While I was in Hawaii, I paid a lot of attention to my boundaries, including where they were respected and where they were not.

Which I do normally anyway. Learning to set and honor my boundaries is a big part of how I’ve been healing my history of trauma.

But on my travels, especially while at the dance event I attended, I found myself particularly sensitized to the dance of boundaries around me.

One such incident stands out.

It was a three person conversation between me, a new but close female friend and a man I barely knew, all fellow participants at the dance event. The woman had been sharing about the heartache she’d been experiencing. The man and I were listening. I was also carefully peeling the thin skin of the small, juicy tangerine I had brought for a snack.

When my friend was done sharing, I gently extended my palms out to her with an offering of a wedge of tangerine slices, a little sweetness to nurture her aching heart.

Unclear that the offering was just for her, the man reached his hand out to help himself to a slice. I turned to him and said neutrally, “No, that’s not for you”. He recoiled.

What ensued after that was fascinating.

Because I have a strong practice of boundaries, I carried on, undeterred by the fact that I knew that man hadn’t taken my boundary setting well.

Taking a boundary well includes gratitude. And goes something like, “Ah, thank you for clarifying” or “Thank you for taking care of yourself” or “Thank you for taking care of our relationship by saying what you needed”. Or at the least, understanding that a boundary is less about the person on the other side of it and more about the person setting it.

None of that transpired.

Instead, the woman I shared the fruit offering with began to ask the man how he felt about my setting a boundary. Which resulted in him sharing in detail how offput he felt, how it was just a tangerine and why did I have to draw such a sharp line. Good lord, what a mess.

So let’s review: I extended an offer to a friend. Someone for whom the offer was not intended tried to take the thing. I told him, no. Then the woman for whom the gift was intended put the conversational focus on the man who had tried to take her gift.

The confusion was magnificent! A mighty tangle of entitlement, codependency and lack of consent wrapped in a tangerine peel.

This month I will be leading the next intimacy salon on boundaries. In addition to teaching about the power of “no”, I will also share how I handled the great tangerine debacle and what you can learn from mine and your own moments of confusion regarding boundaries. I hope you will sign up to join us!

Event link HERE to register.
Photo by Jason Sung on Unsplash