I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine, Kelsy, who was beside herself because her recent ex-boyfriend was not respecting her boundaries. She was laying them down very clearly, but he kept crossing the line. Sometimes he was stepping on the line, sometimes he was only one foot over the line. However, quite recently he was way over the line. It wasn’t like he was stalking her exactly. However he certainly wasn’t respecting her requests for space and privacy.
Every time he called when he wasn’t suppose to Kelsy would answer to tell him to stop calling. Every time he emailed just to check in she’d open it and get increasingly frustrated that he was persisting. She was seeing a therapist who told her she had to maintain her boundaries. However, it wasn’t working because he wasn’t listening.
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I’ve been there. I remember when the concept of boundaries was like a very complicated new invention to me. I could understand what they were suppose to do, but I couldn’t figure out how to work them. I loosely understood boundaries were suppose to keep me safe emotionally. However, mostly I was frustrated.
Over the years, and more then one restraining order later, I figure out the real deal about boundaries. Boundaries aren’t about other people. Boundaries are about you. It’s not about setting the rules and hoping the other person will be receptive to your plan. It IS about setting the rules and knowing you will keep them in place.
Basically the person you have to trust regarding your boundary is you and only you.
What this means to Kelsy is that she has to trust herself that she won’t budge. She will hold the line. Ex calls, she doesn’t answer. Ex emails, she doesn’t open it. Ex show’s up at work, she will call the cops. It’s about what she does, not what he does. She holds the line. She doesn’t expect him to honor her requests. If he does great. If he doesn’t, she trusts herself to hold her own boundaries.
This means you only set boundaries when you are committed enough to that you know you will honor them, yourself. You don’t set boundaries as a wish or a request. You set boundaries that mean something to you. When you make boundaries about what other people will do you give your power to that other person again. When you hold the responsibility for maintaining your boundaries yourself, you keep your personal power right where it should be.
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As for Kelsy she decided to change her email address and cell phone number. Extreme? Maybe, but it’s making it easier for her to hold the line herself. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. However, it’s been three days since she’s heard from him and she reports feeling stronger, which is a good example of boundaries working the way they are suppose to.
Lisa Hayes C.Ht. is the author of the book, How to Escape from Relationship Hell. She is also the host of The Relationship RX Show. For more information and resources about marriage and relationships visit www.escapefromrelationshiphell.com or subscribe to her FREE newsletter Relationship RX.