For a long time I didn’t have any real idea what the word “boundaries” meant in terms of relationships so I certainly didn’t know how to create any healthy ones. I was too naive to know that I had the right to insist on them or how to “enforce” them for my own self-respect and protection. Because of this, I unwittingly allowed myself to be lied to, cheated on, and taken advantage of emotionally on several occasions by more than one person.
As a society, we struggle with saying “no.” I think we often feel like we’re failures if we can’t do it “all.” We feel defeated if we can’t keep a spotless home, a successful job, perfectly dressed children, a happy husband, run carpool, PTA, Bible studies and bake sales, and maintain a slim physique all the while. We are not Wonder Woman, nor does anyone expect us to be. Saying “no” can be the kindest, healthiest thing you can do for yourself.
Basic Protective Boundaries…By this, I mean saying “no” and declining a project, another activity or joining a group because your proverbial plate is already full, is wise. Overburdening yourself doesn’t help anyone. If it’s not healthy for you and your family, really consider not doing it because what purpose does it serve? Don’t run yourself into the ground by saying “yes” to everything and being mediocre when you could be fabulous and do fewer things that you can healthily handle.
Relationship Boundaries…These are vital to any and all relationships from marriage to professional to the relationships with your children and parents. I’ve observed many people allowing their boundaries to dissolve for the sake of not rocking the boat (me!). We don’t want to upset the apple cart and we want don’t want anyone to be hurt. So we accept the hurt and upset instead. Don’t sacrifice yourself on the altar of keeping the peace.
Boundaries maintain safety within relationships. By setting them and making them clear, you teach people how to treat you. They know what you won’t tolerate and it’s up to you to make sure they respect them.
What Does Overstepping Boundaries Look Like?
- Not taking “no” for an answer. When you’ve expressed your wishes and someone tries to convince you otherwise and coax you to do what you don’t want to, they’re not respecting you. They haven’t respected your word and believe if they persist, they can break you and change your mind.
- Not respecting your time. When someone is repeatedly late for a date, a phone call, a get-together (unless they have a truly legitimate excuse like children or illness, etc.) just because they figure you won’t mind, it’s time to speak up and remind them your time is valuable and they will need to be on time from here forward or that you will need to stop making dates until their schedule becomes more amenable to arriving on time. Your time is valuable too. Don’t let someone take advantage of it just because they think they can. Assuming you can do things for someone because you’re a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom or have a similar lifestyle that one may assume you’re always available, is another disrespect of your time. Help when you can but you need not be a drop-off center for the neighborhood kids simply because you’re the mom who’s home most often.
- Trying to usurp your parents. This is directed more towards teens. If a current or potential boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t respect your parents’ rules, they aren’t respecting you. If they’re aware of your curfew and try to convince you to stay out longer–that your parents are too strict, live it up because you’re a teenager–that’s blatant disrespect for your parents and it’s disregard for you because they’re clearly not concerned with the consequences you may face once you break the rules at their pleading. Put your foot down. “These are my parents’ rules and I’m going to abide by them.” This is not the type of person you want to be with. This relationship will be a blip on your life’s radar, but the relationship with your parents is lifelong.
- Stepping over the line, physically or verbally. ANY type of abuse is never acceptable. I’ve talked about types of abuse in a previous post. It is never acceptable and it crosses every boundary that shouldn’t even have to be spoken. It should be automatic that you don’t hit or belittle someone, that you don’t shove or call names.
You don’t have to feel bad about enforcing boundaries. You don’t have to do what you don’t want to do just so someone else isn’t put out. Sure, it’s okay to put yourself out on occasion. Maybe you really don’t want to go to Great Aunt Hilda’s 80th birthday party, but because it will make her happy and it’s of little inconvenience to you, you do it. That’s not an unhealthy breach. It’s a kindness. But always keeping quiet in order to keep the peace because you don’t want to speak truth to someone who is abusing your relationship and taking advantage of you, is unhealthy and hear this: it will wear away at you over time. You can stand up for yourself and still do so in love. It may be hard for the other person to hear, but if they’re not being respectful of you, they need to hear it.
Take care of yourself and look out for yourself. If you don’t, you won’t be healthy for anyone else who needs you.