A Deep Dive Into Personal Boundaries. Part 2: Setting Boundaries With Family And Friends.
Last week I covered setting boundaries with drugs and alcohol. Now let’s take a look at the second part in this three-part series.
Part 2.) SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
I think we’ve all experienced those friendships that aren’t particularly healthy for our emotional wellbeing.
There’s the friends who upset and belittle us, the ones who are jealous and bitter about our joyous moments/achievements; the one’s who use and abuse our kindness and generosity, and the ones who really don’t value and respect us.
Sometimes our own behaviour may have unknowingly (or knowingly) contributed towards this treatment, and sometimes, their behaviour is completely unjustified – a reflection of our ‘friend’s’ own misery and self-hatred.
I believe that people come into our lives to teach us lessons: it helps us grow and evolve in the way we treat ourselves, and ultimately other people.
The hurtful way some friends treat us, can often be a reflection (mirror image) of how we have wrongfully and usually unknowingly treated others in the past – this helps us to treat others better in the future. Other time’s their hurtful behaviour is to teach us ‘how not to behave’, or it can be a reminder to value our self-worth more. This is where learning to either set healthy boundaries or remove the person from your life all together comes into play.
There are friends who aren’t necessarily ‘bad’ people, they just have annoying habits, or a different level of values and expectations than you do. These are the friends who are always late when you’re on time. The ones who ask questions that you don’t want to answer, or perhaps, they keep saying something that emotionally triggers you – but all that aside, you love them anyway.
These are the type of friends who are worthy of staying in our life, but just need some boundaries laid down as a guide in how you would like to be treated.
- If a friend is always late, pick a cut off point as to how long you will wait for. For me, if it’s more than fifteen minutes, I leave the venue. I’m not annoyed (ok, maybe a little but I’ll get over it pretty quickly), I’m simply setting what my boundary is for waiting around.
- If a friend asks you something you don’t want to answer, just say “I don’t feel comfortable answering that question”, or if that feels too hard, make a clear point of changing the conversation – they will soon get the message that the topic is not open for discussion.
- If a friend keeps saying something that emotionally triggers you, sit down and have a heart-to-heart discussion with them – explain why it’s upsetting you, they probably aren’t aware and just need it pointed out. If this scares you, then write a letter or a text message. Just make sure you write it in a kind and loving manner, you don’t want to appear like you are attacking them. This is about helping them to understand your boundary, not their ‘wrong’ doing.
When people are true friends and worthy of being in our lives, they are open and responsive to us speaking honestly and setting boundaries to adhere to. If you have a friend who is constantly upsetting you, and you know that speaking honestly or setting boundaries would anger them or make them defensive, then perhaps this is a friendship that is no longer serving you.
If I get to this point in a friendship, I know that it has run its course. There are some people who aren’t ready to or will never acknowledge when their behaviour has been shitty. With these people, it’s just not worth getting into it with them. I used to let my ego get in the way “You’ve done this and you’ve treated me like that”, but you cannot make a blind man see! It’s best to just walk away – without reason, without argument, without pointing the finger, they will learn in their own time and in their own way.
A few suggestions on how to do this:
- Tell them outright “This friendship is no longer working for me”. When they ask why, respond with “Because it’s just not working for me anymore”. Giving them a reason will only inflame the situation and give them justification to avoid looking at themselves. You don’t owe anything to someone who is not serving your highest good.
- Ghost them, block them on all platforms: social media, your mobile, etc., completely wipe them without a trace. Out of sight is out of mind!
- Gently pull away and let the friendship run its course naturally.
There really is no right or wrong, you will do what feels right for you based on YOUR level of comfort, and what you feel best suits the personality of the other person involved. Just remember that friendships come and friendships go, depending on the level and direction of growth that we are at.
Don’t be mad, don’t be sad and don’t feel bad – just be thankful for the time you shared, the good memories made, and the lessons that the bad memories brought.
We often find it harder to set boundaries with family members than we do in friendships. Maybe it’s because we feel there is more at stake – we are told that blood is thicker than water, perhaps we are scared that setting boundaries may cause us to lose our loved one. Maybe we are scared of hurting their feelings, or it could even be from fear of upsetting the entire family dynamic. The other issue is that we often communicate in an aggressive manner with those closest to us. In these circumstances it’s hard to set positive and healthy boundaries without conflict arising.
I’ve experienced all of this on many different levels within my own family – who hasn’t?? Being related to someone doesn’t guarantee that we will like or respect them as people. I have quite a few family members who I love (because they are blood), but I certainly don’t like who they are as people.
Again, you must decide whether these family members are worthy of being in your life or not. For the ones who are, set boundaries!
- If a family member is upsetting you in person, change the topic of conversation – if they refuse, walk away or leave the venue. Only re-engage in the topic when they have agreed to do so in a calm and respectful manner. If you’re on the phone, simply hang up. It’s important that you set the tone on how you want to be spoken to.
- Call a family meeting, have an open discussion. Lovingly state what your concerns are and clearly lay out your personal boundaries. Again, if this feels too confronting for you, write them a letter.
- Limit the amount of time you spend with this family member and try to avoid being alone with them. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid them all together, but you can certainly monitor the amount of time being spent with them.
- Learn to use the word NO. Sometimes this word is the easiest and best way to set a boundary. You don’t even have to give a reason why, in fact, it’s best not to. “No” “Why?” “Because I said so” – end of story!
If all of this fails, then asses whether they are really worth having in your life. Just because they are family, doesn’t mean they have the right to disrespect and upset you repeatedly.
For years I put up with certain family members being down right nasty, because I thought I should keep the peace for the sake of the entire family. Thankfully I woke up and realised that no one has the right to treat me in this way, and guess what? Culling them was the best decision I’ve ever made. I cannot believe how light and happy I feel without all that toxicity.
I’m not missing out on anything, as I once blindly believed I would. If anything my life and relationships with my worthy family members are more fruitful and joyous because of it.
“One rotten apple, spoils the whole bunch.”
Our relationships with others always brings some challenges, but the most important relationship that we need to take care of, is the one we have with ourselves. Thanks for reading!