A few years ago, I got into a fiasco of a relationship. It was an especially ludicrous and humiliating failure.
I’ve always been up for an adventure, including adventures of the heart, and this particular one taught me two of my most valuable lessons:
- How to have boundaries (and why).
- That I can never, ever, ever fix someone else. (And that I am my only responsibility.)
I met him in a bar in Sydney one night, when I was out for a friend’s birthday, had imbibed a rather strong espresso martini, and felt invincible. And there was this mysteriously handsome stranger, sitting at the bar, not taking his eyes off me for a moment. So from across the room, amongst my friends, I danced for him, feeling the beam of his eyes on my skin.
Within weeks we were inseparable, intertwined with a deep soul connection, unlike anything I had ever felt before. Things were moving way too fast, and we were sliding down a slippery slope, with glittery, psychedelic lust-tinted glasses on.
Sometimes what we call love is just a settling of old scores, or a seeking of forbidden pain, or a circuitous path to the kingdom of cruelty, or she may simply have confused lack of capital with heroism while searching for rescue without knowing from what. | Anon
3 Months later we were on a flight to Portugal, for a week-long underground music festival. I had lent him the money for the flight, and the plan was for him to get work somewhere, anywhere, after the festival, to pay it back.
He was a wildly creative, eccentric, tattoo artist, amongst many other suspect traits. I adored the craziness, and the weirdness. Our relationship felt like a novel about a pair of star-crossed rock-star lovers. It was exciting and thrilling. At first.
A few weeks later we ended up in Amsterdam, staying in the spare room of some cocaine-pedlar’s den, while he tattooed the feet, arms and legs of the dealer and his comrades.
It was here, that I noticed that my boundaries were being severely pushed. He was constantly borrowing money off me, and never had any of his own. He was comfortable staying in environments, and with people who I had little respect for and little in common with. And his drug use was moving from an occasional social exploit, to a full-blown addiction, complete with severe mood swings, irritability and lies. In a just a few short weeks.
I came to realise that perhaps, these things and been there all along, and I had just not seen them. Instead, I dove in, head first, blind to anything but my imaginary projections of a potential love story. I am a sucker for love stories.
Recognising what my boundaries were, was my first lesson. I had, for so long, practiced complete and utter acceptance of other people and their choices, that I never stopped to consider whether those people and their choices were what I wanted, and what was good for me.
Looking back to that time, 3 years later, I realise that I had been conditioned to question and overrule my own boundaries, since I had been a really little girl. And finally, the Universe was giving me a chance to bring awareness to this shadow and change.
Boundaries are not walls — they are living containers within which your desires can breathe, gestate and grow until they are ready to be born. | Hiro Boga
My next lesson was to understand why I had these boundaries. My boundaries had to be grounded into something that I believed in, something that held my precious truth, in order to have power. In these circumstances my boundaries related to the fact that I promised myself, a long time ago, to have an extraordinarily beautiful life. That I would always follow my intuition and do what makes me happy. My boundaries were being broken, and I wasn’t upholding my promise to myself.
The final part of this lesson is about taking action. I couldn’t change the person who was negating what was important to me. I could only ever change myself. So one afternoon, after another fight about money, drugs and the circumstances that he chose to keep us in, I packed my bag and slid out the door, while he was in the living room sniffing another line of coke.
With my phone turned on silent, as call after frantic call from him went unanswered, I fled to the international bus station, and booked a seat on the next bus leaving the country. Prague.
While tears flooded my face, and people stared, I felt the greatest sense of sweet relief. I was leaving. I said no. No more. I upheld my boundaries. I had learned to finally go.
I still sometimes cringe with humiliation for the choices I made at that time, which ended up in me being deeply involved with someone who was so wildly departed from my own set of beliefs and boundaries, that it was painful. And yet I recognise that, however challenging that time was, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful lessons of my life. It was then, that I was set truly free.
It was a lesson in boundaries. And so much more.
Image source unknown. Originally found on Tumblr.