One of the most vital components to creating a happy, healthy, and fulfilling relationship is to become a master at setting relationship boundaries. In simple terms, boundaries are the things that keep us separate from the people we're close to. The boundaries are what set where you end and the other person begins.
Depending on your upbringing and past experience, setting boundaries in relationships may be easier or more difficult for you. Often if we have had a parent, guardian, or other people in our life during childhood who didn't know how to set boundaries for us, then we have to learn how to set boundaries in relationships. We have to learn when it is the proper time to set a boundary and how to find a balance between boundaries that are too weak or too strong.
Though learning how to properly and effectively set boundaries can be a long process, here are basic steps that you can begin following today in order to begin setting boundaries in your relationships.
Step 1: Recognize and acknowledge your own feelings. In order to set effective boundaries, we must be able to know what it is that we are feeling. Did this person's critical comment make me feel bad? Is this person making me feel overwhelmed or drained? Being able to do this is absolutely vital because, by being able to check in with ourselves and recognize how we are feeling, we have separated ourselves from the other person.
The problem with many of us who have weak or leaky boundaries in relationships is that we become so enmeshed, so encompassed by the other person’s "stuff" that we have no idea what it is that we ourselves are feeling. By taking the time to break away, reflect, and really check in with yourself, you are consciously making note of the distinct difference between yourself and the other person.
Step 2: Recognize how your boundaries have been crossed. So now, looking at your feelings, stop and recognize how your boundaries have been crossed. Is this person always asking to borrow money from you but never paying you back? Do you find yourself losing sleep by always answering your friend's texts or phone calls late at night? Is this person always making critical comments towards you? Does this person always seem to have problems that you have to help them with? Do you have a client who always shows up late for your appointments?
Step 3: Recognize how you need to set your boundary. Once you can recognize what it is that is causing you to feel overwhelmed, drained, or simply bad, then decide what it is that you need to say to this person. If the person is always borrowing money from you but never paying you back, then you may need to tell them that you are not letting them borrow anything else until you get paid back what you've already given. If it's a friend who is always texting or calling you late at night when you're trying to sleep, then maybe you want to tell them that you can't talk after 11 because you need to sleep—or you can just stop answering all together. If someone keeps making critical comments towards you, then you can tell them that you don't appreciate being spoken to that way and that you will not accept it. If it's a friend who seems to always have problems for you to listen to and it's draining your energy, then it's probably time to be sure you say something like, "Hey, I know you're in pain, but I have some of my own stuff to do right now."
Step 4: Get grounded. There are two things that often happen when boundaries in relationships have been weak:
- There is backlash from the other person, and
- You feel guilty.
For this reason, it is extremely important to get grounded within yourself. You can do this by simply taking the time to do some breath work, meditation, or to tune in with your body. Performing a grounding meditation by envisioning a cord going down from your root chakra and deep into the earth can be beneficial. Also, remember that your emotions are valid. For that reason, you are not wrong for setting your boundaries. In fact, you are taking care of yourself, which is something that we should all do above all else.
Step 5: Voice it! Make your boundary known—communicate it to the other person. Keep in mind that if there is any backlash from the other person, or if they want to argue, then it may be best to simply just walk away and focus on taking care of yourself.
The reality is that if there is a backlash, then the other person isn't respecting your boundary. If we acknowledge their disrespect by arguing with them, then we are giving them what they want: a weakness of our boundary. By acknowledging and focusing on their backlash we are then subconsciously telling them that we are not grounded within ourselves and confident in what we want.
Step 6: Take care of yourself. If setting the boundary brought up any backlash or feelings of guilt, then be sure to take care of yourself. Go for a walk, exercise, be out in nature, etc. Do something to help yourself get re-centered and don't spend too much (or any) energy focusing on what happened.
Even if someone else wants to talk about the "drama" of what happened, then just don't go there. Tell them that you don't want to talk about it, because when we do that we keep the stress and fear-based thinking alive.
Take action now!
Where do you need to set boundaries in your relationships? Have you been saying yes when you need to say no? In what areas of your life have you been feeling drained? Share below!
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