Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chapter Nine: Meeting the Natural Limit

No way. Absolutely not.
There is a particularly searing Dear Sugar letter response with a quote that I love which has been resonating lately:
"Limits are not punishments, but rather lucid and respectful expressions of our needs and desires and capabilities."

Everyone has natural limits to what they are able to offer one another. They don't always express them in a lucid, respectful fashion, but when you meet someone's limit, you know it. When we have a need and it falls outside of a person's limitations, it can be really upsetting and we often take this personally as a rejection or criticism. I had a conversation with a dear friend today about this and framed it this way:
Say you really want me to tightrope walk. I don't know how and am afraid of falling so am unwilling to try. As much as you may need or want me to perform this daring-do, it falls outside of my limitations and it has nothing to do with you or your value.

Let's apply this same idea to human relationship needs. Perhaps you want someone to treat you in a certain way and overtime they continually do not. You can fight and yell and demand and cry and feel terrible about yourself, but it may very well be that the person in question is simply unable to give you what you desire. You have found their limitation, your need falls outside of it and there is no amount of cajoling that can change that.

So what do you do?

Well, you can keep demanding the same thing over and over, expecting a different result (crazy!). You can be angry at the other person. You can pull the ego in and assume that they're not giving you what you want because there is something fundamentally wrong with you and of course this is all about you! You can keep struggling and trying to change the other person.

Or you can recognize that you have simply met this person's current natural limit, realize that it has nothing to do with you and meet them where they are instead of struggling to manipulate the person and situation to your liking. This is surrender and graceful celebration of reality- the easiest and the hardest thing to do.

This does not mean that you give up what you need and sit around allowing yourself to be abused or neglected, though. You deserve love and respect. If someone is withholding those things, you are well within your rights to walk away and choose to keep company with people that are generous with their affection and support.

The recognition of other people's limitations is meant to be empowering. It allows you to be realistic about what people have to offer and look elsewhere for the things they do not. Different people serve different purposes in our lives. I have friends that I know are not available for certain types of support, so I don't go to them in those moments. I don't expect them to be able to meet all my needs, because every relationship is not meant to offer you everything- even marriage. Rather than decrying what people cannot give, I attempt to identify and celebrate what they can give.

People can and do change. Limitations can expand to include whatever it is you want, but I wouldn't recommend waiting around for that to happen (Hello Bitterness!). If you've articulated what you need and your need is not met, move on down the road, honeylove. No one is young enough to wait around. Take responsibility for your sweet self and Get It, whatever It is.

And if you begin to feel your blood pressure rise in the face of unmet needs, remember: you, too, are limited. Bring attention and compassion not just to the limitations of others, but to yours as well. Knowing what you are willing and able to give, and lucidly, respectfully expressing that is a whole other source of empowerment. Give only what you can and take only what others freely give.

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