Setting Boundaries in Relationships
Perhaps you can relate to trying to establish a boundary and then it gets crossed, which puts you in a position of needing to respond. As a reformed "Nice Guy" I believe I have more examples of this than I can even remember. I would put the value of preserving the relationship before my values and needs. The result would be an inability to respond appropriately when my boundaries were crossed. It also meant that I wasn't even certain of what my boundaries actually were.
I love this simple definition of boundaries. A boundary is what I want or what I don't want. I grew up with an alcoholic Mother who would often cross boundaries. The situation that comes to mind is that she would often come into my room without permission. I would vocalize what I wanted and the boundary would be ignored. This would create a real sense of powerless and internal struggle. In hindsight this behaviour was quite inappropriate. That being said, what is interesting is that as an adult in a relationship, I would have an opportunity to choose to leave if that was the only way to get my needs met. In my earlier years I didn't feel like I had that choice. We need our parents so that we can have a roof over our head and food on the table. When someone is consistently ignoring a boundary it puts us in a position where we need to choose whether we can stay in relationship with that person. This is what can create a struggle.
“Having healthy boundaries not only requires being able to say “no”, but also being willing and able to enforce that “no” when necessary.”
We are all wired for connection and some of us rely on or depend on that connection in deep ways. So disconnecting from someone in a relationship can feel like you are cutting a life line. This dynamic can make it really difficult to establish and hold boundaries. The truth is that if we are in an abusive situation we owe it to ourselves to find a way to leave. Even though this can be deeply challenging, nothing is more important than our personal safety.
I believe that in order to be able to set boundaries in our life we need to get to know ourselves. We need to clarify what is important to us, what our needs are, what we want and what we don't want. If we grew up in inconsistent situations and boundaries weren't set, we may find it confusing to know what our boundaries are.
As a starting place a useful exercise would be to explore what is important to you. The place to look is the things we must have in our lives. Our needs and our values. Your needs will be unique and different than my needs. We may also have needs in common. As a basic starting place I can share a list of sample values (link below).You can start by circling our highlighting the values that speak to your heart. Then you can narrow it down to your Top 5. Once you have a sense of what is important in your life, you will have something clear that you can say yes or no to. And remember when you say "no" to someone else you are saying "yes" to yourself! There is much to explore with this topic and boundaries impact many areas and aspects of our lives.
“People learn how to treat us based on how they see us treating ourselves. If I don't put value on my work or my time, neither will the person I'm helping. Boundaries are a function of self respect and self love.”