking her to please stop treating him as though he were just a guy she was dating.  He wasn’t.  He couldn’t be.  He needed more than that, and he wanted to find someone who could provide it.

The act of composing this letter brought my patient a measure of resolution, and relief.  Just organizing his thoughts into a piece of direct, active communication brought him further along the path to understanding his own needs.

This was his best self, his most conscious, authentic self, speaking through that letter.  No one could ask for more than that.  He respected himself for doing the hard work – containing his anger, examining it, and putting it into words.

It wasn’t about burning bridges and never speaking to her again.  It was about enforcing boundaries – expressing his own needs in a way another person could hear and understand.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »