We set a boundary to define our territory, to protect our space – physical, emotional, mental, sexual, spiritual, financial, etc. We set the boundary because it is what we need to do for our self, to protect and take care of our self. We set it knowing that the other person may not be able or willing to change their behaviour – and that we are prepared to take whatever action we need to take if that proves to be the case. That action may include cutting that person out of our life completely.
I was scared of setting boundaries because the little boy in me was afraid of: hurting other people; having other people be angry at me; being abandoned; losing the relationship. Ultimately, it came down to: people will go away if I say no or set a boundary with them.
I had to become willing to take that risk. I had to decide that I had enough worth to stand up for myself even if people did go away. And some people did go away. Some people do still when I set a boundary. But I was also amazed to see that some of the people that I set a boundary with started to treat me with more respect. They were able to hear me and valued me enough to change their behaviour.
By becoming willing to take the risk of setting boundaries, I got the wonderful gift of getting what I wanted – some of the time. I had to let go of the outcome and learn to accept the situation however it unfolded. I had to let go of a lot of people that I had considered friends. I came to the realization that the people I had been calling friends, were not really friends at all – because as long as I did not know how to be a friend to myself, I could not truly recognize friendship in others. As long as I was unconsciously reacting out of my old programming, the people I was attracted to were people who would abuse me, shame me, abandon and betray me.
I came to the realization that anyone who is a friend is someone I can communicate with – and am able to negotiate boundaries with. The vast majority of boundaries are in fact a negotiation rather than a rigid line in the sand. Adults need to negotiate boundaries between themselves. This is very true in romantic relationships – and is the standard for all relationships.
What we are striving for is healthy interdependent relationships. We want friends who are allies. With alliances it is necessary to negotiate boundaries. Here is what I am willing to do, and here is what I need from you. We want a romantic relationship with a partner who will share our journey with us. In order to make that possible it is necessary to communicate, share feelings, and negotiate agreements about behaviour. By setting boundaries, we are communicating with another person. We are telling them who we are and what we need. It is much more effective to do that directly and honestly than to expect them to read our minds – and then punish them when they cannot.
Often it is little things that seem inconsequential that it is most important to set boundaries about. Irritating little habits or mannerism of another person. The irritating little things will grow into huge monsters unless we learn to communicate and negotiate. When we stuff our feelings we build up resentments. Resentments are victim feelings – the feeling that somebody is doing something to us. If we don’t speak up and take the risk of sharing how we feel, we will end up blowing up and/or being passive aggressive – and damaging the relationship.
Learning to set boundaries is a vital part of learning to communicate in a direct and honest manner. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves – to protect ourselves when it is necessary. It is impossible to learn to be Loving to ourselves without owning our self – and owning our rights and responsibilities as co-creators of our lives.