When you are in a relationship with a healthy person, boundaries are welcomed. That person wants to know what your boundaries and triggers are. They genuinely care about what bothers you and they want to work with you to make sure boundaries aren’t crossed.
They understand that boundaries aren’t about punishment. It’s about showing them who you are really and what you are okay with. It is you being vulnerable by laying out your feelings. It’s you not only protecting yourself, but the relationship as well. And a healthy person will see this.
When someone reacts with anger and hostility to you setting a boundary, one of two things are happening. One, they either do not respect you or your boundary. Or two, they are pushing the envelope to see how easily you will fold on your boundary – which also a sign of a lack of respect.
When we have the conversation and set the boundary, we need to prepare ourselves for the consequence of doing so. And we should make peace with it in our own minds beforehand. We need to remind ourselves that sometimes when healthy people set boundaries, it really pisses off an unhealthy person. And you know what? That’s okay. Stick to your boundaries.
Here are some things to remember when determining boundaries:
1.) Listen to your gut and pay attention to the red flags you are seeing. We tend to be super empathetic not wanting to call someone out on something or embarrass them. Or we deny our own feelings, compromising ourselves, because we don’t want to be a “problem”. Get in tune with what you are feeling. We often don’t even realize that we need to set a boundary until after we are upset by something.
2.) Define to yourself what is really bothering you about the situation. What boundary was crossed? Do you feel manipulated or disrespected?
3.) What do you want to do about it? Really think about it. If you don’t like it when your mother-in-law tells you how you’re not raising your children properly, what do you want to do about it? Maybe your boundary looks like no longer having conversations with her about parenting.
4.) When having the conversation about the boundary be crystal clear about how you feel and approach the conversation with honesty and compassion. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Clearly state the boundary at the end of the conversation to make sure everyone is on the same page. The conversation for the example above could look like this: “You know mom, I really appreciate you wanting to give me advice on how to raise our kids – I know it comes from a good place. But when you bring these things up, I feel like my judgment as a mother is being questioned. So from now on, when you bring it up, I’m going to change the topic because I will no longer discuss parenting with you.”
5.) Be willing to accept the consequences of what might happen and move on. Be prepared for resistance and someone possibly ending the relationship. I know this sounds extreme, but I’ve seen this happen many times.
6.) Remember that everyone is different, and every relationship is different. Boundaries you may have with one person may not exist with another person because the relationship is different – and that’s completely okay.