When your nervous system says “NO!”

boundaries conflict Jan 23, 2023

It’s Sarah here from the Working With Voice team. Back in March 2022, I shared a big communication win about how I had healed the difficult relationship with my ex and father of my children (You can read it in the back catalogue over here). Well… I thought I had. 

 

Here’s the latest.

 

But first, let me back up a bit. My ex and I split up ten years ago. We have children, which means that we have to stay in contact. Unfortunately, we’ve often come to blows over text messages and simple conversations. It gets heated fast! As the children have grown older and got their own phones, communication between my ex and me has become almost non-existent. 

 

Well, back in March, as my 40th birthday approached I wanted to make some changes and start my new decade with a new way of being and relating. 

 

🧡 I wanted to heal things between us. 

🧡 I wanted for us to be more united as parents. 

🧡 And I wanted to communicate by phone rather than by text. 

 

So, I used the strategy from WWV’s Conflict Conversations resource to initiate a conversation about how we could better communicate around the children. I was thrilled with the outcome and told him how grateful I was that the conversation had gone so well. It was quite emotional. Something physically shifted from my chest. And I felt the burden of TEN YEARS of conflict slip from my shoulders

 

I knew in my heart that our old communication story was being re-written. 

 

When we had our first check-in, it went really well. We even chatted about things outside of the children, which I hadn’t expected. And, for the icing on the cake, we planned to go out together this coming weekend to celebrate our son's 17th birthday.🎈

 

I wasn’t expecting our communication story to be re-written yet again.

 

Things went well for a while. I made sure I called him every week, but he never called me. It felt it was getting too one-sided, so I stopped making the effort. If something did come up with the children, I would let him know, but our short-lived connection totally fizzled. 

 

Then it got worse. Over the summer, he slipped back to the old ways. When I reached out to him a few times about the children, he ignored my calls and texts. I really wanted to get things back on track and racked my brains on how to do it. But the final blow came when he asked me to drop the children over via our son. I lost it.

 

With that, I realised that I needed to step out of people-pleasing and step into self-empowerment. I needed to place responsibility where it belonged. 

 

So, I sent him a message saying that I was stepping back and that he was free to handle the relationship with the children by himself. When I saw his childish response, I knew I had done the right thing. 

 

I gently explained to the children that the communication between us had broken down and that I was creating a healthy boundary. I also shared a calendar so they would know when they could expect to see him. My daughter thanked me and said: “Well, I know what he can be like”. 

 

Through the twists and turns of this communication story, I’ve learned that... 

 

🚫 It wasn’t my responsibility to teach my ex how to communicate. 

🚫 Struggling to keep things peaceful between us was affecting my mental health.

🚫 The anger I felt was healthy, a signal that something important had been violated.

✋🏼I needed to create a boundary to protect my well-being. 

 

Conversations with exes, family, friends, and strangers can be tricky. The way we react is rooted deep in our nervous system. Growing up, we create inner strategies to keep us safe and these don’t always translate well into adult responses.

 

So, as you can see, communication isn’t always about what you say or do with words. Sometimes it is about how you show up for yourself and those you love. This situation was really tough, but once I acknowledged my needs and set some healthy boundaries I not only showed up for myself, I also modelled what that looks like for our children. 

 

At WWV we are always looking for communication wisdom amongst our own life challenges, because we approach communication as a whole way of being. Once you approach how you communicate in this way you can use it to shape your daily life.

 

This is one of the secrets of communication ease. 

 

If you are interested in learning more about how to identify and regulate your communication triggers, drop Thea a quick WhatsApp using this link. 

 

Where would you like more ease in your life?