Sunday, February 1, 2009

For women: setting appropriate boundaries

Last week I attended the third Pax course on understanding men. It's nicknamed the Queen course and one of the subjects is boundaries. They explained the difference between men and women, in terms of how they consider their needs and how they set boundaries.

When men have a physical need (such as food, sleep, or going to the bathroom) they treat this need as critical and urgent. They need to eat right away; they fall asleep where ever they are. Women, on the other hand, take care of their physical needs at the last possible moment. This is true for me. I'm working on an excel spreadsheet from home, the bathroom is next door, and I keep working on the spreadsheet until I have to run to the bathroom before it's too late. When I was younger I used to work until 2 am in the morning ignoring my body's need for sleep. I used to work in the office all day without eating anything until dinner at 8 pm. Menopause ended that. My brain shuts down when I'm tired and I can't think. If I don't eat within a few hours of being hungry I get so shaky I can't type. Nature has a way of taking care of our needs when we insanely refuse to.

Of course there are other needs that aren't physical but support our emotional well being. Time out to hang out with our friends, puttering in the garden, taking a walk, playing with our cats. It varies according to the person, but these things help us relax and bring joy to our life. How do men treat these needs? As important. They are not willing to give up their football game easily. Nor should they. We women need to learn from them. How do we treat such needs? Oh, it's something that would be nice if we had it. Hello? These things fulfill our lives and we don't think they're important?

In the past when I've set boundaries I've been angry. I wondered why I couldn't set boundaries in a kind way. The answer came to me at this workshop. I wait too long to set a boundary. I don't do it early enough, when I need something. That's so true. I'm seeing how I don't consider my needs as important as other people's. And it's been reflected back at me as I seem to have been surrounded by people who consider their needs more important than mine. Like the male friend who showed up two hours late to our brunch without calling and letting me know, because something more important showed up. Someone needed his spiritual help, and I waited for hours starving and angry. Why didn't I just take myself to brunch? Or the girl friend who, when she visits me, constantly interrupts me when I'm on the computer trying to get my work done, while I give her the courtesy of quiet and space when she's on her computer checking emails. Somehow I've bought into some unspoken agreement that my needs don't matter as much as theirs.

Well, on Friday I started paying attention to my needs. I was exhausted and needed to take care of myself. And I did. I declined invitations, I said no to requests, and I ended the relationship with the male friend with all the important activities. He's been taking up psychological space without really showing up for me. True to form, as I was discussing my issues he interrupted our phone conversation and told me he would call right back. He called a couple of hours later because something important came up; he needed to support a "brother". That was the confirmation I needed that I was doing the right thing.

So dear sisters, please consider your needs as important. Start eating when you're hungry; go to the bathroom when you need to; get some sleep when you're tired. Men do. Set your boundaries to take care of yourself. And for God's sake, if there is something that gives you joy--writing, painting, knitting, gardening--please do it. These are the things that feed our soul and make us not mere women, but Queens of our realm.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You are mean, really mean.
There is no excuse for such an
attack on Despina's opinion.
She has a point and if you do not
agree with it, do not hide behind
name calling.