I recently had an extensive conversation about personal boundaries in relationships with a client. She really wanted to have clear boundaries set for when she was dating, and she wanted her potential partners to understand and know their own personal boundaries.
It was interesting because she referred to things such as not staying up texting past her bedtime, not ghosting/ignoring her, communicating with her regularly, etc.
Sounds reasonable, I like those things too!
However, I wanted to help provide definitions and explanation for what boundaries are!
First off, time for an analogy:
Boundaries are like putting on sunscreen. You cannot expect the sun to control its rays, but you can control your ability to be burned by it.
Let’s break down boundaries into a simple structure:
The request: if you …
The consequence: …then I will
It is something that could violate your personal or physical space. It has nothing to do with your requests, that is a different category.
You do not control another human. You can only control you and have the right to honor your personal space, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
“If you cheat on me, then I will leave this relationship.”
“If you continue to come over unannounced, I will ask you to leave or not let you in.”
“If someone hits me, I will call the police”
“if you are late, I will wait 15 mins, then go about my day”
Also, some boundaries are not verbally shared. For instance, you do not walk into a room and announce “Hey just letting you guys know, if someone hits me, Imma call the cops!”. However, if say your mother-in-law keeps coming over unannounced, you would need to communicate the boundary.
Easy right? Not so fast….
It is simple yet, but the issue that comes with boundary setting is enforcing them. The problem that keeps coming up is it usually is with loved ones who you have connection with. You don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Or maybe sometimes you don’t feel like enforcing it because it’s fun in the moment. Such as my client staying up late texting her suitor.
Here’s somethings to consider when you are feeling awkward and apprehensive about boundaries.
- What is the boundary you want to set? Request and consequence
- What fears do you have about establishing the boundary?
- What are the benefits?
- Make a game plan: When I am faced with enforcing a boundary I will… (take a long bath after, call a friend, listen to a good podcast, do breathwork, go on a walk, etc)
It takes practice. I do want to address the common fear that comes up: If I enforce this boundary it will hurt my relationship with this person.
If you do not enforce a boundary that violates your personal space it could be detrimental to you and the relationship. You might feel bitter, resentful, and disconnected. Yes, people do at times have hurt feelings, but in the long run. It is worth it for the health of your relationship so both parties can feel safe and supported.
When you feel the urge to let a boundary violation slide, let the urge be. Feel it in your body, does your chest tighten, stomach knot, muscles tense, increased heart rate? Where do you feel it? Just notice the sensations. Then breathe through it. I sometimes recite “I can feel ___” whatever hard feeling is I am trying to suppress. Let is wash over you like waves. Go do your gameplan you created in step 4.
Be compassionate. It takes practice! You will slip up, that’s normal. Give yourself grace to be the human that you wonderfully are!
If you are interested learning more about boundaries and implementing them. You can schedule 1 free coaching call with me.