Setting boundaries is important in any relationship, and contrary to popular belief—boundaries actually improve relationships. Why, you might ask? When both people feel respected and cared for everyone is better off, and complying with appropriate boundaries fosters a feeling of mutual consideration and empathy.
While the solution sounds simple, it can feel quite daunting. Frequently people are concerned if they voice their needs they will create conflict, but by holding those feelings in you are building resentment that could eventually explode into major arguments or push a wedge between you both. If you can address those feelings head on before they get out of control, then a happy, honest, and secure relationship is maintained.
Here are some tips to get you started:
1.) Recognize and acknowledge your feelings—Did that person’s comment make you feel bad? Are you feeling drained and overwhelmed because your boss is calling on you at all hours of the day? Are you exhausted because you need more help at home but are afraid to ask? Recognizing your feelings instead of pushing them to the side is the first step to making positive changes. By acknowledging that your feelings have merit—that you matter—you can take better care of yourself.
2.) Evaluate how your boundaries have been crossed—Are you losing sleep because of late night texts or phone calls? Does this person always ask to borrow money and never pay you back? Does a friend always expect you to take care of her kids? Do you have a client that is always late, wasting your time? Reflecting on the behaviors that are not acceptable to you can help you determine how you would like things to change.
3.) Decide how to set a boundary—Come up with a plan to talk calmly and confidently about your feelings to this person. Determine your preferred solution to the problem so that you can present it to them. If you feel your friend is calling you too late at night, let them know that you understand they might be upset at that time but you also need sleep and tell them that you are happy to talk to them during daylight hours.
4.) Voice It—Be clear and concise. After expressing your feelings, directly place limits or make requests of the other person. Beating around the bush can make it confusing for the other party or leave the door open for continued unwanted behavior. It can be helpful to clarify how complying with your request will benefit you both. For example, waiting until daytime to make that call to you ensures your friend that she will reach you when you are more well rested and able to fully engage in the phone call and provide support. Others may want to push back against your request – be gentle, but firm. Repeat your requests again and again, like a broken record. “I understand that you want to reach out and talk late at night, but it’s also important to me that I get enough rest. I would appreciate it if you would wait until the next day to call”. Do you feel that you’ve reached an impasse? It’s okay to flip the script and ask the other person for suggestions on how to create a resolution. “I need to get enough sleep, but you want support late at night. If you don’t feel able to wait until the next day to call, how else might we solve this problem?” If you experience some backlash, understand that it might be better to take a break from the discussion for the time being. Time to cool off or reconsider the situation may benefit everyone.
5.) Take care of yourself— Don’t feel guilty for doing something to improve your well-being. Taking care of yourself is key to being able to care for others. You need to be healthy and happy, so you can be the best version of you—to do your best work, be a good spouse, parent, or friend.
Author: Jamie Rimby
Jamie is a licensed professional counselor at Move Forward, as well as a National Certified Counselor. She is a graduate of Arcadia University in Glenside, PA with a master’s degree in counseling psychology. She has been in practice for more than six years, meeting with clients individually, as well as facilitating groups and providing educational programming. Outside of the office, she enjoys spending time on nature walks, trying cuisine from around the world, and making memories with her family and friends.