I never thought much about boundaries until my husband observed I had none. He was referring to personal boundaries, and I had no idea what he was talking about.
His boundaries were well-defined and guarded carefully. He didn’t allow infringement into what he considered his private space, and he failed to understand how I functioned with what he believed was open borders with no restraints.
Following this revelation into my psyche, I have given the topic more thought, wondering if gender makes a difference in the flexibility of our fences. I’ve known both men and women with well-defined limits, but it seems women’s boundaries are far more porous, and often non-existent.
It is common for a male to have a ‘man cave’ and have unrestricted access to areas often prohibited to females. Private clubs, organizations, boards, businesses, careers, and events open to ‘men only’, have been prevalent in most societies for centuries. Men were afforded the luxury of privacy, while women had few if any spaces of their own.
Homes were shared, open to all members of the family. There was not a corner set aside for her alone. She shared the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen, the living room, and if she suggested privacy it was considered an insult, unloving, disgraceful.
Just a few years ago a female friend wanted to add a studio to her home for her writing, something similar to what they had added for her husband’s workshop. The home association denied the request, not understanding her desire for her own ‘woman cave’ was no different from the workshop. Female privacy wasn’t important or recognized.
Women have begun not just to request but to insist on space equality, their own hunting lodges, and the same access to privacy enjoyed by men for eons.
We are learning to set boundaries, knowing in doing so it may cause upheavals in personal and family relationships. But we remind ourselves rejection is not the goal, defining ourselves is.