I’ve been finding out that the way my sponsor explained boundaries to me is not very typical, but it certainly works really well for me.

Someone in an online group recently pointed out that a boundary that had been mentioned was actually a rule. It was along the lines of, “You may not x while y, and if you do, I will z.” I’m so used to everyone’s boundaries being expressed differently that I totally didn’t notice the poster had posted a rule. So glad the commenter said something.

My first sponsor said that a boundary is a deal I make with myself to take care of me. It comes in the form of, “If x happens, then I will y.”

The way to apply it is to think of 3-5 things that are most likely to happen. If I think of every single thing that might happen, I get drawn into futurizing, and that’s no good, so 5 is the limit for now.

For each thing that might happen, I think of an appropriate way to take care of myself in that situation. I might even give myself alternatives, or set up escalating boundaries.

  • If my mom criticizes me on the phone, I will:
    • Say, “Gotta go, Mom. Love you. Bye!” and hang up. Or,
    • Ask her how her peach trees are. Or,
    • Ask her to hang on a second, I need a drink of water. And then get one.
  • If someone keeps interrupting me at a meeting, I will:
    • The first time, say, “Hang on, I’m not done.”
    • The second time, stand up to speak.
    • The third time, leave the room.
I get to change my boundaries as needs and circumstances change.
I don’t necessarily have to tell other people what the boundaries are. It’s even probably better that I don’t, unless exercising my boundary will have a direct effect on them.

  • If the other adults in the house don’t have a job by the end of next month, I will:
    • Get an apartment and move myself and my kids out. And
    • I will also stop paying for the house.
That last one might be a rule, now that I think about it. Boundaries are not meant to be about controlling another person’s behavior, but instead about taking care of myself. I’m not sure how else to handle the situation of a house bought with the expectation of 3 full-time salaries that actually had only 1 to support it.

What I want in a partner:
  • Respects me
  • Respect for others
  • A service ethic
  • Shares some of my interests
  • Has interests of their own
  • Humble, for real
  • Respects and supports their family
  • Responsible with money
  • Well employed or otherwise self-supporting (7th tradition)
  • Encourages me to be self-supporting
  • Can be silly, but not the default state
  • Can be very serious
  • Has goals and plans of their own
  • Expresses self in work or hobbies
  • Has their own sense of self worth
  • At least as mature as I am
  • Independent
  • Dependable 
  • Caring, thoughtful
  • A good neighbor
  • A good friend
  • Accepting of me
  • Accepting of my sexuality
  • Accepting of my orientation
  • Willing to dance, can enjoy it
  • Sexual compatibility
  • Political compatibility
  • Similar values
  • Healthy attitudes about sex
  • Is happy
  • Generous
  • Fair-minded
  • Has or is willing to have a dog
  • Respects whether I’m ready to live together or not
What I don’t want:
  • Racist
  • Sexist
  • Politically extreme
  • Prone to rage
  • Controlling, dominating
  • Codependent
  • Criticizing, disparaging, judgmental, blaming
  • Conformist
  • Buys into toxic masculinity or the patriarchy
  • Buys into toxic femininity
  • Expects all my unstructured time to belong to them
  • Greedy
  • Advantage-seeking
  • Conservative
  • Assumes I’m wrong about everything I say
  • Hoarding
  • An alcoholic or addict
  • Insists that we have to live together

One of the mistakes I made early in the last relationship was to contribute financially well over the level of being self-supporting. When I got laid off, I couldn’t do that anymore. While I was training for a new career, I contributed right at the level of being self-supporting through my severance pay, and later, through acquiring credit card debt. But it was so much less money than they were used to.

My spouse deeply resented the reduced level of contribution and saw it as changing their life without their permission, because I chose to train for a new career instead of starting over in my old one (which is what happens when you get laid off – in my industry, nobody hires at higher levels from outside the company – you start at entry level again). It didn’t matter that a new job would still not pay enough. 

Also the layoff happened just after I had borrowed a lot from my 401k for a project, so I was trying to pay back the loan so as not to incur a heavy tax penalty. My spouse blamed my project for changing their life as well, even though commitment to carry out that project was made plain before we ever married.

Sorry I’m not explaining it well without anonymity-breaking specifics.

Another mistake I made was justifying making my career decisions unilaterally as long as I was meeting my 7th tradition. Right or wrong, my spouse felt left out. It would have been more respectful to fully discuss these things beforehand.

In any case, my business in my new career didn’t take off soon enough to prevent me maxing out the credit cards, so it became necessary to fall back on the old career and, yes, start at entry level, which is where I still am now. It’s taken a few years to pay off all that debt, plus defaulting on the 401k and assisting them with their tax burden.

In my next relationship (if any), I want money to not be a factor.

I haven’t been posting in a long time. It became a lot less convenient after Google took over Blogger and made a lot of changes. To preserve anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV, films, and the Internet, I had to put my Al-Anon account on a separate Google ID than the rest of my life. So that meant doing a lot of login shuffle. And I … just didn’t.

So it’s been a few years. I’m not married anymore. My spouse changed my life without my consent, and I wasn’t willing to go further. I learned a lot about my program and ways to apply it during our marriage, and it was a growing experience. I remain sure my HP wanted me to have that experience, and I’m glad I did.

I am happily single again. My first sponsor would have told me right after the divorce that it was the right time to make a new list of what I want in a partner. I did give it a half-hearted attempt, but I just didn’t bring myself to do it. There are a few drafts in my various notebooks. Also I have started lists of what I don’t want in a partner.

Looking over my old list, I see that my former spouse did not meet some of these criteria, but I didn’t know it at the time. They did engage in criticism (I would say even derision and scorn.). They were not mature. They were indeed controlling and not dependable. How would I not get fooled again?

In any case, I am not looking for a partner. I am happily living on my own, in my own space, with my own pets. I have a good job. I have goals and plans. My program is not as strong as it was, probably because I’m not leaning on it as heavily. That’s something to work on. I would like to have great program regardless the circumstances.

I am working the 12 steps again and am now at Step 6. I have been for quite a long time. Maybe I’ll be “entirely ready” soon?