I do a lot of support work online for the Polyamorous and Consensually Non-monogamous communities. This body of this was written in response to a post (see graphic below) that received a lot of enthusiastic support, and while the concept may be true to an extent, it does miss the mark for me. Adversity and challenge do not always result in personal growth. In fact, repetitive triggering of reactions can embed unhealthy patterns, override our management tools available to us, and create trauma. Many in the Consensually Non-monogamous community are so focused on having freedom and autonomy, they sometimes take the “tough love” approach and either shame partners who want to create boundaries to limit that which stimulates their insecurities, or they don’t honour their partners’ boundaries so that they will “get used to the reality of the situation”. Listen. They already KNOW you’re seeing other people, and if they are taking PERSONAL RESPONSBILITY and setting boundaries to honour where they are at and what they need…let’s give them the support they need.
In my experience heathy boundaries are extremely useful in healing and growth. They are core to autonomous thought.
For example, the people I work with are often asking for, or being given, too much information about their partners’ relationships. This is usually because they or their partner is thinking that somehow more information will help them feel more secure; it has the opposite effect for many folx, sometimes for years. What they experience is jealousy/envy/anger/resentment/fear, a reinforcement of their limiting belief about themselves that “I am not enough” or “I am not worthy of true love”, challenges related to mono-normative programming that they have battled constantly since childhood, difficulty regulating their emotions and being in a reactive state more than a response state. The ongoing processing of new information about the other person’s connections creates opportunity for unhealthy patterns of thought and emotional reactions to form.
So in about 80% of the cases, one of the places we begin their journey to healing and growth is by setting boundaries around exposure to information. This works – across the board – to reduce anxious, black and white and catastrophic thinking. At which point they find they sleep better, experience more calm and are more comfortable with their partners seeing other people. They feel a sense of ease as they step away from information gathering as a means to control or have status, or step away from their partner’s need to share (sometimes due to a misplaced desire for full transparency).
The result is often releasing or reducing fear, limiting beliefs and resentment and focusing more effectively on developing their own relationships, more compersion for their partners’ and metas and deeper connection with their partners.
Having said that…of course there are cases where boundaries are being utilized as a means of denial, as in DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – so NO information is shared) agreements. It may be that the person setting a DADT boundary is actually being coerced, or is otherwise reluctantly engaging in a CNM (Consensually Non-monogamous) relationship, when what they really need to do is step into their own power and self-advocate and create authentic boundaries to attain what they truly need and want. In this case the way to growth is through more boundaries, not fewer.
Yes growth can occur when we are uncomfortable, but in many cases our growth can be stunted by continuing to be in a challenged state.
Note: if your partner has had any trauma, abuse, mental health issues, toxic stress, conditions that affect the brain, these things can change how we process information and experiences. It is important to remember that we don’t share the same lens through which we see life, and what is manageable and even growth-promoting for us may be growth-stunting and unmanageable for another.