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The How of Boundaries

Over the past few weeks I have been discussing boundaries. This is the 3rd part in a series on boundaries, two weeks ago I talked about the ways of setting boundaries, last week we discussed when to set boundaries and a today we are discussing how to set boundaries.

First off a quick visual. The image below is a healthy relationship with healthy boundaries. You and the other are whole containers. Each responsible for expressing and dealing with their individual Thoughts, Feelings, Wants and Needs. The wonderful thing is when we have a complete boundaries and we are able to express ourselves we don’t have to ‘take care of’ the other person.

Healthy Boundaries:

So for example, you decide you don’t want to go to happy hour with with a friend of your mine anymore.   Nothing against your friend, but you end up drinking too much and you want to spend Friday nights with your husband.  In option A. when you tell your friend, she can be disappointed, she can get angry and frustrated, she can have any emotions she wants and you know you are not responsible for fixing her.  You are allowed to say no that happy hour doesn’t work in your schedule anymore.  And she is allowed to feel whatever she wants.  Because you know she will either process it in her own time and come to an understanding or she will come to you and ask for clarification.  She has every right to come back and ask to do lunch once a week and you can both compromise on a better/different time.

The problem happens when that same scenario takes place with no boundaries. So the picture below depicts 2 people who don’t have a complete set of boundaries. There is no beginning and no end so you feel completely responsible for the other person and vice versa. So if we take the situation above and you tell your friend you don’t want to come to happy hour any more. First off you will probably stew and stew and stew about it because you know she will be angry, and mad and you have to make it ok.  Because in this model you are responsible for her feelings too.  So if you do tell her then you will spend all your time explaining why and justifying your decision and making sure she is ok.

No Boundaries:

There isn’t a step by step guide to setting boundaries. However, once you understand the model of healthy boundaries it makes the how so much easier.  When you can stand in your strength, know that you don’t have to justify your decisions and give the other person a chance to be responsible for their own ‘stuff’ boundary setting becomes much easier.

To set healthy boundaries you have to know your needs, clearly speak them, know that you don’t have to justify them and be willing to negotiate (side note: if you are setting firm boundaries to change a toxic relationship negotiating might not work)

I would love to hear from you. What do you struggle with when it comes to boundaries?  How have you grown in your own boundary setting?

2 Responses to The How of Boundaries

  1. Karon Mertens says:

    It takes practice, practice, practice to not own someone else’s feelings and/or responses. Once the boundary has been set and put into place it is quite liberating and a joy to move forward to fulfilling our own needs.

  2. Certainly does take practice! It is a challenging practice but as you said oh so freeing.