There comes a time in life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. So love the people who treat you right, and forget those who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is part of LIFE. Getting back up is LIVING.” Anonymous
As a therapist I often saw people who were stuck in abusive relationships with their spouses. In many cases, they had spent years attempting to get their spouse to end their addictions to such things as gambling, alcohol, drugs, verbal abuse, physical abuse, workaholism, television addiction, sexual addiction, or extramarital relationships.
In most cases the client came into therapy hopeless, exhausted and depressed. It was obvious they had spent years in a caretaking role and no longer had the ability to take care of themselves. Virtually all of their life energy and total focus was dedicated to “fixing” their addicted spouse and ending the painful lives they were living.
They had totally lost their own identity or sense of self. Many had even joined Al-Anon or other similar support groups to attempt to deal with their unhappiness and frustration.
They felt powerless to change their lives and entered therapy hoping I would tell them what to do. I knew that anything I could share with them would simply be something they had heard many times from others.
Rather than telling clients what to do, I would simply share a teaching story. Here is one of the stories I would use to help my clients begin setting boundaries and begin caring for themselves.
Once upon a time there were two travelers. They were traveling in opposite directions and just happened to meet in the center of a bridge that spanned a very deep gorge.
They exchanged greetings and were about to continue on their journey when one asked the other if they would be willing to hold one end of a rope they were carrying.
The other agreed.
At which point the person promptly jumped off the bridge.
The other was barely able to secure the rope around their waist in time to save the jumper.
When the other told the jumper that they would hold the rope until the jumper could climb back up, the jumper shouted “My life is in your hands. No, I will not climb up. If you let go of the rope I will surely die and my death will be “your” fault.”
As time passed, the person on the bridge grew more exhausted. They could not convince the jumper to do anything to save themselves.
As the years passed, the person on the bridge grew weaker and weaker. They tried one last time to encourage the jumper to try and save themselves, but the jumper would only shout ” My life is in your hands. No, I will not climb up. If you let go of the rope I will surely die and my death will be “your” fault.”
That day, the person on the bridge knew in their heart they had done everything they could to save the jumper.
So with no regrets, no looking back, the person on the bridge said goodbye, let go of the rope, picked up their pack and left the bridge to continue the journey they had been on before meeting the jumper.
The ending always came as a shock. When my client would ask if that’s what I thought they should do I refused to answer.
I simply told them…it was a story. Whenever I shared a teaching story I always said I didn’t know if the story was true, but I do know it actually happened.
Setting healthy boundaries for ourselves can be very difficult…it sometimes requires deep self-awareness and the ability to set very clear boundaries.