“Bette”: Back to the Basics with Boundaries
I never wanted you,” was a phrase “Bette” heard repeatedly from her mentally unstable and abusive mother while growing up. “Bette” was the seventh child and the first 3 were the only ones “she wanted.” “Bette’s” father on the other hand was a very loving man, but his love was a Band-Aid that would come after the hurt already happened from his wife. “Bette” knew that the way her parents behaved wasn’t “normal” or “right”, but it would take many years for her to realize that. Because of the lack of healthy boundaries she experienced as a child, “Bette” did not know what healthy boundaries were nor the importance of them.
After high school, “Bette” wanted to get away from her negative home life and decided to go to college. Soon after starting college she met and eventually married Grant. Grant always wanted to provide for her and would say things like, “you don’t need to finish college, I’ll take care of you” or “we can’t afford two car payments, let’s just share a car after yours stops working.” “Bette’s” lack of healthy boundaries had enabled her husband to have control over her life.
It took “Bette’s” diagnosis of Lupus and Fibromyalgia for her to realize how isolated and dependent on her husband she really was! She was living in the country with no reliable transportation, and no way to support herself without her husband. That’s when she first tried to start setting boundaries. She decided to allow professionals to intervene and help. She allowed them onto the property. This made Grant so outraged that he took the tires off one of the cars to make sure she couldn’t go and ask for help again. “Bette” kept trying to set boundaries so she could regain control over her life but realized that if she ever wanted to have her boundaries respected, she would need to get away from Grant.
After “Bette” divorced, she stated seeking out resources to help her grow. She started counseling, went to a depression group, and found Life-Work Planning Center. “Bette” attended the Strength • Balance • Self-Respect workshop series. She kept the handouts and sought out all kinds of resources. Years later, a different counselor recommended Life-Work Planning Center to her again. “Bette” remembered how great it was to be with other women that were working on themselves and being able to celebrate when someone would get a job or stick to one of their boundaries, so she decided to enroll again. She returned to the program with the idea that she would really apply herself. This time, “Bette” became an active group member and felt accepted. She realized that the staff and other participants genuinely wanted to be around what she called the “messiness” of her life.
“Bette” currently volunteers for a local non-profit, which allows her to practice her pre-employment skill of setting and following the boundaries. “I still struggle with my confidence and setting my boundaries,” she stated, but “Bette” hasn’t given up and knows she is growing. She has attended more than one of the Life-Work Planning Center workshop series and says that she looks over the handouts on her own time, has posted some of the handouts around her house, and even asks her friends about their boundaries and other pre-employment skills she is learning at Life-Work Planning Center. She has set healthy boundaries with her parents, with her ex-husband, with people in her apartment building, and even when advocating for herself in getting the care she knows she deserves.
The advice “Bette” wants to give to anyone who might read this article is:
1. Start somewhere.
2. Be patient, you’re a work in progress.
3. The staff that work at Life-Work Planning Center are genuine and want to be there for you.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the subject of this story.*