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I didn’t learn how to drive or get my license until the summer after my 21st birthday. My uncle taught me how to drive when I had time off from my job working for him and his wife, probably because they were tired of picking up and dropping off a grown woman at work. My aunt tried to teach me, but that didn’t go well (imagine Pink Susie slapping my hands off a steering wheel mid-turn, me screaming “are you crazy?!”, her saying “you aren’t supposed to cross your arms like that,” and me replying “you can’t hit the driver!”–Yeah), so my uncle volunteered.

He was a surprisingly calm and patient teacher, given his usual gruff demeanor. He never yelled or seemed terrified to be in the car with me behind the wheel. If I messed up, he would say “that’s OK; just (insert useful instructions here).” The one rule of the road that he insisted I stick to from day one was very simple: “stay off my line.”

Anyone who drives in America should know that there is a solid line on the right side of the road that serves as a boundary. You should also know that you cannot pass someone when there are yellow, solid double lines on a two lane road. You should further know that if there is a solid white line, such as near intersections, you aren’t allowed to change lanes. Solid lines provide the boundaries that keep us safe–if we use them correctly.

What I’ve come to realize in my four year relationship (o_O) is that despite having spent so much time together, we both still have some solid lines, some boundaries that we don’t like crossed. If you go up the road a bit more, you can switch lanes all you want, but where you see the solid line, stay in your lane.

I had this experience the other day…

It’s no secret that Mr. P. and I deal with conflict differently. We also disagree on conflict resolution. There are some areas of life where “agreeing to disagree” just won’t work, where stating your opinion eighty different ways only leads to you saying something along the lines of “why can’t you get this through your thick cranium?!”;in short, there are some things that need rules, definite conclusions, agreement. One could say there are areas in which a few solid lines could provide some structure to an otherwise pointless trip around the mulberry bush yet again with your partner.

Here’s the thing, though: our personal boundaries are so arbitrary sometimes, even we don’t know what’s crossing the line until it’s crossed. Oftentimes, we have solid lines in areas of our lives not because there’s a blind curve, definite boundary, or danger zone, but simply because we don’t want to talk about it or deal with it. Those lines are made to be crossed.

However, to give the whole relationship thing some very definite boundaries, here we go:

  • Absolutely no hitting, biting, pulling hair, or otherwise physically abusing your mate. Physical violence never solves anything, and it only serves to show how little self-control you have. If you can’t disagree without coming to blows, you need to leave that person alone.
  • Verbal abuse is also prohibited. Verbal abuse can lead to physical violence, depression, low self-esteem, suicide, you ending up alone…If the only way to make your case is to belittle someone else, you don’t have one. You don’t have to be disrespectful to disagree.
  • Stop taking everything so personal. Someone else’s beliefs and preferences aren’t set up just to be in opposition to you. Everything is not in direct reference to you. Often times we are so busy feeling hurt or offended, we miss the whole point of talking–to learn more about each other and to learn whether or not we can live in some sort of harmony together, not to prove a point, make someone believe your way is right, or brow beat someone into submission.
  • Compromise is necessary, even if you don’t like it. It’s not merely conceding the point, catering to the other person, sparing someone’s feelings, or “going along to get along”; at some point you have to realize that no relationship is going to go entirely the way you want it to without regard to anyone else no matter who you are and how you try to bring that about. As a great philosopher once said “you can’t always get what you want; but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”
  • Some conversations are best had at another time. It’s not necessarily avoiding the issue. Sometimes the place isn’t appropriate, or your mood isn’t right. I know I avoid certain conversations at certain times because I’ve had a bad day and any little thing you say “out the way” is going to cause me to say some things and then you say some things, and we both say some things we didn’t mean because you insisted on this conversation.

Ultimately, unlike the rules of the road, crossing solid lines in relationships can be good; in fact, I would argue it’s necessary. You have to be willing to test the boundaries of how you think, what you believe, and what you want. The only puzzle pieces that have an edge not made to connect with another piece are end pieces. In order to get close together, you have to be round in some places and concave in others.

But in other ways, it’s just like driving on the road: sometimes, it’s best to wait before crossing over into a different lane; the rules of the road aren’t personal but to be followed by all drivers; sometimes you can pass and the other lane can’t, and; sometimes when you cross a line, things are going to get bumpy and let you know you’ve gotten off the road.

Drive (and love) safely everyone! 😀