The Value of Boundaries

What if someone offered to give you a gift to help you make your way through infertility?  Would you be interested?  If they offered to share the secret to restoring a fragile relationship, protecting a vulnerable heart, reducing stress and increasing your sense of peace… would you listen?

What if their advice was practical, actionable, and immediately effective?  Tested and proven?  Intuitively obvious, but almost always overlooked?  Would you be interested?

I would have been.

But when we went through infertility, we kept it very quiet.  So, no one knew to talk to us about how to cope.  They didn’t know how stressed we were, how full of grief, how confused and anxious and lonely.  With no one to talk to and nowhere to turn, we did our best to ride it out while our story spun out of control.

It doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Here’s what we learned the hard way.  It’s helped every couple I’ve ever shared it with – and it’s guaranteed to help you, too.  Set boundaries.  Set them and enforce them.  In his book, Speaking the Truth in Love, Kenneth Haugk calls that “God-pleasing self care.”

Are you surprised?

It works.

Here’s an example.  As we moved from ovulation kits to Clomid to IUI to injections, I got increasingly emotional.  Tears were a frequent occurrence.  Like many husbands, mine responded by moving to the other end of the emotional spectrum.  He got angry.  The more I cried, the angrier he got.  The angrier he got, the more I cried.

At the time, it felt like our emotions were directed at each other.  In truth, we were expressing what we both felt about the situation.  But it seemed like there was never a way to rest from the angst and drama, to take a timeout and focus on something else – until we set some boundaries.

We agreed that, once a week, we would set aside an hour to talk only about infertility.  We would give each other our undivided attention and express any thought or feeling with as much intensity as we wanted or need to.  Then, for the rest of the week, we would not talk about it at all.

Does that sound crazy?  Impossible?

It was fabulous.

Here’s why.  There’s only so much you can say about battling infertility.  Only so many times you can cover the same ground before you start making it worse for both of you.  Boundaries helped us by insuring we would focus completely on the problem and rest completely from it.

Here’s another example.  We learned to keep insensitive family members at arms length.  After a heartbreaking phone call (when they celebrated realizing theirs would be the first grandchild because I’d just miscarried), we recognized their habit of enjoying success at our expense.  So, we set some boundaries.

We quit answering their questions about the next pregnancy.  We responded to thoughtless remarks with silence.  We side-stepped optional engagements, and protected each other’s fragile hearts during mandatory ones.  We were never ugly, but we were firmly self-protective.

Were they offended?  Maybe.  Was that our primary concern?  No.  We needed more peace, less vulnerability, and a greater sense of control in a situation that was largely out of our control.  Haugk calls that “God-pleasing self care,” and it helped tremendously.

Try it.  It can help you, too.

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Filed under Bystanders, Control, Peace

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