Can you relate?
You are human. You have been hurt. The fear is going to happen. Your brain is just trying to keep you safe.
One of the best ways you can quiet your fear is to learn how to set proper boundaries in your relationships.
Boundaries can be confusing. Sometimes we aren’t even actually sure what a boundary is. But in order for them to be effective, we must understand what they are so that we don’t run around setting unnecessary and ineffective boundaries around everything.
Let’s start with what a boundary is NOT:
Saying NO is not setting a boundary.
Telling your Ex-husband NO when he asks if he can have the kids on your weekend is not setting a boundary. Remember, if you don’t say NO you are choosing to let him have the kids, so make sure you are being honest with yourself. You can not have resentment towards him because you chose not to say NO.
Standing up for yourself is NOT setting a boundary.
This is not really necessary in the way we often think of it. Standing up for yourself usually really means you are defending yourself. Often we feel the need to defend ourselves when we feel threatened by what we perceive someone is thinking about us. It is ok for people to be wrong about you. You don’t have to get defensive or “stick up for yourself.” You know the truth about you.
What is a boundary?
Boundaries are limited to emotional and physical lines. They are appropriate when you need to protect yourself from violations.
The need to set physical boundaries is often much easier to see then the need for emotional ones. So I am going to focus on emotional boundaries.
They are like property lines. Unless someone comes into your your yard or house, there is no violation.
If your new stepdaughter starts yelling at you, you can calmly say, “When you yell at me, I will walk out of the room.”
Notice it does not tell her what she should do, you are only stating what you will do.
You do not have control over her. You are the only person you have control over. So boundaries are always about what you will do, not what the other person should do.
When you have clearly defined what you will do in a situation, then if that person violates the boundary, it does not become about them, it becomes about what you will do.
Emotional boundaries can be stated out loud or just clearly defined in your head. In the above instance, it is appropriate to state it out loud so they what your result will be. Other times, if people are talking about things that you deem inappropriate, you may have already set a boundary around this and you just walk away.
Your feelings about that person can remain intact (meaning you get to be in charge of how you feel about them without allowing their actions to dictate how you will feel). This becomes the whole reason for a boundary! You being in charge of your own feelings. This is how you keep yourself safe.
A few things to remember that are very important:
- If you don’t follow through with your boundary request, you are making an idle threat and it will not be effective then or in the future.
- You can ask people to stop, but if they don’t, your boundary is about what YOU will do, not what they do.
This is a series of blog posts about strengthening relationships. Other posts about relationships this month include: