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Know your boundaries: Intimate relationships and the law of attraction

Revelers spray each other with wine in Pamplona, Spain during  the start of the San Fermin fiestas.
Revelers spray each other with wine in Pamplona, Spain during the start of the San Fermin fiestas.
AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano

There are certain guidelines Jeanie and I follow that keep the honeymoon feeling in our marriage. There is a technical name for one of the pitfalls we are aware of: merging of ego boundaries. In practical terms, this means if a certain way is good for you, then you think it is good for your partner (or kids, or everyone). In other words, you think the boundary of your ego extends beyond you to the other people.

Jeanie and I were walking out of a grocery store yesterday, and I had a bag with some wine bottles in it. Jeanie told me that her experience with the handles on those bags is that they come off easily, and to support the bag from the bottom. She was clearly worried the handles would come off and the bottles would break. I wasn’t.

Advising me of her past experience was helpful. I had my own experience with twisting the handles and having them come off, so this was a good reminder. But this can be a fine line.

Do it my way

In terms of the Law of Attraction, when someone is in a positive emotional state, they will attract events in line with that state. Well-meaning parents often look at their own experience or public safety messages, and tell their children they will likely get hurt if they do such and such. Children actually listen to their parents’ (beliefs) much more than we give them credit for, and will actually come to expect to get hurt of they engage in the threatening activity.

Often, instead of asking themselves how they feel as they are doing it, the child remembers what they have been told. Then, following from that expectation, if they do that thing, they get hurt. The parent then says, “I told you so.” And they did.

So what is a parent to do in terms of the Law of Attraction? Or what is the best path with your partner when they are doing something, such as carrying a bag of heavy bottles by an insecure handle, that could lead to trouble?

Take the attitude that things will work out well as long as long as the person is in a positive state. And understand, things will not work out well—no matter what you say or do—if they feel bad about themselves.

So, instead of telling (instructing) a child, “If you don’t put on protective gear when you rollerblade, you will get hurt,” you might say, “The gear can protect you if you fall. If you don’t wear it, pay careful attention to how you are feeling and what you are doing. I know if you do, you will be fine.” With the latter message, most children will put on the gear without fussing. More importantly, it helps line them up with the attitude that they will have a successful, safe skate. And as parents, that is the best we can do to help them be safe.

I tried holding the bag of bottles by the bottom as I carried them from the store, and didn’t like it. I carried them from the car to the house by the handle, being careful, and they were fine. Preparing this article, I asked Jeanie if she was worried about the way I carried the bag into the house. She hadn’t noticed. “After telling you my experience with the bags, I didn’t think about it anymore.”

Many well-meaning parents and spouses want to protect the people they love by getting them to act the way they would. When we put pressure on someone to do that, it is telling them not to trust their own judgment—to trust the more experienced outside authority instead. This often leads to feelings of loss of freedom, which leads to a desire to rebel.

And even if you are right in that specific instance, if you convince someone they can’t trust their own guidance, they will be much worse off in the long run than getting a scraped knee or breaking a bottle. I would rather Jeanie drop a bottle any day than feel pressured to listen to me (and I know she feels the same). Cleaning up spilled wine is far easier than cleaning up tension in a relationship.

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