Finding the Boundaries

creative commons image by ank0ku on flickr

Explicit boundary markers are fabulous.

This is yet another hugemassive topic that goes far beyond anything I’m capable of fitting into a single blog post. So, yet again, I’m going to be going for a more general overview, with the idea that I can do more specific blog posts in the future.

In my post about politeness, I briefly listed a few areas of polite behavior, including finding and respecting people’s boundaries. As a matter of fact, most of what I listed could be considered a form of knowing/respecting boundaries, as this is a really huge deal. In some cases, it could be considered about being polite or otherwise, and in other cases it’s about a whole lot more. There are all sorts of types of boundaries.

When I first started thinking about this blog topic, I was thinking about a version of boundaries that fits rather neatly as a politeness thing – that is, knowing when to talk to people and when not to. Knowing how often to talk to or contact people. How much is too much, how much is not enough, that sort of thing. I am terrible at finding a balance on this one, and after many failures in relationships I’ve become somewhat obsessive and stressed about it all. Too little contact with a person and I find myself unable to continue to feel a connection with them. Too much contact with a person and they tend to run away. Trying to balance what I need and want with what the other person needs and wants is something I find terribly complicated and difficult, and I only occasionally bother to try. On this one, if anyone has any magical secrets on how to figure this out, I’d certainly love it hear them. ^_^

There are also other sorts of boundaries. Many of them are very serious sorts of boundaries, with serious consequences for getting them wrong. One of those areas is sexual boundaries. Interestingly, I don’t find sexual boundaries to be all that difficult to navigate. The big thing is that for it to work as easy as possible, there are two things each person needs to bring to the table.

1. a willingness to talk about where your boundaries are. It can be hard to directly talk about sexual things, especially since we have a lot of learned shame around it all, but it’s honestly fairly important to be able to do so. That said, it’s ok if it’s uncomfortable or challenging or embarrassing. It’s just important to do it.
2. Practice explicit consent. I am a huge proponent of explicit consent just in general for everyone (unless you have an established relationship and have worked out other ways to do it), but ESPECIALLY LOTS for anyone on the spectrum. Where it goes beyond “no means no” and into “yes means yes.” Do not assume that things are ok – ask first. It does not have to be terribly awkward and robotic, either. Enthusiastic consent is pretty hot. ^_^

Then there are more general boundaries. Some are fairly obvious (don’t punch people except in certain, very limited, contexts), and others are more about any given individual’s lines (like how I don’t want people to touch my upper arms). In the case of the latter, I strongly prefer (and very much appreciate) people who are willing to be explicit. I have a very hard time with non-verbal communication, and I miss boundaries all too often when they are expressed with gestures or facial expressions rather than with words. This is a difficult area for me – technically speaking, socially speaking, it’s up to me to detect where everyone’s boundaries are. Realistically speaking, while I do try very hard, sometimes I just can’t. I need words. So I tend to be more drawn to people who use words, or who are at least willing to use words with me. Which also means that when I person does use words to express a boundary, I make a point to respect it without making them work or fight for it.

Sometimes I find when I express boundaries to other people, their response is to immediately ask me why I need that boundary, or couldn’t I use this other boundary instead, etc. This both bothers me on a personal level and is a behavior that I find generally problematic, so I make a point to not do it (with the possible exception of if respecting that person’s boundary carries a risk of crossing a boundary of mine. then negotiation needs to happen). If, for whatever reason, I want more information I make a point to agree to the boundary first, and then express my desire for said information.

Overall, I find boundaries are things worth a lot of my energy and attention. I know I sometimes have trouble, but I really do care about getting it right, so I try. I try a lot. And I love it when people are explicit about their own boundaries. It’s fantastic.

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8 responses to “Finding the Boundaries

  1. Pingback: Navigating sex and relationships | Aspergers and Me

  2. Hello Andraya. I just want to let you know that I have tagged your blog for the Liebster Award🙂

    Mados.

  3. Maybe you would enjoy getting to know my friend Iris Johansson, (via facebook) or possible read her book A different childhood. She spent a lot of time figuring out how “normal people” determine boundaries.

  4. Jason

    I’m a man with Asperger’s, and my current relationship has lasted only a few months, but let me say, I’ve had to work my rear off with building it up, especially when it comes to boundaries. As you said, sexual boundaries are pretty black-and-white when we talk about whether or not to do those things with our partners. Other things like knowing when too much contact is too much or too little, asking before assuming, etc, are much more difficult. There should be an ‘Aspie’ variant of every dating guide on the internet, IMO, since almost everything applies differently to us.

    I love your blog and think you are doing a wonderful job maintaining it. I wish more men with Asperger’s would make dating guides specifically for male aspies, given the social expectations there are for men in terms of relationships that complicate things. For instance, Aspies are taught to be extra careful and mindul of what our partners want, however in general, there is a hugely prevalent expectation for men to know how to ‘take charge’ in our relationships, be daring to a point, etc. These things all together are a lot for an Aspergers’ boyfriend like me to take in, as they create a sort of contradiction.

    I’ll keep on reading, and thanks for your blog. ^_^

  5. Pingback: Boundaries (again) | Aspergers and Me

  6. Pingback: Consent is Simple | Aspergers and Me