Setting Boundaries

Have you ever longed for more peace, quiet and solitude? Are you in a relationship with a person who is controlling, critical, or disrespectful? Have you ever felt trapped in a conversation with someone who’s intrusive or meddling?

Setting boundaries involves how you allow others to treat you and control you. People need to learn to set boundaries and limitations to avoid being drained, resentful, and angry, and to enjoy healthy, mutually equal relationships.

Most people who have trouble setting boundaries have a good intent. They don’t want to make waves, make people angry, or disappoint others. They like to please others and blend in.

There are four problems with not setting boundaries:

1. Exhaustion

2. No respect

3. Resentment

4. Exploding in anger

It is also difficult for people around the person who doesn’t have boundaries, because it’s not very interesting or challenging to be with someone who will go along with everything you suggest. When someone is always trying to satisfy you, you don’t get a sense of their own desires, thoughts, and personhood.

There is a happy medium. You want to be considerate of others and of yourself.

Ten tips to setting boundaries:

1. Get to know people gradually. Don’t give total access to yourself when you first meet somebody. Take your time in determining how close you’d like to become with that person.

2. Be selective in sharing. Refrain from being completely open about every thought and feeling.

3. Tune down your energy. Boundaries are created by tone of voice and body language. Learn to cool your energy and withdraw your energy from another person. If you don’t open up too quickly, you won’t have to shut down as abruptly either, but can depend on more subtle forms of energy cooling, which is less hurtful and awkward.

4. Notice your feelings. Check in with your feelings before you become drained or resentful. Deal with your feelings when they are small and before they explode.

5. Don’t plead or yell. Yelling is weak and shows and lack of personal power. You can be firm and friendly without being emotional. Just make sure you follow through.

6. Speak up about small things. Always seek respect from others. If there’s mocking, sarcasm, or contempt, say something like “Excuse me?” and stop the disrespect early on.

7. Express desires and needs positively. Turn complaints into positive requests.

8. Limit draining conversations. Limit any intrusive phone calls and conversations so that you do not become drained. A simple “I have to go” is very effective.

9. Don’t take without asking. And don’t let others take without asking. For instance, don’t take food off of someone’s plate without asking. No matter how romantic some people imagine this is early on in a relationship, it amounts to a lack of respect.

10. Respect for physical touch. Affection and warmth are wonderful, but always look for energetic acceptance of your physical touch.

For long-term passionate relationships, it’s important that there is mutual respect, which requires that people are separate individuals with boundaries. Boundaries are much easier to set when they are imposed early before you become angry, exhausted, or resentful.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Setting Boundaries.”

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