It is never easy to set boundaries, especially with loved ones, but it is always necessary. If you grew up in a home that did not have boundaries, or your boundaries were not respected this can be the start of the problem, you feeling as though you do not have the right to set boundaries. As this belief continues over the years, you invite relationships into your life with people who take advantage of the fact that you do not have boundaries.
All of this has to be taken into account when you realise that you need to set boundaries in your life. By doing this you will see why it is so hard for you. Think of setting boundaries like a muscle, if a muscle does not get used then it atrophies. In order to build the muscle back up you need to perform specific exercises. Some people in your life may feel annoyed that you are trying to set boundaries because they preferred the way that things were, working in their favour. This could be:
- The parent who just turns up at your house unannounced, which you found annoying, but felt that it would be impolite to ask then to phone first.
- The friend who calls you and dumps all of their emotional baggage on you without asking how you are or seeing if it is a good time for you to talk.
- The selfish partner who you seem to do everything for and yet get nothing in return.
- Or adult children who you feel that you are doing too much for but you do not know how to break the pattern.
Stop asking why they keep doing it and ask yourself why you keep allowing it.Unknown
These are just a few examples of situations that can arise when you do not have boundaries, and the first thing that you need to do is sit and review the relationships in your life that are not working for you. The next step will be putting boundaries in place with immediate effect. This does not mean that you will immediately confront people but you can start where you feel comfortable. For example:
- To the friend who only seems to phone when they want something, and then stays on the phone for hours. You can leave the phone ringing and phone back when it is convenient for you. This is the best thing that you can do initially whilst you build up the boundary muscle, and eventually you will want to say to them “I am not in a position where I can talk about this right now”, or “Sorry to hear that it seems like you have a lot going on but I am just about to pop out so I will have to call you back”. You will find quite often that when you call back at your convenience that the emergency is over for this friend anyway. People who perpetually call to vent about their problems usually want to get things off of their chest immediately. If you stop being the dumping ground then eventually they will have to find someone else.
- To the partner who is not meeting your needs, it is likely that this has become a pattern in the relationship, and you must accept your part in allowing this to happen by not having boundaries. Write down the things that you want to say beforehand this can help you to feel confident and stay focused. When initiating the conversation with your partner, ask them if it is a good time for them to talk. When you begin to set boundaries, the temptation can be to build up the courage to confront someone and have the need to vent immediately before the moment passes. However this is not fair on the other person who was not ready. Find a good time for both of you to talk and ensure that you have your list of things that you would like to discuss. Try not to blame or moan, and rather discuss in the way that you would with a friend. If your partner is still resistant and you see no changes then you will need to decide if the relationship is right for you or if you could both see a therapist to talk things through and create better methods of communication.
- To the parent who still views you as a child and feels as though they can turn up at your house when they like and without phoning, your approach will depend on the relationship. If your parents are narcissistic or toxic it is likely that they will blow up at the fact that you are setting boundaries. If you do not feel that you can ask them to call beforehand, face to face, then send them a polite message saying that it was lovely to see them but you will need them to phone before coming in future. If they do not respect this then you may need to leave them at the door in future. Or open the door and say you are going out so they will have to come back another time.
You have to learn to say no without feeling guilty. Setting boundaries is healthy and allows you to take care of you.Anonymous Gold Child
Setting boundaries is a work in progress but once you are aware that it is something you need to work on, you can ensure that you keep your boundaries in place everyday. You cannot control any or predict how they will react to your boundaries, but that is not your concern. You only need to ensure that you keep your boundaries in place, and if people continue to disrespect them, you need to have consequences in place. That may be creating distance in the relationship, or in some cases no longer speaking to the person. You can decide what works best for you, boundaries are not selfish, they are an act of self love.