We all know we need boundaries.
It’s what keeps us safe and sane!
Knowing we need them, however, is not the same as actually making and keeping them. And what if you went too far or circumstances change? Do you cling to an old boundary simply because you set it?
It can be easy to fall into the trap that if you’ve taken a stand on something – and stated out loud for all to hear “don’t cross this line!”, that you’ve set a boundary and now you are good to go.
I hate to break it to you but no, you are NOT good to go.
In fact, you’ve just begun to scratch the surface.
Looking a little more closely, let’s unpack what it really means to set, keep, and yes, even move a boundary.
Set those boundaries!
In order to set a line, you have to actually know what the line is, for you.
Chances are if you are in a troubled or ending relationship, your lines have gotten a little blurry. The longer the relationship, the blurrier the lines. Throw in a little toxicity – narcissism, histrionic or borderline personality disorder – and those lines are probably long gone.
Get little selfish! I don’t mean in an egotistical kind of way, but in an “I need to think about myself and my needs” kind of way. When you’ve been in a long-term relationship your thoughts tend to run in the “we” rather than the “me” kind of way.
While I don’t want to discourage you from thinking of other people’s needs (we certainly need more of that in the world today!), I want you to rethink putting other people’s needs above your own.
You may have gotten into a habit of continually ignoring yourself. It’s pretty common, especially for women, and even more so for parents.
Letting people walk all over you, though, is not putting their needs first.
It’s you being a doormat.
Friends, family, soon-to-be exes are not going to be super excited about your new found voice. It’s not convenient for them.
When bending for others means ignoring yourself, you’ve stumbled on a boundary that needs to be set. Only you know where that line really lies. It may mean that once in a while is okay but consistently is not. Or perhaps you need a “zero tolerance” line.
This may be pretty easy to see in some relationships. It’s also likely that if it’s happening in one area of your life, it’s happening in others. Perhaps to a different degree but still – it’s a pattern you are looking to disrupt.
Hold the line!
You’ve identified areas in your life in need of a perimeter. Yay YOU!
That’s actually the easy part.
Keeping the perimeter up is a whole other matter.
As I mentioned, your new found confidence in protecting your border is going to be met with resistance.
You have become “selfish, mean, greedy, uncaring, egotistical, self-indulgent” – need I go on?
The likelihood that these and other unsavory adjectives may be tossed in your direction is pretty high. People have become used to and comfortable with you doing things for them, ignoring what you want, and quite frankly, you’ve let them think that way.
But no more!
And they don’t like it.
In the case of an ex, it may not be so difficult to get a little selfish, depending on the status of your relationship. But with your kids? Your own family? Your former in-laws?
Emotional blackmail may very well come whipping out of their back pocket so fast it makes your head spin!
Or perhaps you are faced with threats – legal, physical, emotional – that start to make holding that line increasingly difficult.
When it comes to the people that inhabit your world, they will adapt. They will.
So your kid has to choose between two activities because you are no longer going to race from one to the next, scarfing down dinner in your car and staying up till midnight to get the laundry done? They. Will. Get. Over. It.
Your ex is angry because you won’t switch weekends with the kids – yet again? Oh well. Not your problem.
And if they are threatening you? There are laws about that. Protect yourself as needed!
I’m not gonna lie – you may lose some people along the way. Sure, that’s never fun but if they were only in it for what you could do for them, well, is that someone you really want in your life??
Adjusting the perimeter.
You’ve done an amazing job! You found your boundaries, announced them to the world and have kept up those lines – good for you!
Now you’re set, right? Ummmm….not totally.
Boundaries need an occasional reassessment. Why?
Well, things change.
Example: When you were a kid you didn’t talk to strangers, right? A very appropriate boundary. Especially when walking to school, on a deserted street, all by yourself.
But what about when you were 20 and off in college? If you didn’t speak to people you didn’t know – technically strangers – you would’ve remained friendless.
As your powers of discernment grew, and you had a better understanding of situational danger, your ability to redraw that line regarding strangers became an important step in your growth.
This is really no different. Your ability to recognize when you have put yourself last, put yourself at risk, and ignored your own needs had gotten really rusty.
Now you’ve sharpened those abilities, found a way to look out for yourself and grown in your emotional protection skills.
You are now in a place where you have perspective! You can tell when someone just needs a hand versus when someone is using you without regard to what you need.
You now know that “NO” is a complete sentence. And you use it.
But you also know that sometimes it feels good to volunteer. It doesn’t harm you to be flexible. You recognize that if you ease up on a line and someone begins to cross it, you can certainly redraw it.
Boundaries are about being healthy. “Good fences make good neighbors”.
It’s time to let you be you. And the people in your life that get it, will celebrate with you!
P.S. Did you get everything you needed from this article? No? Maybe it’s time for a little more.
My goal is to meet you where you are and walk with you until you’re ready to set out again. A little strategy goes a long way. Let’s set up a mini-strategy session to get you started!
And don’t forget to grab your FREE Divorce Survival Kit before you go!
Looking for some holistic ways to care for yourself? Check out my new website www.layloyoga.com where we explore how to use Yoga as a way to heal your heart and deal with the stress and anxiety of day to day living.