BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
Setting boundaries…possibly one of the most uncomfortable parts of interpersonal relationships and conversations. If you’re getting uncomfortable thinking about setting a boundary, imagine the harder part – holding to the boundary when it gets nudged in the other direction. That crossed line? Yikes.
Don’t worry if you’re getting uncomfortable! Lots of people get nervous when it comes to setting and holding boundaries. I still remember setting a boundary with my husband when we first moved in together. I’m an introvert that spends a lot of time teaching and coaching people – a lot of time “on.” Post classes and workshops, I need to be quiet and keep to myself to recharge. While this isn’t difficult when I lived by myself, it was hard once we lived together. I was so nervous telling him I needed time to myself after a class or workshop – I was worried I was going to hurt his feelings, yes – but also nervous about what I might do if he broke the boundary I set!
I knew I needed the boundary though, because teaching did take all of the energy out of me, and if I didn’t have some kind of time to myself, I would end up in a terrible mood. Sounds like a lose-lose right? Wrong! When you’re setting a boundary, you should also think about how you are going to hold to that boundary. If it’s only on the other person, you’re not taking responsibility for yourself and your wants and needs. Here are a few easy (and not so easy!) ways to hold to a boundary:
Remember Your Why
When you’re setting a boundary, think about how your life will be better if this boundary stays up. For example, if I keep the boundary of taking time for myself after classes and workshops, I will be a better version of myself, specifically, a less cranky version.
This why will help you remember that this boundary is for you to have a relationship with this other person – not to be mean, or angry, or anything negative. This is good! And life-improving!
Look for the Line
If you don’t know where the line is, how will you know when it’s been crossed? When you’re setting the boundary, be sure that you know what behavior you won’t tolerate. For my time post classes, I might be ok with a question afterward, but not ok if a closed-door is disrespected.
By understanding what is “too much” you’ll be able to know when there will be a consequence.
You are Responsible
This isn’t just on the other person. If you aren’t holding yourself responsible as well as the other person, then you aren’t serious about the boundary. Think: what is in your control? How can you uphold the boundary on your end? With my example, sure, I’m asking for time on my own after classes – it’s important to not only ask for that time but also think about what I can do. While I might want to come out of the office post-class, I can stay in the office for a bit by myself for my quiet time.
That is my part of upholding the boundary – it shouldn’t live just on one person – it needs to be a team effort.
What is the Consequence?
This is critical – if the line is crossed, if you’ve held up your side of things, if you’ve clearly expressed the boundary (Please do this! No one can read minds!) then you have to think about what you will do when/if the boundary is crossed.
It might be as simple as having a conversation with the other person – and if it’s continuously crossed, the relationship might be at risk. I knew if my husband disrespected my boundary (spoiler alert, he didn’t!) I would have to talk to him about it and make sure we both understood the importance of it.
Good luck, and remember to be clear!