Patnaude Coaching

Rubber Band Boundaries


I get the impression that some folks feel boundaries should be a “set it and forget it” kind of situation. But that’s never been my experience. Relationships are so much more nuanced and complicated than that. I heard a phrase a few weeks ago that made sense to me. I wish I’d noted who said this so I could give them the credit, but I didn’t. The phrase encapsulated my relationship with boundaries. They called them “rubber band boundaries.”

It’s complicated.

I find it challenging to be around a few people in my life. However, the nature of the relationship would make it extremely difficult to completely cut them off. Nor do I really want to. This small group of people has redeeming qualities that outweigh the negative ones most of the time. My relationship with them is nuanced and complicated.

During the pandemic, my relationship with this group got very ugly. I actually cut it off completely for most of a year. I felt hurt and betrayed by their comments and actions. For my psychological safety, I simply stopped engaging with them. They crossed a line I couldn’t abide by, and that boundary was firmly set.

Some may say I should have left it there. But again, the nature of the relationship with this group would make that very difficult and painful for more than just me. With the passage of time, I decided to try again. We had some difficult conversations to find a way back to each other. It may not ever be the same again. But we’re all working on it.

There’s no going back. Until there is.

If I had inflexible, rigid boundaries, this group of people would have remained outside of my life. Without calling it that, I decided I wanted rubber band boundaries with them instead. I wanted to accept them with all their flaws, and hope they’ll accept me the same way. We’ve agreed to disagree on certain topics. More importantly, we’ve agreed not to bring them up and restart the fight. That’s made it possible for me to continue to love them without having to agree with their views.

Where have you employed rubber band boundaries in your own relationships?

Or do you feel that boundaries should be less flexible?

There are no right or wrong answers on this, like so many other things. When the benefits outweigh the costs, having a rubber band boundary allows me to stay in relationship with that person. Even as I have difficult conversations and express my hurt feelings. And sometimes, they surprise the hell out of me by being accepting of something they previously rejected. And it makes me love them even more for their own rubber band boundaries.

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