Setting Boundaries


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For the past year, I have been struggling to help my partner set boundaries for himself.  It seems like I have exhausted all conversations and avenues with my partner when it comes to discussing boundaries and putting them into place.  Advocating for himself is not his biggest strength, which is an issue that a lot of people have.  How do we speak up for ourselves and keep the integrity of our relationship(s) intact?

I think it is important to look at boundaries as a set of rules that can help enhance any relationship.  It requires a lot of self-reflection to determine if you are triggering someone to behave a certain way or if you are looking the other way when they are out of line.  Ask yourself:  What are you doing to contribute to the issue in the first place?  Are you staying silent when a certain behavior is being exhibited? 


Boundaries are a clear set of rules that will help change the dynamics of your relationships and help you engage in a healthy lifestyle.  We owe it to ourselves to surround ourselves with people who love us!  I think boundaries play an integral part in helping to achieve the happy life we all want.


Talking about the need for boundaries is a tough conversation to have, and often it can get derailed by people’s reactions and explosive responses, which can be overwhelming.  Deflecting and changing the subject is often a clear sign that this person is not listening and is only interested in their feelings.  They are focusing on how this boundary is affecting them, not how their actions have made you feel.  When there is a lack of listening by the other party, it becomes difficult to continue with the actual conversation. 


It is important to stay on topic and redirect that person and make the point you were trying to make.  If you find yourself unable to redirect the person, it is okay to excuse yourself to reset or tell them that you do not feel heard.  If that does not work, then you can end the conversation and let them know that when they are ready to listen and be respectful, the two of you can sit down and try again.  That may be a bold thing to do, but in my opinion, can send the message that you are serious about setting boundaries.


Do not be discouraged if this person does not want to continue forward with the conversation.  It says more about their growth.  A much-needed break may be necessary for both parties to reflect and determine if this relationship is even worth saving. 


Where do we begin when setting boundaries?  If you have always accepted what people are willing to give you, this is new territory.  I think it is important to consider how you are being treated by others and if you base your worth on the opinion of others.  Is your identity wrapped up in how people perceive you?   Do you determine your worth based on how much time people spend with you or how often you are shown you are important?  I want to make it clear that you are not defined by others.  You are responsible for defining who you are and ask for what you want from each relationship. Below is a list of helpful ways to start determining what boundaries are necessary to engage in a healthy lifestyle.


How to Set Clear Boundaries:

        1)     Make a list of things that have caused you to distance yourself from the person (reasons why                 you do not feel safe around this person).

        2)     Reflect and determine how you contribute to the issue (staying silent, etc.)

        3)    How can you help to prevent something from happening again?  (Stop enabling, etc.)

        4)    How will you secure that you will be successful in practicing new rules of engagement? (Will                 you fall back into old patterns?)

Once you have written down your list, you can start writing down how your actions can help facilitate change to better your relationship.  For instance, if your friend exhibits a behavior that triggers dark thoughts/emotions, do you stay silent and let the situation pass?  Do you convince yourself that they will eventually change?  What can you do to be more proactive in leaving them feeling calm?   Have you explained past traumas that remind you of their present behavior that causes you to spiral down a dark path of emotions/memories?  If not, start there.  

You don’t have to relive the painful experience.  You can gently tell them that you have been guarded because when they do X, it reminds you of a painful time in your life that you are actively working on processing and are asking that they refrain from doing X around you.  You can further explain that you had not addressed it before because you thought you could manage alone but need help in doing that. 

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Boundaries are not meant to change people.  You are asking that they adjust their approach with you.  This can lead to their own self-reflection and can lead to positive experiences.  Remember this is not a back-and-forth conversation of how they are wrong, and you are right.  This is a conversation about something that makes you uncomfortable and how to be proactive in making your interaction with them better. Sometimes little adjustments around one another can create a stronger bond.  

If the issue at hand is more serious, you need to dive deeper.  You need to identify how they have truly affected you and how that is impacting your interaction with them.  You need to be concise in explaining your position and letting them know what you need to build a stronger foundation.  Every situation is different.  Most importantly, you need to determine if the relationship is worth salvaging.

Remember, it takes two to tango!  Are you willing to not only have the conversation, but follow through on not enabling or making excuses for your friends’ actions or lack of?  Will you follow through on addressing things head on?  Sometimes being the only one willing to address things has consequences.  You can be mislabeled and treated differently.  If you find yourself being kept at bay, maybe these are not your kind of people.

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Sidenote: People do not like to admit when they are wrong.  Pride can be a very destructive thing that can have irreversible consequences, but you should not shy away from addressing anyone who makes you feel inferior or unsafe.  Sometimes people are bullies.  They have spent their entire lives treating people in a disrespectful manner and getting what they want that when someone stands up to them, they revert to deflecting and lashing out causing more pain.  If they do, as painful as it is to end that relationship, the benefits of leaving an abusive situation are bountiful.  You cannot sacrifice your peace of mind for others. 

In my opinion, rules of engagement are important.  We all have our personal experiences and vastly different backgrounds that shape us.  Setting boundaries is a form of being able to coexist with people who are different.  Different is not bad, it is beautiful (unless it is toxic).

You cannot live your life bending and breaking for those who will not give you the bare minimum of respect and love.  If you are important to someone, they will engage in the relationship you want. 

We owe it to ourselves to the live happy, healthy, beautiful lives.  

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