The Healthy Boundaries Series, I: Emotional Intimacy

Healthy Boundaries

I’ve been asked quite a lot about personal boundaries and how to set them, how to recognize what is a healthy boundary and how to enforce the boundaries we have.

I’ve been kind of noodling on this for a while, and I feel like I’ve got a good idea of how to tackle it, now, so I’m going to start with a biggie: Intimacy—in this case, emotional intimacy.

In each part of this series, I’m going to give examples of a boundary being too soft, too hard, and what a healthy boundary level looks like.

I’m also VERY open to your thoughts and opinions and questions as we go, including suggestions on other boundaries that you’d like to see covered.

Let’s start!

Too Soft Boundaries in Intimacy

People with soft intimacy boundaries tell way too much too soon about their personal lives, often either scaring people off or signaling they are vulnerable to less-than-pure intentions.

They are commonly referred to as “oversharers.”

It’s more than that, though, because there are many ways to be open and transparent without necessarily having weak intimacy boundaries.

It’s often a combination of oversharing AND making themselves overly vulnerable to people who have not yet matched their level of investment and disclosure in a relationship.

Too Hard Boundaries in Intimacy

These people avoid any vulnerability or closeness in relationships, period. Many avoid emotional relationships altogether, usually to their detriment, as it leads to loneliness and a sense of alienation/isolation.

This is often the result of being hurt in the past, and it’s totally understandable. It’s still not healthy.

Sure, this could be good for a time of healing, and reflection. However, never stepping back out of that hard shell will ultimately stifle your experience in life.

Healthy Boundaries in Intimacy

These people value their own thoughts and opinions, while also being open to others.

They share pieces of their life, and look for others to share in return, creating an evened-out give-and-take of vulnerability and deepening of the connection.

They’ve probably thought about about what and how much they’re willing to share with “just anyone,” and what they prefer to keep to themselves until they know people better, and they stick to those personal boundaries, even under pressure, or when they REALLY want someone to like them.

They realize that sharing too much, too fast can overburden and stress others, leaving them in an awkward and uncomfortable position.

They also protect their own well-being by being clear when they don’t want to be involved. This may be because they don’t currently have the bandwidth, or because they feel like it’s none of their business.

People with healthy intimacy boundaries share without expectations, and don’t feel that they MUST return any specific reaction when others share their own stories. It’s all about consent and personal investment, and they invest based on what they’re willing to offer of themselves at any given time.

What are your thoughts?

What can you add to this conversation?

Do you find yourself often in one of the not-as-healthy patterns? If so, what can you do, to make it feel more healthy to you? How could you practice healthy boundary setting and maintenance?

Did I miss anything that you feel should be added?

People Lie

People Lie

People lie to me every day. In the strangest ways. I find it fascinating.

Because I don’t just write.

I read.


Every day.

I consciously set time aside to learn about things I’m interested in and things I have no (past) interest in. I want to know more about how the world works.

I also want to more about how people work.

So, I reach out and talk to people.


Every day.

I estimated several years ago that I had talked to over 7,500 (new) people in one year.

Just talked.

Some conversations were short.

Many were not.

Some were in person. Some online online.

It’s grown since then.

This morning, alone, I’ve already answered 47 messages (email, FetLife), and I still have many more to go. 9 of them had already replied back at least once before I took a break.

I am fascinated by the human condition, and how we come to be the way we are and why we do what we do.

So, I ask questions in conversation (and obviously have conversations like this) to learn more.

What I’ve found:

People lie for all the reasons you think.

People also lie for all the reasons you’ve never thought of.

People lie about the things you’d expect.

People lie about the strangest, totally unfathomable things.

Or, replace “lie” with “act,” and it’s closer to the truth.


And so do I. And so do you.

Be we’re people. And people lie.

Offer A Hug: Be The Change You Want To See In The World

Offer A Hug!

This morning as I was poking around on my twitter, I stumbled across this tweet thread:

Offer A Hug

This is a thing. I personally grew up with a very physically affectionate mother, and touch is natural to me.

As natural as breathing.

When I meet people, I always offer a hug, instead of a handshake or basic greeting. Even in business.

Let me clear: I don’t dive in for the embrace. I give them the OPTION.

90%+ take it.

Now, as a woman, I do have an advantage of not seeming creepy to most. However, I know men who offer a hug, too.

“I’m a hugger. Do you prefer hugs or another greeting?”

Of course, not ever expecting to sexualize it helps.


YMMV. Perhaps start small.


“I’m on a mission to hug more and spread joy. You with me?”

I know it will not work for everyone with every person. When it does, though, we all benefit.

Relationship Anarchy Has The BEST Ideas!

A venn diagram with two circles overlapping. And arrow pointing to the overlap says, "The sweet spot for friendship, love, romance, sexytimes, etc."

Now, don’t get me wrong. Relationship Anarchy are not the only way to do it right, and in fact, many practitioners probably screw things up at least as much as the national average.

I’ve written before that polyamory is not for everyone. And I mean it. Some people are inclined to be monogamous, and that’s cool. Some are not. That is also cool.

It’s about finding what works best for you and your partner(s).

So, back to some of these relationship anarchy core ideas.

Unlike many might believe from just hearing the term bandied about here and there in polyamory and other circles, it’s not an “anything goes” philosophy where what you do is all about you and blind to the effect on others.

Not at all. There are commitments and love and drama and fun and… well, let be a bit more clear, and just dive into it.

Put Yourself First

One of the core tenets of relationship anarchy is to put yourself first. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that honors the needs YOU have and allows you to help others meet their needs as well.

Romance Is Not Greater Than Friendship (or vice-versa)

Yesterday, I answered a call for sources for an article about why people might want to keep developing their friendships once they have a significant other. Like that’s a question that needs to be answered.

But even is that’s a no-brainer for you as it has been for me, you might still (like I have in the past) be putting your romantic relationship first pretty much always.

Relationship anarchists allow relationships to grow based on connection, not just on the concepts of sex and romantic love. Friend may often (and continually) take precedence over some romantic or sexual lovers, and that’s OK.

It also means that doing the things with friends we might normally do for/with lovers, like having a “date” night for connection, complimenting them, and being physically (not necessarily sexually) affectionate is OK, and lifts us up with companionship.

Relationship Anarchy Examines WHY

Why this relationship? Why this step?

The default relationship pattern we see in most of our culture has been given a moniker: The Relationship Escalator, because an escalator only goes one way:

  • Meet
  • Date
  • Commit
  • Marry
  • Kids

And so on…

Relationship anarchy chooses each step, and also makes the point that it is also perfectly acceptable to step back to a previous relationship style, or sideways into another, not just go blindly forward.

What about THIS person calls me to THIS relationship style?

Set Personal Boundaries (and keep them)

Relationship anarchy is more focused on personal boundaries in relationships, rather than rules.

Healthy personal boundaries are a positive focus.

“I choose this path for me,” rather than, “You’re not allowed to do that.”

It’s finding the sweet spot (see above), and realizing that two people will never FULLY overlap, but that OK. Awesome, even. You have things you enjoy together, and things that you enjoy apart.

Recognizing that allows people to grow and thrive as individuals, even within couplehood or polyhood.

The Takeaway

Again, I’ll point out that I’m not advocating one relationship style over another.

I’m saying that some of the precepts of RA can be valuable to any relationship style, and can help you grow as a single, a couple, or a group.

Emotional Sadism/Masochism

EMOTIONAL Manipulators: Masochists & Sadists

CW: This is a piece specifically about pathologies, NOT consensual play. Yes, there are self-identified roles within kink that use these terms… that is NOT at all what I’m talking about in this piece.

Someone asked me to write on this topic.

We usually think of sadists and masochists in regards to physical pain.
But there is the emotional variety, no doubt.

How can we identify this?
How should we deal with this?
Should we simply distance ourselves from it?

This is a great topic. Very tricky one, though.

Emotional sadists share many characteristics with people whose behavior has shifted over time to get what they want from those who are less responsive to others…

And emotional masochists the same, or it could be that they are battling other issues, like depression, that mimic many of the symptoms.

So, I’ll start by saying I don’t suggest that I, or any of you (outside the few who may be licensed and practicing therapists and the like) are qualified to diagnose anyone else.

What I will say, though, is that it’s worth knowing what the signs are in these kinds of disorders and the people who exhibit them, and to recognize them quickly, so you can make a decision about allowing them into your life, or about continuing the same behaviors, if you see they apply to you.

Identifying Emotional Sadists

Emotional sadists enjoy other’s negative emotions: sadness, anger, loneliness, jealousy, insecurity, etc.

They get pleasure from others being in those states, and will seek to disrupt other’s lives to create those states in them.

A few signs someone might be an emotional sadist:

Emotional sadists continue behaviors that you have said hurt you.

This is the super-duper biggie sooooo-obvious one. You said that a particular behavior hurts you, and they continued. A lot. Some of the time, they even pile on additional pain by mocking your hurt.

Emotional sadists tell you that you are not good enough.

Remember, they love to see you sad and insecure or jealous. They will say whatever they can to get those feelings out of you. And it may not be obvious. After all these people are great at getting what they need out of your emotions. You’ll find, though, that just when you need uplifting, they’ll say something that will push you further down.

Emotional sadists will shift blame onto you, to make you apologize and feel bad about things that aren’t your fault.

Like the fact that they ran out of gas on the way to work this morning, since they drove when taking you out for dinner last night. Because your fault, duh.

And on top of that, they’ll also say things like, “I know you don’t care about my fractured toe, but I’m healing,” to suggest you should take blame for not caring enough for them to ask them a million times a day how they are doing.

Identifying Emotional Masochists

An emotional masochist not only enjoys misery, they seek it out. They derive pleasure from all the negative emotions they can feel.

And when I say pleasure, I don’t necessarily mean it makes them happy, LOL! That would ruin the emotional masochism. There is a certain satisfaction in feeling terrible. Maybe they feel like they don’t deserve to be happy, or that they need to be punished with emotion. I doubt any emotional masochist would ever admit to feeling pleasure about feeling miserable.

Emotional masochists a like dogs returning to their own vomit.

I always loved that line from the bible. SOOOOO excited I found a use for it in my writings!

That toxic person who hurt them, that they finally cut out of their life? Yeah, they picked up the phone to call, see “how they were doing, you know?”

Emotional masochists LOOK for something to go wrong.

When things are going well, they look for what could go wrong, or even manufacture things out of thin air.

Ever heard the phrase “borrow trouble”? Emotional masochists are world-class Olympians at that shit. Whatever is going right is not good enough. They are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, and usually obsessing about it, and trying on the pain for size, because they just can’t feel comfortable being happy.

Emotional masochists are often drawn to misery.

You’d think that they would be drawn to emotional sadists, and they are. However, they also tend to surround themselves whenever possible with emotional negativity, because misery loves company.

These people will seem to love you most when you are sad or angry or upset in any way, because they get to selfishly wallow in their own negativity with you.

Emotional masochists constantly put themselves in situations to feel pain.

They will start fights to show someone’s “true colors.” They will seek out cruel people who put them down. They will not stand up for themselves, but constantly complain about how they are treated. They’ll take the blame for everything, even things that not even remotely their fault, “I should have known that would happen if I was too sick to go to the party…”

How should we deal with emotional sadists and masochists?

The answer to this is going to be very individual.

So, maybe.

I’ve know an emotional masochist for most of my life. I absolutely adore them. They are an amazing person, and I would never ever want them out of my life.

I have learned to understand their behaviors, and work around them.

Luckily for me, I am not an emotional masochist, so I found that I could separate my misery from theirs. Not only did I not have to be miserable just because they were, but I’ve also been able to shake them out of it now and again, and show them a better option in certain circumstances.

So, I count that as a win.

As for emotional sadists, I’ve learned a trick where I feel less hurt if I suspect someone is trying to hurt me, or if I sense a pattern of behavior.

Probably because I lived through an abusive relationship. He was not an emotional sadist, just a bi-polar alcoholic with narcissistic tendencies and an inability to take the blame for anything.

But that’s another story.

Anyway emotional sadists’ tricks don’t work on me the way they used to, so I’m not sure that I have any in my life. There is easier prey elsewhere.

Should we simply distance ourselves from it?

Some people you’ll love, and want to find a way to keep them around, learning to work with their quirks.

Many others will deserve to be cut out of your life. If their emotional sadism or emotional masochism in turn affects you, and bring negativity to your life, you have a right to decide that it is not for you, once you recognize the pattern of behavior.

And that is the key: a pattern of behavior.

Because whether someone is an actual emotional sadist, you have a right to feel amazing around them. And even is someone is an emotional masochist, you have a right to not give in when they try to pick a fight or share misery.

But recognizing what is happening is the first step.

The First Sunday In August Is Friendship Day

1st Sunday in August is friendship Day Much of the vitality in a friendship lies in the enjoyment of similarties. ~James Hendricks

Is your kinky partner your bestie? Or is your BFF your ride-or-die event companion?

Either way, take some time to let your kinky tribe know how much you appreciate them today. *smiles*

Ask Your Friends When They Want You To Lie To Them

The words: Ask Culture V. Guess Culture

Have you ever done this?

I mean, in kink, we ask near-strangers which pronouns they want us to use, or what gets them off, but the things we assume FAR outweigh the things we get concrete information for.

On my calendar for today was a topic about “Ask” versus “Guess” cultural behavior, and as I followed my referenced links (one of my own and one to a comment on a writing that had, in turn been linked to in a comment on one of my writings), I was reminded of a conversation I was having yesterday.

Continue reading “Ask Your Friends When They Want You To Lie To Them”

Writing Prompt: Avoid False Friendship At All Costs

Avoid False Friends

“Avoid false friendship at all costs.”

I agree.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.

Stop and think about that for a few moments.

The people we surround ourselves with help us sort right from wrong, ethical from unethical, and desirable from undesirable.

So, surrounding ourselves with people who don’t like us (but pretend to) is also exposing ourselves to people who are duplicitous as a matter of course.

We are also exposing ourselves to a normal that may include other thought patterns beyond base deception.

So, yeah, avoid false friends.

But let’s take it a step beyond.

Continue reading “Writing Prompt: Avoid False Friendship At All Costs”

“I Only Add People I Know.”

Add to Friends button with Weird Al profile.

When I first joined FetLife, I only friended people that I knew. After a short period, that became people I have met in person. It felt more comfortable that way. More managed.

It felt good, and it’s a valid position to take.

I’ve changed to pretty much the opposite now over the past few years. I’m a friend whore (slut?—it’s not like anyone pays). I don’t have to really be connected at all to be open to FetLife friendship.

Someone said “I don’t think anyone with 5,000 friends here on FetLife can meaningfully connect and must be promoting something,” and I agree. That’s true.

I AM promoting myself and my projects. For sure.

Continue reading ““I Only Add People I Know.””