Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Boundaries" Victories

*note: non-aspies reading this will probably say, "that's WAY too much thought put into this," but someone with my flavor of aspie-thinking will totally get this!

The other day I had a two small "boundaries" victories. By "boundaries" I mean the process of setting boundaries so that people do not take advantage of us or cause us to work so hard we burn out (like the phrase "use us up and wear us out").

A new acquaintance called me in the middle of the night to check on (then vent about) her live-in boyfriend. Supposedly, he and Mr. Man (who disappeared on me a few weeks ago) went out drinking on her anniversary. She didn't realize me and Mr. Man were through, and wondered if I knew where her guy was. When I didn't, she proceeded to vent for about 25 minutes before I realized (this is the first victory): that the only reason she is keeping me out of bed is because I am letting her. Yes, she is hurting. I would be too. But there's no reason for me to lose sleep when I had a very important appointment the next day. If she was my best friend, it would be different. But I didn't know this girl. Let her call someone else or I might soon become her free therapist! I politely informed her I needed to go but that she was welcome to call back later (hoping in my heart I had the strength not to answer the phone when she did). That afternoon, her guy still hadn't come home and she had a series of bad events all morning. Which led to a barrage of text messages from her.

My original reply to her latest catastrophe text said something like, "that stinks-I wish I wasn't tied up today, or I'd take you to XYZ and buy you a dessert to cheer you up."

I was about to hit "send" when the Spirit nudged me.

I took another look at that text.

Nothing wrong with that, is there? After all, if *I* were hurting, and had a really bad day, I would love for one of my friends to take me out for dessert. Or have me over for a cry-fest. Or just spend time together.

But this wasn't a friend.

This is someone I met one day b/c her boyfriend started working w/my then boyfriend.

This isn't even someone I even liked.

But she reached out to me in the middle of the night hurting, and I felt bonded, obligated to help her. The way I would have wanted to be helped.

But that's not real bonding. And if I had offered to take her out, even though I qualified that statement by saying I was tied up (which mean I would not actually be able to take her out- only that I would if I could), I then would have marked myself (in her mind) as someone who easily does favors.

Someone who would take her out to an expensive dessert place even though we a) hardly knew each other and b) woke me up in the middle of the night-a great inconvenience by normal standards.

Someone who can be easily convinced, pressured, manipulated to doing much more for her. See, this is how it starts.

People can be nice to you, but when you do some little thing that exposes you as a potential target, it's like their "mean" gene turns on and they start looking for ways to take advantage of you I don't even know if they consciously do it, or if it just happens. You offer to do something nice for folks, the next thing you know they are pressuring you to give them money, guilt tripping you into driving them places, whatever it takes to make their lives easier at your expense.

Most aspies I know aren't like this. I don't know if this is just an NT thing, or if my sample set is too small ;-)

But the second boundaries victory came in deleting the part about taking her out and replacing it with sentence like "I sure hope you have some bubble bath or something nice you can do to make yourself feel better after the day you've had."

It's not that I don't care. It's just that I've been down this road, and finally am learning not to open the door. I care for her and offer her as much encouragement as I can without getting personally involved. If she were, down the road, to become a friend or even a "close friend" then I would do more. But for someone whose last name I don't even know, I fell great that I just erected a proper boundary that someone like my sister would have learned to do subconsciously much earlier in life.


Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I totally have to analyze things the same way. I'm saved as well and the Spirit will sometimes do a "check" for me too when I'm about to offer more than I should to someone I know little about. It's true that once we open ourselves up too much to someone by making offers we don't want to or can't keep, we almost tether ourselves to them. Thanks so much again for sharing your thoughts on this.

SavedAspie said...

Thanks Marisa for your comment. I'm so thankful for the Spirit's leading and guidance. The more I walk by faith, the more He leads me out of trouble. I just wish I could follow him even the more!

Intellectual Christian Geek said...

Yep, I can absolutely relate. My more "aspie knowledgeable" friends are always checking on me to make sure I am not being taken advantage of. As strange as it sounds, I love texting when it comes to this. If someone texts me to ask something that would take my time, it is much easier for me to turn them down via text. Yes, I feel guilt, but I have to remind myself that if I do everything for everyone, then I won't have any energy to be there for people in the future.

Anonymous said...

Great post. It has taken me long time to start to think about my wish to help others (rather than 'friends') and to mentally rephrase my answer as you did here. I recently found this post helpful for another class of people:

SavedAspie said...

@ICG you are right about the convenience of texting, LOL!

@Kevix, thanks for the link- that article and the reader comments on how they handle people who are always complaining was very interesting.

FWIW, I find that many of my aspie friends fall in that "help-rejecting complainer" category.

And I have very little patience for that, IN SPITE of the fact that I used be that way myself!!!

I eventually learned how much it annoys people, and now try to live by "Don't complain about something if you don't want help." Also, "Don't complain to so-and-so if you know you won't take (or like) his/her advice" is another rule I try to follow. But what I really wanted was sympathy and attention.

My, this might make a great blog post... thanks for the inspiration.