Tag Archives: boundary

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Boundaries and Relationships Intersect

Boundaries in any relationship — whether between family or a romantic partnership— are extremely important to maintaining a healthy, happy relationship. That being said, there are logical and illogical ways to set a boundary. 

boundary graph

Let’s talk about Joan (a fictional client). Joan is very close with her father who lives in another state. They have always talked frequently, sharing news of their days. Joan recently got married and is beginning her life with her significant other, but Joan’s dad’s (we will call him Joe) calls are getting more frequent and are beginning to cause issues in Joan’s marriage. Joe is calling Joan every morning before she goes to work, waking up others in the home, and every evening. He is hurt when she doesn’t answer and begins to worry if she is ok—sending her multiple texts and calling repeatedly. Joe just loves his daughter and misses her, but Joan is feeling smothered and overwhelmed. She is trying to build a new life with her husband and her dad is making it difficult for her to do that. How should she approach this sticky situation?

Joan could call her dad upset and ask him to stop calling her and stop texting her nonstop. She could ignore her feelings and struggles and keep letting the calls come in, while building resentment against her father. These are opposite sides of the spectrum. One is establishing a boundary but in a major, and hurtful, way. The other is failing to set a boundary at all further harming the relationship. 

A more logical way to establish a boundary would be to come up with a happy middle ground. She can explain to her dad that the frequent calls are playing a toll on her marriage and instead offer to call her dad on her way home from work a few times a week. She can explain to him that while she still loves him dearly, and he will always be her dad, she also needs to work on her marriage. By setting a boundary like this she is maintaining the integrity of the relationship. Her dad might be disappointed at this news, but he will likely be able to get over it and understand.

Boundaries are all about protecting yourself, your relationships, and living your happiest, healthiest life. If you need help with establishing a boundary, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who can help to guide you. 

Grudges vs boundaries: the powerful difference

Grudges and boundaries can often be perceived as similar — but they are so very different from each other. 

Grudges are a form of punishment. It is constantly holding something over another person’s head, not letting them recover for a past failure, it is not accepting that people can grow and learn from mistakes. Grudges are toxic to relationships. We are all human beings, meaning we are all going to do things that others are not ok with at some point or another. When a grudge is established it leaves the other person stuck, unable to recover from that action or actions that injured the relationship in the past. It is a lack of forgiveness and acceptance. 

Boundaries are an act of protection for your personal self and the relationship you are in. They are away to help keep the relationship on a positive track so neither partner gets burnt out or overwhelmed by past issues. It involves growth, acceptance, open communication, understanding, and in some cases compromise.

Boundaries are about love

Grudges often lead to burn out because they are established by internalizing strong feelings and not determining solutions to move forward. It is like stepping on a piece of gum and not being able to move forward without that bump on the bottom of your shoe. A boundary is wiping that gum off, accepting the evidence that it was once there, but moving forward without that bump. 

Maybe your partner forgot about an important dinner which left you feeling upset and hurt, a grudge would mean you are always bringing it up every time a dinner is planned and you are overwhelmed with worry that he/she/they will forget. A boundary would be telling your significant other how upset you were, finding out what happened to them and why they missed the dinner and then figuring out how to make sure it won’t happen again. Maybe they need a morning reminder, or an alarm on their phone, whatever it is work together to solve the issue rather than tucking it all away.  Grow and learn together and you will be making your relationship stronger.

You Can Love Someone and Still Have Boundaries

Just because you are in love does not mean you have to let everything go. Love can—and should—involve boundaries. You and your significant other are still two separate people with different needs, wants, expectations. Boundaries are healthy.

Boundaries often have a bad rap. They can be perceived as pushing away the other or creating distance. That is not the case at all, the healthiest of relationships have boundaries. A relationship isn’t a free ride in another person’s life. It does not entitle one person to treat another a certain way. Establishing boundaries can very much be an act of love. It is a way to get deeper in the intimate details of your significant other’s personality and needs. It is opening the doors of communication and being honest with each other. 

Boundaries are a way to love yourself

Boundaries are a way to love yourself, to make strides in your life to take care of you and what you need, and they are also a way of loving another. There is the saying “I love you too much to let you act like that.” Think about your children and when you have had to punish them for hitting a sibling, or stealing from a friend— you are establishing a boundary by telling them you are not ok with that. Similar things can happen in a relationship—maybe you have a partner who frequently takes part in unhealthy behaviors or is short-tempered. By communicating with your partner that these behaviors are things you are not comfortable with and you will not stand by and be part of them then you are doing some good for yourself and for your partner. You want to see them live their best life. 

We all have limits

We need each other but we all also have limits. A boundary can be as simple as establishing a time to be by yourself. Maybe after work you are stressed and just need to unwind in quiet, so you lock yourself away to watch a few minutes of TV or read a book and you ask your partner to leave you be during that time. Maybe you have a longstanding tradition with a family member that is special and your significant other suddenly wants to be part of it, and you explain that this is something that is important to you and this family member—a tradition of sorts. Maybe its a food that you don’t like and you ask your partner not to prepare that item for you personally any more. Or maybe it is down to how your clothes are folded or a chore around the house is performed. If you are not ok with it, it is ok to tell the other person to leave it be and you will take care of it. 

When setting boundaries with your partner be calm, open your heart and mind to what they have to say, and establish greater respect for both yourself and him/her/they. When we keep our mouths shut and just “go with it,” or try to be “above” by not saying anything we are quietly building up resentment that will eventually explode into an argument or even the end of the relationship. Before things get to that point, speak your concerns, let your partner know what you need and acknowledge that they also have needs. 

What are some boundaries you have set with a partner?

This word makes you more passive

As I have gained more roles in my life—mother, wife, daughter, and business owner—I have had to take more charge of my time. I have become more direct and less passive in the way I communicate. I am setting stronger, healthier boundaries. But, it took some time and some changes in the language I was using to really be successful with those boundaries. 

I used to say “Because of xyz, I am unable to..” The use of the word “unable” made myself seem small. It came off as I am not the one making decisions for my own life. Instead, I now say “xyz happens, therefore I will not…” Such as “I spend time with family on Friday nights, so I will not be attending your event” or “I have my money in somewhere, I will not loan it out now.” 

Forget the word “unable”

Forget the word “unable.” Remove it from your vocabulary. You are not small. You are the decision-maker in your life. You make your own rules. Don’t let other people think they can have control over your plans, your money, your life. You are the master of your world. Take charge in the language you use, so you don’t come off as passive.

I hear from clients all the time that they feel stretched too thin, they are afraid to disappoint people by standing up for themselves. This is why we tend to use the more passive language, but that can have a counterproductive effect. By not being direct in our language it can be perceived that the boundary we are setting is not really important. That it can easily be changed. Using direct language makes it more concrete. It is setting a rule and showing people you won’t budge, and you know what everything will be fine. You will feel more in control and more relaxed and people will grow to respect those boundaries you have set. 

Tantrum Tips: Maintaining healthy boundaries and trust for happier kids and parents

The other day I was at the supermarket and I saw a mom who was having a hard time cajoling her five-year-old son to leave. She said, “we can get a toy next time.” Her son, unamused, continued to cry and wouldn’t leave. What I saw this mom do is something I also did early on in my parenting career. I said “next time” and then the next time I also said “next time.” By doing that I had set the stage for my kids to not trust what I was saying. They stopped believing me. 

As parents, we want to end the tantrums as swiftly and smoothly as possible, but we have to be careful of what we are doing and saying and what these things are teaching our children. Rather than trying to talk a child down by using special treats or privileges as a means of persuasion, and thus rewarding them for bad behavior, we need to take a different approach. After all, tantrums are a normal part of being a child. It is their way of expressing their emotions, and there are things we can do to help them process.

Maintaining boundaries and trust

Here are some things that can help to maintain healthy boundaries and trust between you and your child during tantrum moments:

1.)Set expectations: Before you go into the store calmly explain to your child that you will be picking up a few things for dinner and that will be all. That way they are not going into the store expecting to leave with a treat.

2.)Speak calmly: Look at your child and talk to them as calmly as you can (I know this can be very hard when you are frustrated). Explain to them that you understand they are upset, but this is not the way to get what they want. Offer to take a moment to sit down with them and calm down.

3.)Avoid rewards: Rewarding your child for leaving the store, or doing tasks they should be doing anyway is only encouraging more tantrums. It seems like an easy fix but they realize if they act this way they might eventually get what they want. Let them know this is not acceptable. Set a healthy boundary.

4.)Keep your word: Don’t promise things you can’t produce. You need to keep trust with your child in order to maintain a healthy relationship. If you have no intention of getting them a toy next time, then don’t promise it. If you can’t stick to your wills about taking away screen time for a day, then don’t make it a punishment. They will learn to not trust what you say.

5.)Quality time: Kids need quality together time. They don’t need rooms of toys or plate fulls of candy. They need game night, or books before bed. They need time with you to get 100 percent of the attention. Quality over quantity. It only has to be a few minutes a day, but make it meaningful. Chances are if your child has a mutual respect for you, they won’t feel the need for all the tantrums.