In relation to bringing up children, I found this article about the difference between limits and consequences. I was surprised at the similarity between what is recommended there as well as the reasons behind the recommendations and the definitions of boundaries and rules that I made in a previously.
All things really do seem to be connected. The way I wish to see romantic love and relationships practiced is – at it’s heart – the same as the way I wish to see children raised and friendships cultivated. Call it my ethics of relationships with people, call it what you will. The essence of it is simple: My boundaries are my own, they are mine, I own them and I am 100% responsible for them. I respect the boundaries of others and know that I have no say in them and carry no responsibility for them. Everything else is free and open for discussion, negotiation and compromise (or better – expansion*)
As in the examples in the parenting site, in romantic relationships we really don’t want to be punishing our loved ones with consequences if they don’t do what we want. As bluntly as I’ve put it, that is unfortunately exactly what we often do. I think that in a similar way to recommendations about children, we should think about offering alternatives when setting our boundaries and then fully accepting the choice our partner(s) make.
For instance – You hate the smell of smoke. Your partner loves to smoke. Your boundary is that you will not kiss them or have them in your bed if they smell of smoke. One day, they celebrate something big and decide to smoke several big, fat cuban cigars. You may feel disappointed that they prefered to smoke that night rather than sleep with you, but it is their decision and theirs alone to make. It’s their enjoyment and even if you do not feel happy for their enjoyment, at least accept it. After all, there will have been other times when they have also actively chosen to not smoke despite that they wanted to so that they could sleep with you.
We do remember the hurts and value them higher than the good – at a ratio of about 5:1 for us to view a relationship as happy. That’s really worth bearing in mind because that means that once we start viewing our relationship with someone as significantly positive, we have very few negative interactions with them.
One personal example I can give is my love for chilli and spicy food. Even as a child and a picky eater, I doused my food with large quantities of pepper – well before I even considered eating things like bacon, baked beans or rice pudding or drinking even water (I have no idea how I survived early childhood without malnutrition. I apparently lived only off milk and eggs, occasionally with toast. No matter how finely chopped and mixed in, I would find offending additions and pick them out). This love for chilli is so great that merely the thought of the wonderful fruit or writing the word itself – like right now – makes my mouth water.
My tolerance for chilli is so high that most people who try food cooked to my taste (including in Thailand) find it way too hot. If I cook, friends have to vacate my apartment so that they can breathe… and to the point… I’ve eaten so hot that for the rest of the evening my lips were themselves so spicy that my partner couldn’t kiss me without pain.
As much as I love kissing my partners – I also love chilli. Sometimes, I’ll go without the spicy meal… sometimes, I’ll go without the kissing. It depends on my mood, how I feel and most likely also how long it’s been since I’ve seen them and how long it will be until I see them again.
It’s not a matter of which I love more. It’s a matter of choice and diversity and it would be a comparison of incomparibles anyway – like trying to decide whether a sunset or a rainbow is more beautiful. It all depends on the moment and the eye of the beholder.
I don’t see with the eyes of my partner(s). I trust that they see clearly. With that, there is only one thing for me to do – let them do what they want to without throwing extra obstacles in their path. I also expect the same kind of treatment in return.