March 2001
April 2001

Communication Empowerment

After reading one of my columns concerning women's inability to speak frankly about pertinent issues in a relationship (The silence conspiracy) a man said to me, "Men have the same problems." Therefore this column which initially was going to be about women's need for empowerment is instead an exploration of the need for individual empowerment within relationships.

A synonym for the word relationship is connection. One of the problems dealing with couples is that they create exclusivity in every aspect of their lives, becoming ONE. However, individuals need to have a definition of boundaries within themselves so that they don't lose sight of their identity. A woman will have housewife blues because she has lost her boundaries. She does not feel a sense of respect from the outside world about her accomplishments for keeping a well-run household and successfully raised children. Upon the children leaving the nest she has Empty Nest Syndrome because even her unacknowledged role no longer exists. She never created a core of her being, a boundary, and now she feels as if she's an empty shell. A retired man will die within five years of retirement according to statistics, if he doesn't find a purpose with which to define himself. Therefore, an identity boundary is necessary before the traumas of mid age sets in.

Who and what you are need to be clearly defined, not as one-half of a couple, but as two separate well balanced individuals that form a unified front. Just as the two same size walls of a pyramid lean on each other to balance and support the other, so should each person be a confident, independent, capable unit unto him or herself before connecting with a partner. In order to be that unit, one needs to have boundaries that don't merge, but that strengthen the whole. I have heard this comment too many times by both sexes: I'm afraid to stand up for myself, my spouse may leave me if I do. However, the reason that they are informing me about their feelings is because they are involved in a session for Couple Counseling because they are ready to leave each other!

Yet they fail to see that it is because they have not clearly stated what they want and not maintained their boundaries that they are in the difficulties at that moment. Another stated fear is: If I say what I want and demand that my reasonable boundaries be met, my spouse will not like who I am.

1. Do you know your boundaries? Are they reasonable? Boundaries may be that second hand smoke makes you ill. Is it not reasonable that your health not be sacrificed in order to have a marriage? Is it reasonable to insist on not being physically, verbally, or emotionally abused by word or deed? Certainly the law supports this boundary. Is it reasonable to insist that a budget be kept by both parties so that debt does not overwhelm the couple and leave them destitute? Legal action is being considered by the legislators to rein in the bankruptcy laws because too many people are using them to allow themselves to be irresponsible. So explore your boundaries and redefine who and what you are. Explore your rights as a person and give yourself permission to maintain these rights. Become the wall of the pyramid, not a jelly fish that floats almost without substance. It is impossible to brace yourself against a jellyfish, it ,instead, molds itself to whatever is holding it. A person can not sustain a marriage with the formless identity of another who only wants to concur with whatever the other wishes in order to be liked. The jelly fish personality tires of this conformity and then become the dumpee. The marriage, at this time, disintegrates and the initiator is the individual who wouldn't take a stand! The dumper finds the roles reverse d, due to the resentment that is generated toward him/her because the jelly-fish(now dumpee with a form) has to find an identity. Ones health begins to suffer from psychosomatic illnesses if one delays the stabilizing process.

Without boundaries we shrivel up and die-literally. Take another look at the statistics of the floundering retired man.