Needs and Boundaries: What is the space between "I suppose I can let this go" and "this is an utter dealbreaker; do this thing or I'll have to end this relationship" - and what do you do about negotiating things in that space?
I'm trying to improve my boundaries after a life of not being very good at them. I'm learning to speak up for myself and express my needs. But I have a question I hope you can help with. Sorry for the length - I want to include everything useful because this is anon.
I keep coming across situations where I state my needs and boundaries, the other person responds with empathy and agrees to do something and then... nothing. These happen frequently - including with my husband, who has been my biggest cheerleader in this boundary-development. I don't know what to do in these cases.
The things are not dealbreakers or ultimatum territory, but they're not small enough that I can just drop them either. Some of the are very immediate/short-term things, some draw out over years. I repeat my desires up to a point, but I don't want to nag constantly - especially when someone has already agreed to change something, but the change just doesn't happen.
Some people say that boundaries work best with clearly stated consequences, but I'm not sure that's true between adults. I don't want to treat my husband or other adults like wilful kids. Besides, often I don't know what leverage I have between "I need you to do this" and "I need you to do this or I have to step back/end this relationship"
I figure I can't be the only one who has this middle ground between things that can be compromised on and things that are worth ending a friendship or relationship over. So how do you handle them?
Last night my husband gave me a massage because I'm really achey from the flu. Despite my telling him what he was doing in some places was painful, telling him to stop or press more gently and even moving to block his access while I said again that he was hurting me, he continued to press too hard until I was literally crying from the pain. He acknowledged what I said every time, but actually moved my arms when I blocked him so that he could go back to pressing into the spot that was so tender. I let him, because I knew he'd heard me so I trusted him to be more gentle. His intentions were good, but I'm still sore the next morning.
When I started to cry, he stopped, apologised and comforted me. But then he said "I should have remembered that you wouldn't say anything until it was already too much." Still crying, I not-quite-yelled at him that I didn't know what could be clearer than "Ow! Stop! That really hurts. I need you to be much more gentle in that spot or not touch it!" He apologised again and said it wasn't that I'd been unclear, it was a failure of empathy on his part. I know he felt bad, but I'm still a bit annoyed by that.
I read this thread
a few months ago, and it was an eye-opener for me. It gave me the nudge I needed to tell my husband that he was responsible for checking in front of the loo and cleaning up after himself. Well, now it's months later and I'm still getting damp toes or finding drips scattered around the toilet most nights. Mostly I ask him to stop what he's doing ASAP/get out of bed and come clean it, but sometimes I just tell him about it while I wipe things up myself because it seems like more trouble than it's worth to get him up for a job I can do in two seconds. He gets sad and self-critical about how he looked but didn't see anything to clean, but can see it when I'm standing there demanding he look again. I know noticing messes in the house is a learned skill and he isn't going to pick it up overnight, but I'm tired of nagging him about it. It can't be fun for him either.
My husband snores. White noise generators and earplugs can't compete - I'm driven out of our bed by it regularly. More worryingly, he seems to stop breathing during the night, which often wakes me up if I've managed to fall asleep next to him. It's not just me who says this; the doctor friend who stayed with us more than a year ago told him that he was stopping breathing at night and he HAD to do a sleep study and get checked for sleep apnoea. (Please don't start with the apnoea horror stories - I know it can be awful and I'm worried enough!)
This is his own health I'm worried about, as well as my sleep. He's constantly tired, achey and fuzzy-brained. He never wants to go out or do anything more than watch a DVD or play video games when he gets home from work, because he's just so exhausted and has been for months, if not years. As I write he hasn't been up for sex for weeks. In the longer term, I know this could kill him.
But it's been over a year since the friend told him to get this checked and he still hasn't arranged a sleep study. He saw our doctor a few months back, who agreed he should get one, but that's as far as it's gone. In fairness he's tried the nasal flush the doc suggested - it helps, but it didn't stop the snoring. I've gotten him anti-snore devices to try, that he ignores.
He has actually given me a timeline for action on this one - once he's past a major project, he'll get a sleep study done. But it took my saying that if I didn't have proof that he was doing something about this soon, I was going to give up on trying to sleep next to him and move into the spare room. That's more of an ultimatum than I'm comfortable with, and this is his health on the line.
It took seven years to get him to see a counsellor about his low-grade depression issues - and that only happened because I pushed him about it and he left me, then realised that the depression had caused him to make what he called "possibly the worst mistake of my life." Even then it was him who dropped me, not the other way around.
None of these in themselves are things to end a 10-year marriage over, but they're not things I want to ignore either. I don't think I should have to deal with being hurt (even unintentionally) until I cry, with piss on the floor or with being unable to sleep in my own bed because the man I love is ignoring his own health. I don't want to be someone who threatens to leave over everydamnthing, but I don't know what to do in these scenarios.
So what do you do, MeFites? Is this middle ground something that exists for everyone, or should I re-evaluate? If it exists, how do you deal with it?
I feel like I've singled out my husband and made him look pretty awful in this post. Our relationship is good, even if it isn't perfect. This is not a question about whether I should leave him or not. Thank you for understanding that.