Familiarity, intimacy & taking things for granted
Thinking about this today as I have to remind another long-standing client about my communication protocols…
Since I work in a legally delicate area, I have specific rules I follow to make sure both myself, and my clients, are protected in our interactions. These are not rules just for new clients, and until I get to know you better, but rules that will apply over the course of our relationship (however long that is meant to be…).
No graphic emails
No references of any illegal activity
Not putting anything in writing that couldn’t be read aloud in court without blushing, or facing legal repercussions
Some clients think that over time, it’s ok to talk more graphically about their fantasies with me. Of course, we have built up familiarity, trust, and intimacy that makes them feel safe doing so. I appreciate that, and never want to hinder that, but email is not the time nor place for those conversations.
Some clients have deeper feelings projected onto our relationship that make them feel special (which is great!) but may confuse them about boundaries. In the dating and relationship models many have practiced, the longer you date someone, and the more intimacy you share, the more boundaries become relaxed. This is often unspoken, and may be allowed to happen by the other partner without discussion (as they are often following the same models of intimate relationships as well). When you like, or even love someone, sometimes you let the little boundary slips slide…
Some boundaries are ok to relax without permission or discussion (ie: I might not give someone on a dating app my phone number until I have had a certain amount of conversation with them, or until after I meet them in person someplace in public), but doing so with expectations of others doing the same in return is problematic (but it’s ok to ask, and have a discussion if you have concerns over why someone is holding off on certain things, and seems to be overprotective or hiding something). Just because *you* are ready to relax a certain boundary does not mean others are ready to do so. They might have different reasons for having boundaries in place than what you do, or have a different timeline for the relationship all together. Acknowledging when you shift your own boundaries voluntarily, and why, can help foster more transparent conversations, and facilitate check-ins about where another person might be at in their experience of the relationship.
Because letting boundaries get changed without discussion is problematic (for many reasons), not only due to how it ignores having a discussion and mutual agreement about how/why a boundary gets changed, but also because it develops a pattern for boundaries getting changed without discussion, or checking in. Other boundaries may then become easier to move without consent or discussion, and this can lay the groundwork for bigger problems in the long term. Things go unspoken for years, being ignored, but resented. And at a certain point, resentment and frustration may become too big to fix...
And familiarity breeds complacency...beyond just in how we shift boundaries, but this is an important area to consider when we think about what relationships are important to us, and what we hope to create in them. Often what is discussed when relationships break down is someone feeling taken for granted, and that is in large part due to the unspoken movement of boundaries without negotiation or consent.
So besides my own comfort or safety boundaries being exploited, I see bringing this topic up with clients essential for awareness in their other relationships as well. Whether it be a work relationship, friendship, dating relationships, family member or long-term committed partner, being aware of boundaries and mindful of how they get moved is essential for deepening any level of connection or trust, but most certainly our more close and intimate relationships. Discussing and showing respect for boundaries goes a long way is ensuring others that you care about their needs, which deepens loyalty, honesty, and vulnerability... If you want deep, connected relationships, awareness and respect for boundaries is an essential part of the recipe.