She came too close.

She presumed too much.

She took what she needed.

I’ve spent my life trying to keep her happy, making sure I’m giving her what she needs. There’s something in my base-code, an algorithm that says her emotional well-being is my responsibility.

So when she’s unhappy, my code tells me it’s my fault. And I must comply with her demands.

She’s not a specific woman, she’s woman, and when she calls, I must answer.

It’s taken me years, but slowly, through much work, with much help I’ve learned to see underneath my programming. And underneath it exists a line. A demarcation between she and I.

I don’t know precisely where the line comes from. But if I pay attention, the feeling of its violation is unmistakable, like an enemy coming into home territory uninvited.

And I’ve learned that the line is mine. One to be spoken.

“No. I don’t want to give you what you want. Back you go.”

The violation of boundaries is a universal human experience. It’s the inevitable consequence of the fact that we are separate, and yet yearn for union.

We violate these lines in different ways.

He is an expert at overt violation, rough and physical, he just grabs what he wants, brutally shoving dissent out of the way. She is an expert at covert violation – subtle and emotional – she schemes and manipulates, sliding past dissent unseen.

It took me years to notice that she violates too. I thought it was just him. That’s what I’d been told, but it wasn’t true.

“You always do this.” She says in that voice that cuts right through into my shame. “I hate that you don’t think of me first. I’m wondering if you actually love me at all! If you did, you’d give me what I want.”

The average man is not a good player in this emotional game. He thinks in simple terms. He’s clumsy in the emotional world and crumbles in the face of her power.


He drops his head, beaten by her shaming, he tells her he’ll do better next time, and be a good boy.

Or he desperately fights back, closes his heart, refuses to swallow the shame, pushes it back at her with force and aggression, defending himself behind his shields and armour.

Both tactics end up in the same place. The place where we’re alone, and hurt and ashamed. Both of us. All of us.

The alternative is to draw the line.

It’s there, waiting for you to take its implicit truth, and create its explicit form. The line is real. Its existence is the very definition of self-love.


But don’t forget to keep your heart open. Maybe she doesn’t know where your line is. Maybe you’ve never told her before. Maybe you’ve never told yourself before, and the line is just newly acknowledged.

Tell her with love.

“No sweetie.”

The line is drawn.

And then, magically, I can see her as if for the first time. The woman in my head dissolves – the one who always does this to me – and the woman in front of me appears, real and human.

There she is, the woman on the other side of the boundary.

She’s beautiful. I can see that now. Now that I don’t have to desperately defend against her attack.

I see her now as her. I see her unique being, her good intentions, her imperfect actions. She’s like me, but different.

And now I’ve shown her where she can’t cross, I have all the space in the world from which to love her.


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Ewan Townhead

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