Building Fences - a photograph of a wire and wood fenceMy husband and I built a house next door to our daughter and her family two years ago. I was so worried about imposing on her that we located our house so that their barn and our garage blocked our views of each other’s yards. These seemed like good boundaries. They protected everyone’s privacy but didn’t impinge on our love and support for one another.

My daughter is good at asking for help and also being clear when she doesn’t need it. With a gentle “no, thank you” she’s makes clear my advice or opinion is not needed. I admit she’s better at setting boundaries than I am. With my mother, I never had the nerve to use them. And with people I didn’t trust or those who hurt me, I built walls that were indestructible. There was no way in or out. These were not boundaries. They were defenses that locked my anger and fear in place. I’m ready to tear down these formidable barriers that separate me and diminish the quality of my relationships. But I know, too, that I need boundaries that will protect my well-being. So what do I do?

I could replace the wall with a fence. I could meet you there with the fence safely between us. One day we may sit on it together. And all in good time, I might build a gate that we are both free to pass through.