How To Set Appropriate Boundaries

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How To Set Appropriate Boundaries
Once you identify your non-negotiables, you have to be willing to set--and stick to--your boundaries

One of the most important steps on any Dignity Dater's journey is setting appropriate boundaries. For those of you who have that covered, keep in mind that I'm not just speaking about telling a guy "no" when it comes to sex or asking that he be on time. I'm talking about the types of boundaries that set your stomach a-twitter simply by envisioning the conversation in which you have to say "no," face the retaliation, see the look of dismay or have the argument that ensues once you draw the line. What’s more, consider if these boundary-setting conversations may need to start happening in your life with colleagues, your boss, family members and even friends.

To help with this delicate concept, I'm sharing five boundaries that are mostly non-negotiable. In addition to my own list of critical boundaries to set based on several Dating With Dignity High Potential Dating Concepts, I'm also gleaning insights from America’s Numero Uno expert on setting boundaries: author Melody Beattie, who released her recent book The New Codependency in 2009.

1. We are done saying "yes" when we mean "no." In "Breaking Free From Your Romantic Rut," we work diligently to create lists of that to which we will no longer say "yes." Then, as a result, we find what it means we will say "yes" to--for example, "I am saying no to getting merely crumbs of attention from men" and "I am saying yes to believing that my needs are important." Get the picture? In setting effective boundaries, we stop saying yes when we really, truly mean "no." Often, words such as "it’s fine" or "whatever" escaping from behind your lips in whispered disgust may be a sign you are not setting or enforcing this boundary.

2. We say what we feel, even if people are not ready to hear it. Living in fear that the listener can’t handle "the truth" stymies our growth, consciousness, self-respect and dignity. It is imperative that we learn not to edit our thoughts and feelings based on a feared reaction from the listener. Take my client Sue, for example. (Her name has been changed.) Sue decided to set a boundary with her sibling and tell him she could no longer be in the relationship unless they discuss their mutual needs and expectations. In working with Sue, she wrote me via email, saying, "I’m not sure if he will get it, but it is what I need to say." Bravo, Sue! Sue set a boundary expressing her dissatisfaction in the give/take ratio of her relationship and was able to send this email without too much regard for how it might be perceived. What’s more, she was willing to live with the consequence of stating her needs.

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