Hello, and welcome to my second newsletter of July.
Today, I’m talking about |boundaries|. I’m speaking to those of you, who are working on being better in your daily life. If you’re also looking for how you can apply to this to your specific, current situation, please scroll down or click here.
Just want the audios? Here you go:
When is saying “no” to someone actually saying “yes” to yourself?
We all know that, sometimes, personal interactions can be complicated. Just like saying no to someone can mean saying yes to yourself, saying yes to someone can sometimes mean saying no to yourself.
In my clinical practice, people are working on and practicing all different kinds of behavior. People want to improve their interpersonal relationships, so they can have a different experience of themselves. Some of the behavior I see people working on, is trying to figure out where they get stuck and learning to stand up for themselves.
Setting a boundary doesn’t always feel great — but why is that? How do you know when you do need to set one, even when it feels uncomfortable to do so?
First, consider what your body is telling you about the feeling that’s coming up when you need to set a boundary. When are things happening between you and another person that are starting to feel uncomfortable? Do you feel that something’s not right, somewhere in your body? Do you feel it in your heart? Do you feel in your gut, like you are stuck and blocked? Do you feel it in your throat, like you just can’t get the words out? The emotion you’re feeling will show up in your body; you just have to listen for them.
The boundaries you set are personal to you. Other people may have different boundaries, and all of this is dependent on what feels right to you, your comfort level, and your personality. How much you stand up for yourself and what’s important to you is determined by you.
Maybe you often find yourself saying, things like:
But what if you let something go, even though you really want to set a boundary? You really want to say no, but you feel too guilty to do that. What happens then?
It’s important to start small. Setting boundaries can feel overwhelming, at first. It can feel like so much pressure when you know you have to set a boundary, and you just can’t get yourself to do it. Take baby steps. Notice the tension in your body. Notice what message what comes up for you when you just imagine what you might say. Think about how you might feel if you could orchestrate the situation in a different way — to minimize your discomfort. What might you do?
Before anything else, stop to recognize if you have accumulated anger or frustration associated with the situation, and try not to bring those into the words or actions you determine will help you to set the desired boundaries.
Now, let’s look at a real life example, and create a formula for you, which you might be able to apply — to see if it works for you. Maybe it will work, or maybe you will have to gather other tools to set boundaries in a different way. This will, at least, be a start to getting you thinking about setting boundaries.
Let’s say you go out with this friend, and you know that they never bring money to the restaurant or to the event you are attending together. You know the moment that you invite them somewhere, this is going to happen. How do you handle it? Do you start anticipating this at the beginning of the event? Maybe you know this is going to happen, and it puts a damper on the event — right from the beginning. Do you even anticipate it when you invite them or when you join them? Start with checking in with your body. Your body is going to be telling you something. Maybe what you’re finding in your body is a patterned response. It forgets this might happen again. It gets excited about the event, and ignores the fact that this might be something that has to be handled eventually. You might need to have a confrontation about paying the bill or know that you just might have to put out extra money if you don’t confront it. Can you imagine saying something and speaking up the moment you feel something in your body? You might even just say out loud what you’re noticing. That’s a good time to say something, taking care not to let pent up anger or frustration to come out in a way that could be destructive.
You can also say something with actions, since they can speak louder than words and are often easier for both parties involved. You might not have to say anything directly, in this case.
For example, if the check comes to the table, don’t just pick up the check. Create a pause. You can calculate the split and ask them how they’ll be paying their part — by cash or card. If you do decide to say something directly, you could say something at the invitation like, “I’d love to treat you, but it’s not in my budget right now to do so. I just want to let you know that up front.” Keep the focus on making yourself comfortable, while setting clear expectations for the other person. Let them know how much they can expect to spend. Give them options and/or make a plan for yourself.
Take the action for yourself. Remind them with something like, “I need to be sure I don’t overspend here, because I only brought enough money to cover myself for X.” Always make the statements you say “I” statements. You’re saying the statements for yourself, for your own comfort.
If it’s just too hard to say all these things right now, just take note of them. Inquire about your feelings, and hear yourself saying things that you wish you could say. It’s a start just to notice and to have insight; however, insight doesn’t create action. Action creates action, but insight sometimes gives us a lot of evidence — allowing us to move forward to the next step.
We need to take just as much time to develop our emotional intelligence as we spend learning anything else that’s important. It will help us to function better in the world.
Saying no to others does not mean that we have to damage or necessarily release relationships, in order to say yes to ourselves. It can, very often, and usually, actually strengthen our relationships — removing tension and resentment.
It is challenging to set boundaries, but well worth the payoff. You can say YES to yourself!
Boundaries are about having the courage to love ourselves — even when we risk disappointing others.
How can you apply this to a specific challenge in your life? Read on…
DECIDING TO DIVORCE:
[Listen to audio.]
It’s really tricky to have good boundaries someone when you’re trying to change your relationship status with them. You might bend on your boundaries (perhaps while you’re figuring those out and establishing them), and then feel very resentful toward the other person. The other person may have boundaries, which make you feel uncomfortable. Perhaps, they’re too rigid — which causes you to feel controlled by them… or too loose — leaving you feeling as though you don’t matter to them. Boundaries can be complicated and confusing.
So, when we’re flip-flopping in relationships (sometimes thinking we will be with someone and, sometimes, thinking we might end the relationship), our boundaries are going to flip-flop in accordance. That person might get really confused about your saying “yes” to something one minute, and “no” the next. So, try to explain why. I am really feeling a little uncomfortable with our relationship, and so I’m deciding to do things on my own today. Or, I’m feeling closer to you, like we’re reaching a good understanding, so I want to hang out with you a little bit more today.
Remember to just explain when your boundaries are switching, and why they’re switching. If you can’t explain them to your partner, then just remind yourself of the reason. Setting boundaries is standing up for yourself — it’s saying that you value yourself. It’s also saying that you value how you are thinking about things, in terms of your relationship, and what you want. So good luck standing up for and working on yourself. I believe it will make all the difference in your process.
[Listen to audio.]
Being a parent can be so challenging. And, parenting with another parent in different homes, with two different parenting styles may, at times, also feel really exhausting and frustrating. Having boundaries is key. Our kids see how we react and act in different situations. If we have different parenting styles, what’s okay in one house, might not be okay in your house. If you hold a boundary, your kids will have to adjust to the way you do things. They might get upset, mad, and protest until you give in, but it’s important for you to keep working on your boundaries and talking about them with your kids. We are models for our kids and practicing boundaries with and around them, will set them up for success in their lives, and reduce some of the co-parenting challenges, for all.
Here are some other things to consider with boundaries:
You might notice you need to work on your boundaries with your co-parent. You can’t always say “yes,” which means you might disagree on the basic routines of your kids. In your household, you could stick with what works for you and your household. You might explain to your kids about how things don’t work the same in both households, because you’re different people, with different situations and needs. Explain that you’re going to hold your boundaries, because they’re what you feel are best for the household, at this time.
There will be some things that you can and can’t negotiate. I hope you’ll continue to work on your own boundaries — the ones you have with your kids, and the ones you have with your co-parent. I really believe that if you work on yourself, you can have a positive impact on your other relationships.
STRENGTHENING YOUR COUPLE RELATIONSHIP:
We can use boundaries to strengthen our couple relationship. It’s really important to check with yourself first, to feel what’s comfortable and what doesn’t work — especially in close relationships.
Having honest communication, and understanding what you and your partner’s needs and wants are, will help you figure out which boundaries are most important. Knowing what’s important to both of you in terms of your own boundaries, while respecting each others’ boundaries, is key.
First, forgive yourself. If you’re not able to act on a boundary, or if you become reactive when you feel your partner’s boundary, notice what’s going on and work from there.
Learning to have good boundaries is a process — figuring out your comfort level and identifying different situations that are hard for you to manage.
I like to imagine boundary setting like the shape of a triangle. There’s you, your partner, you as a couple, and all of the challenges fall in between. The challenges represent all the energy and things that you want and need to say to each other, which feel uncomfortable. And then, if we can find the right boundary, everything can settle down and people can function freely together — not feeling unappreciated, taken advantage of, or pushed around.
Boundaries can provoke many feelings. If you don’t have boundaries, you might feel resentful. If there aren’t strong enough boundaries (like, for example, around your partner inviting people over, without letting you know first), you might feel put out or angry. If you have a hard time setting critical boundaries, you may be sending your partner mixed messages (including intense feelings, such as anger or sadness), which they won’t know how to interpret.
If we don’t communicate our needs, and needs for boundaries, then we might expect someone to read our minds. This can be problematic. I’ve noticed that couples, who have been together for long periods, end up attempting a lot of mind reading.
Instead of mind reading, check it out, or say something as soon as you figure it out.
Solid communication and boundaries lead to clear and direct intimacy.
Boundaries strengthen your relationship — as does working on yourself and understanding your emotions.
I look forward to supporting your emotional skills development, in my upcoming newsletters.
If you ever have a suggestion or topic you would like me to address, please don’t hesitate to email me.
I’ll look forward to talking to you again next month, but bye for now!!
Susan is a a licensed therapist in California and a nation-wide online coach.