Let’s go through some common scenarios in the course of (unhealthy) relationships. Your boyfriend is frivolous with his finances. He has never seen a bar crawl or beer garden he didn’t like. You, on the other hand, live on a budget. Every dollar has a place, most often known as savings. It’s the 30th of the month and you hear the words, “I don’t know what is going to happen if I don’t pull together the last $200 I need for rent.” Your partner doesn’t directly ASK you for money. However, you are feeling a “nudge” to respond with an open wallet because the weight of the “non-ask” feels heavy. What about the girlfriend that makes it clear that her needs are real and expensive? You know you cannot afford to take her to lavish meals every payday. And when you seem to balk about another $400 meal for the second time this month, you are met with, “Well if you don’t take me, I know plenty of men that will.” What do these scenarios, and many others you have with friends or parents, have in common? Your lack of boundaries. (Not the answer you were expecting, huh?).
What are boundaries? It is a word often thrown about but what does it truly mean to set boundaries with people in your life? Simply put, boundaries are limits that you set for your physical, emotional and mental well-being. These limits allow others to know what preferences you have for how you will be treated and what you will accept from others that interact with you. When you fail to set these boundaries, people that are wired to encroach their views, needs and wants onto you will show up with a bucketful of expectations. Often times, they are hints of manipulation (like not asking for money while asking for money). Or the assault on your value of not being good enough or replaceable if you do not acquiesce to a demand that you do not want to meet. Being with people that are comfortable manipulating you is like a bathtub that drains slowly. It becomes irritating to deal with the standing water. But eventually, you have to invest in the anti-clogging agent so the water doesn’t corrode your home.
What does it look like to set a boundary? It’s as easy as deciding you must take control over what you want for your life. You stop looking at how hard it will be to set a standard for what you need and decide that the standard is precisely how you get to what you need. The next step will be to trust your gut. Allow yourself permission to believe that the heavy weight of these people is real. Your anxiety, stress and sometimes anger are not a fluke. Trust your senses when someone does not feel good for you. Finally, make your requests known and be ready to meet the resistance with walking away. There will be some that did not understand that they were putting you in an uneasy emotional state and will adjust their behavior accordingly. On the flipside, there will be those that are fully aware that they were trying to take advantage of you. They will not go along easily with you taking a stand. Be prepared to reiterate your needs and let them know that how you feel is real and important to you. Remember that having history with someone does not necessarily mean they are healthy for you. You may need to let them go.
Boundaries are necessary for everyone’s well-being. Setting a standard for how you want to be treated is acknowledging self-love and self-worth. There is no greater gift that you can give to yourself than that.