We are not “creating drama” when we set boundaries.
In fact, setting boundaries is an effort to head off drama.
Real drama— that is, unnecessary, unpredictable, turbulent ups and downs— is nurtured by the absence of boundaries and accountability.
A lot of people are uncomfortable with boundaries and accountability.
To them, boundaries and accountability are concepts that smack of restriction and punitiveness.
And they are right, to a certain extent.
When we set boundaries with and insist on accountability from the people in our lives, we ARE placing restrictions on them…that is if they want to be in our lives.
We are saying to them, “if you want to be in my life, there are some things you cannot do.”
If that is a statement that rubs somebody the wrong way, or if that is a statement that someone cannot live with…it may not be the worst thing to not have them in our lives.
Many of us, in our modern world, have become kind of addicted to drama.
There’s a part of many of us that actually LIKES the dramatic ups and downs.
There’s a part of many of us that likes the unpredictability.
When you ask people to describe their ideal relationship, many of them will include among those descriptions that their ideal relationship would be “exciting.”
If you look to our popular entertainment, you’ll see that for centuries, humans have loved stories of complicated relationships that are not infrequently as painful as they are nurturing.
For a long time, many peoples’ description of ideal love has been one in which the other person fulfills a ridiculous number of idealized roles in someone’s life.
Conversely, when you ask many people what they want to avoid in their relationships, a common answer is they want to avoid being “bored.”
Popular entertainment and social media seem to compound these instincts, and glorify versions of relationships and “love” that are, above all…dramatic.
Don’t get me wrong: relationships are complicated enough by nature.
Human beings are complicated enough by nature.
I’m not saying that all complicated relationship dynamics are a result of humans’ unhealthy, unnecessary appetite for drama.
But I do think that many people underestimate the extent to which they invite unnecessary, painful drama into their lives by how they conceptualize their own lives and how they think about their relationship needs and preferences.
If you think of your life an epic poem…don’t be shocked when ogres appear in it.
If you think of your ideal relationship as a potential fairy tale…don’t be shocked when dragons and witches appear in your life as frequently as knights.
How can we avoid veering toward the unnecessarily dramatic when thinking about our lives and relationships?
First thing’s first: we need to think about what we need in our lives in practical, everyday terms.
Our lives are not epic poems or fairy tales.
We need things other than passion and hyper-connection in our relationships.
The relationship that may be healthiest for us probably won’t be perfect. It might not always be exciting. It certainly will not fulfill every one of our needs at all times.
And that’s okay.
Cutting down on the drama in our lives by setting boundaries, expecting accountability, and revising our romantic thinking about relationships is not always fun.
But it is the pathway to less anxiety, more productivity, and ultimately more peace and energy.
It’s a tradeoff that is worth it.
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