How do you set boundaries?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2010
How do you set boundaries?
21
Thu, 03-24-2011 - 10:46am

I was in a relationship with a "functioning" alcoholic (my label, not his) for 2.5 years. I ended things last June. We have started talking again and though the problems still exist, we both care very deeply for each other and have had great difficulty getting over each other and moving on. He is not promising any change, but says that he wished I had been more aggressive in my discontent with his behavior and set some firm boundaries. He said he needed help and encouragement. He knows he drinks a lot but has never admitted he has a problem. He just says "I'm a good guy, but I'm not perfect". I'm not sure I want to step on that road again, but I do feel that I should have been more honest about my feelings and tried more boundaries. At the time, it just seemed like so much work and I was going to Al-Anon while he was at the bar, which made me feel pretty resentful. He has his bar/night life with his buddies and I am usually at home alone on week nights (we live in different cities).

I was just wondering how do you go about setting boundaries while in a long distance relationship? Has anyone had success with this?

Pages

Community Leader
Registered: 09-14-1997
Thu, 03-24-2011 - 8:31pm

I

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2003
Thu, 03-24-2011 - 8:59pm
Boundaries come easy - when you are done.
When you are done with someone else's drinking and are not willing to put up with it anymore.
When you are done with the behaviors that make you miserable.
When you are done with resentment.
When you are done - boundaries are easy.
It sounds like you had some boundaries last June. Why would the relationship, if he is still drinking, be any different now?
As Beth said - nothing changes if nothing changes.
My suggestions would be to keep going to Al-Anon - for yourself. Even if you are not with this person, the fact that you would entertain a renewal of the relationship is sending up some red flags. I am wondering - is this what you truly want for yourself?
Best wishes - we are here to support you no matter what!
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2010
Thu, 03-24-2011 - 9:02pm

I know, and thanks. I just wish I didn't love him and miss him so much.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2010
Thu, 03-24-2011 - 9:10pm

Thanks Islandchild. I don't think I set any boundaries because I couldn't figure out how to do it with the distance thing. I know I sent him some mixed messages even though I didn't mean to. I didn't try everything because it seemed so overwhelming. But I have had such a hard time letting him go. I'm not jumping back in...just trying to consider everything. Moving on has not been so easy either.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-03-2009
Fri, 03-25-2011 - 7:08am

..stop overanalyzing...island is right, you had boundaries (flimsy, fuzzy ones, maybe) you ended the relationship when he finally crossed them enough...nothing has changed...what about him do you miss? or, are you missing what you had hoped the relationship might be???...

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-24-2011
Fri, 03-25-2011 - 9:54am
There's a great book out there called "Boundaries" by Henry Cloud. When I read this book it changed my life and I understood myself better than ever before.... plus it helped me learn a very essential part of all relationships, Boundaries.

I agree with the others. I've been there with my ex and going back to him even tho he never did anything to change. Perhaps I thought I could change enough for the both if us. Nope. I can only change myself. But it's good that you are seeing that you need better boundaries. That is a very good step. I wrote them out on paper. Then I wrote what the natural consequences would be if he crossed a boundary. For example, if he was drinking at a bar, then I wouldn't pick him up. He'd have to find his own way home. Or "I will not talk to you if you are wasted". I would instead read a book and say "when you are sober, I will talk to you. Goodnight."

The boundaries book has a lot of other examples.

Hugs,
Lil Pepper
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2010
Fri, 03-25-2011 - 10:31am
I know...I guess I'm grasping at straws. I miss who he is when he's sober. I miss his family. I miss the hope of what might have been...
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2010
Fri, 03-25-2011 - 10:35am
That's what I needed about 2 years ago. I could never figure out how to refuse to be around him when he drank too much when we were staying at each others houses for the weekend. There are things I could have refused to do...I just didn't think it would change anything. I do wish I'd tried harder but I doubt anything will ever change with him. This is his lifestyle and has been for a long time. He is under a lot of stress and used drinking as an outlet. I know what you see is what you get...its just so hard to accept.

Did the boundaries you set not make any difference?
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-24-2011
Fri, 03-25-2011 - 10:59am
In the case of my ex, once I started setting boundaries (and sticking to them) he became more of a boundary buster. He turned out to be very selfish and eventually abusive. But it doesn't always turn out that way. The ultimate boundary I had to set was a restraining order and no contact.

What normally happens tho is people respect your boundaries and the relationship becomes healthy and balanced.... and if not, then you atebetter off moving on.

Examples of boundaries: the truth (always telling the truth and requiring the truth), time (putting time limits or benchmarks. Or taking a 5minute break), distance (the boundary I had to set to be safe... but sometimes just leaving a room if the argument is out of control is a boundary). Feelings (and being aware of them, and honest with yourself about them, owning your own feelings and not someone else's). Thoughts (similar to feelings). Actions (act and not react)...

And many more... the book helped me understand all of it and then the concept of having healthy boundaries was not out of reach.

Good luck to you. It gets better.

Lil Pepper
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2010
Fri, 03-25-2011 - 11:25am
Thanks Pepper....I will look for that book. My ex was not abusive, though he could border on some inappropriate verbal behavior a few times. I'm sure some boundaries on my part would have helped diffuse that. I do think he was selfish, though. Not in all ways...but in some that were very key to the relationship. I've read that alcoholics are generally very selfish but that could also be part of his character. I think we can all be selfish in one way or another at times.

Right now I am just talking to him. It has been good in a way, because we are gaining some perspective on why our relationship ended. At least I hope we are. I have tried to explain to him that he does not know what it was like for me to have to deal with him in an altered state pretty much every night we were together. It is lonely and frustrating dealing with that. I just really wish things could have been different.

Thanks for your input.

Pages