Two Effective Methods Of Setting Boundaries & Resolving Conflict With Loved Ones In Close Quarters

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Two Effective Methods Of Setting Boundaries & Resolving Conflict With Loved Ones In Close Quarters

If you're home alone, you might be lonely. But if you're home with your family, you might be ready to pull out your hair!

You may already wonder how to resolve conflict in your home, or if setting boundaries will prevent future fights and make things better.

As the shelter in place and stay at home orders affect more and more of us around the world, we're all having to adapt to new routines and habits.

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The problem is that emotional overwhelm can stress your connections to others, particularly when those connections are 24/7.

If there were underlying issues in your relationships beforehand, they will surely come to the surface now that you're in the same physical space for extended periods of time.

Since the global pandemic, abuse and arguments in the home have led to a staggering increase in calls for help to police and domestic violence hotlines all around the world.

While you might never cross the line into family violence, many families will experience an increase in conflict.

Since it’s not possible to leave when you need to cool off, you must know how to deal with conflict in ways that de-escalate contentious situations and also create more understanding and connection.

You no longer have the luxury of avoiding the conflicts that have been simmering just under the surface for years. A lot of it's going to come out now, and that’s why you need tools that work to heal the hurt and connect your hearts.

Here are 2 effective methods of setting boundaries and resolving conflicts with loved ones in close quarters.

1. Set healthy boundaries.

In order to stop conflict before it starts, try using this five-step method to set up healthy boundaries.


If your loved one expresses a desire or emotion that you find challenging, remember they're probably feeling very vulnerable in that moment. They might be asking for or sharing something that’s scary for them.

Show understanding by saying affirming things such as: "I understand…" or "I've felt similarly before."

It's important to validate their feelings even when you don’t agree with them. The key is to let them know you understand their perspective.


One of the most powerful ways you can ensure your relationship thrives is to express appreciation for your partner.

It’s a good habit to appreciate five times more than you criticize. And this is especially true when you need to assert a boundary with a loved one.

By expressing genuine appreciation, you help your loved one to feel less threatened or defensive. And you shift your outlook in a more positive and constructive direction.

When you want to assert a boundary with someone you love, be sure to tell them how much you appreciate their desire to share with you. By bringing their feelings and desires to you, they are trying to connect with you.


Can assertion really be a tool for intimacy? Yes, if you can learn how to assert yourself without needing to control or convince others that you’re right.

A lot of us associate the word “no” with feelings of rejection and abandonment. But when you say “no” with your heart open, it allows you to say "yes" to something else.

You'd probably rather avoid conflict. But if "settling" becomes a habit and conflict avoidance becomes chronic, it will dull your senses and can lead to addictions such as overeating, smoking, drinking, etc.

It can also lead to depression as you internalize your anger and frustration instead of learning how to assert your desires and feelings in a positive way.

If you can assert your boundaries from a place of empathy for both yourself and your loved one, your partner won’t feel shut down and may feel emboldened to assert what’s important to them.


Once you have asserted yourself, don’t stop there! Take the lead and suggest something you'll both enjoy.

This is shifting your “no” to one thing to a “yes” to something else. This is your opportunity to express your desires. Do this without guilt, shame, or buried resentments to manipulate them into doing this.

An effective way to enlist partnership is to bring your joy to your loved one. If you make it about how much you would love to share this with them, they're more likely to be attracted to your suggestion.

Of course, they have every right to say they don’t like your idea either.


Too often when the suggestions proposed do not appeal to either person, there's a temptation to assume the situation is unresolvable.

You've been taught to think in polarized terms. You might assume that “if you don’t like my idea and I don’t like your idea, there's no common ground.”

Nothing could be further from the truth!

This is the place where partnership really kicks in! This is when both people can join together to co-create a third possibility. How do you find what would work for both of you?

Discovering that can be a lot of fun, but it can also be triggering if you've grown up believing that life is a win/lose proposition.

Although a lot of us have that conditioning, this is a critical moment to unlearn that belief and replace it with something more life-affirming.

Partnership means co-creating a better solution than either of you could have created on your own.

If you feel yourself digging in to insist that your way is best, ask yourself — what’s the price you’ll pay for being right?

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2. Take a timeout.

Of course there will always be times when your best efforts at communication and connection break down.

For those times, it's essential that you have an agreed-upon format to keep things from escalating in the wrong direction. Taking timeouts is a tool that can save you and your loved ones a lot of suffering.

First, let’s address two of the most common mistakes people make when taking a timeout. Not many people actually know how to take a timeout that works.

A timeout does not mean walking away without saying a word, disappearing for an indeterminate amount of time, and then reappearing without saying a word.

Not surprisingly, most people experience these behaviors as a way of controlling the conversation.

While leaving before you say or do something destructive is preferable to staying in the conversation until you lose your cool, it does nothing to preserve or repair the connection.

Another mistake is taking timeouts and then failing to follow up on the topic you took a timeout on.

Needless to say, this version of timeouts, although popular, does not work to build trust or intimacy. Instead, it fosters ever-increasing levels of frustration and distrust.

A timeout has very specific stages to it and if you omit even one of those, your partner will probably develop contempt for your “timeouts,” likely leading to even more conflict and emotional disconnect in the long run.

Here are 6 specific steps to take to maximize the benefit of "timeouts" in conflict resolution.

1. Agree to the terms of your timeouts before conflict arises.

The person who calls a timeout is responsible for re-establishing contact.

Agree to a maximum time (two hours, for instance) before you will at least text to say you're still not available to speak.

2. When your partner calls a timeout, resist the temptation to say more.

Honor the time out. Your loved one needs to stop before things get out of hand.

You both should step away and engage in self-nurturing. Plan ahead what to do during a timeout to care for and soothe yourself.

3. When you call a timeout, do so calmly and without explanation.

Simply say, “I'm taking a timeout.” And then walk away so you can regain perspective and calm down.

4. Use the timeout to reflect on your feelings.

This isn't a time to take the other person’s inventory and call your friends to complain. Nor is this a time to use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain.

Get in touch with your feelings by writing them down, crying them out, etc. Of course your loved one made mistakes, but so did you, in all likelihood. Focus on the one thing you can change: you.

5. After timeouts, agree to a time when you'll resume the issue(s).

Don't take timeouts simply to stop a conversation you don’t wish to engage in.

Follow up and follow through. Your connection deserves the respect of having closure, so work toward that common goal.

It's crucial to say when you're ready to speak again and resume the conversation after you called a timeout. This will make it clear that timeouts are not being used to control or avoid conversations.

6. Practice timeouts when everything's going well.

Under stress, the brain reverts to the reptilian brain (amygdala) which has no access to the prefrontal cortex. This primitive part of the brain can only perform fight or flight, so when in conflict, that's what you'll do.

But if you persistently take timeouts when you're not upset, you'll guide your actions when you are.

This is why soldiers and emergency personnel practice maneuvers repeatedly — because without practice, their brains will revert to fight or flight under duress, and the necessary actions won't happen.

For this reason, practice your timeouts when things are going well.

It will serve you well when you actually need to take a timeout!

RELATED: 5 Ways Couples Can Fight Way Less & Have A More Satisfying Relationship

Veronica Monet ACS, CAM, is a relationship coach and sexologist who wants to help improve your relationships. Visit her website for more information on how she can help.