Do you have people in your life who create chaos or push your buttons? Have you ever thought about the boundaries in your relationships? My guess is, probably not. Or perhaps you are a self-aware person, just for clicking on this blog. Boundaries occur in all of our relationships. You may wonder how they form and what are they. Essentially it is how we allow others to treat us. Behaviors that we will accept and ones we won’t. If someone does something to us that we don’t like, and we don’t say anything, then it gives the message that it is OK to treat us like that.
Often times people wonder why there are so many people in their life, who say take advantage of them, don’t listen to them, or create chaos. You may wonder how it is that other people don’t have these types of relationships. They have friends who will treat them as equals, ones who will listen, and don’t create chaos.
If you are noticing a common theme in your relationships, then the most likely reason it occurs is because of your boundaries, or lack of them. Now, the question becomes what to do about it. Here are steps you can take to set boundaries.
- Recognize that it is happening. Pick a person to begin setting boundaries with. I’d recommend picking someone who you think would be open to your concern, or you feel safer bringing it up with.
- Choose a small boundary to start with. Don’t choose something large. An example may be to say ‘no’ to a request, or bring up a small area of conflict. If you do bring up conflict, use this template, “I feel ____, when you ___. What I would like is______.”
- Be careful of your tone. You want to be sure you keep it normal. Our friends and partners know us well enough to tell if our tone is ramped up. If it is, it may lead to further conflict.
- Recognize people don’t like it when we set boundaries. This especially holds true if we haven’t set them in the past. People see you acting differently and are thrown off balance.
- Be firm with your boundary. What do you think happens if you set a boundary and then back down when they balk at it? It teaches that person that we are not serious with our boundaries.
- Expect that the other person’s behavior may escalate. People do this for a reason. They don’t want you to change or set healthy boundaries. If they escalate, they hope that it will push you to do what they want vs. what you want.
- Over time people will learn you mean what you say. That being said, some people in your life are unhealthy and they will not accept healthy boundaries. They may call you mean or selfish. You may lose some friendships. Realistically if these people don’t treat you well, why would you want them in your life?
- Remember boundaries are there to protect you. Boundaries are not for anyone else. Only you know in your gut if you are being treated properly or not. If something in the relationship doesn’t feel right, speak up.
- Your self-esteem will improve. By speaking up about your needs and having a voice, you will feel better about yourself.
I know this is all easier said than done. You have been in relationships for many years and it is difficult to change things. If this is something I can help you with, please give me a call at 713-304-6554.
Debbie Grammas, PhD.