It’s Alright to Set Boundaries With Loved Ones
I’m no stranger to online recovery forums. I find many people write in wondering how to set boundaries with their loved ones. Whether their loved one is an addict, alcoholic, selfish, unavailable emotionally, etc., they’re just not sure what to do.
Most of the time, my answer is, “It depends” – because it does.
However, there are some common factors associated with setting boundaries and today, I’ll touch upon them.
Boundaries are very helpful in relationships of any kind. Whether it’s your partner, child, parent, boss, friend, etc., being able to set and keep a boundary is important. If you’re not that great at it, don’t fret. Know that you’re not alone and boundary setting is a skill. With practice, you’ll get better!
What you want and need matters
Say this with me:
“What I want and need matters.”
This sentence is a power-packed statement. Why? Because what you want and need DOES matter. Because YOU matter, dear one!
Knowing what you want and need matters, so if you’re not sure, take some time to sit with this. In your relationships, what do you want and need?
Trust? Respect? Unconditional love? Honesty? Affection? Security? Peace? Affirmation?
What DON’T you want?
Jealousy? Accusation? To be ignored, ridiculed, belittled, rejected, abused, substance abuse issues?
1. Tune in to your feelings
Asking yourself those questions will help you begin tapping into your feelings. This will help you learn what brings discomfort or uneasiness. Or just plain drama! If his consistent emotional unavailability makes you feel ignored and rejected, those feelings do matter, because you matter, so it’s alright to have a conversation around this area, stating your wants and needs, and thus, setting your boundaries.
2. Be clear
When you’re setting your boundaries, be clear. Be direct. Come from a kind heart, and not like, “Well, you better do this and this or else I’ll…..” That sort of tone and intent might not go over very well. For example, if you want and need some time with your friends regularly (without getting a cold shoulder or accused of cheating), go to your partner and simply state your needs and let him/her know how much you appreciate the support. Be confident in your ability to express this want and need, because it is important to you, and YOU MATTER.
3. Say, “I deserve this.”
Give yourself permission to have boundaries. I don’t mean that you have to have rigid rules all over the place, but you do deserve to have a relationship that has mutual boundaries that are set in a spirit of love. If your partner is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, for example, you have permission to set some boundaries around that. I see far too many men and women sweep things under the carpet in such situations, rather than tuning into what they want and need in a relationship (sobriety being one thing), and live in misery.
If you’re stressed to the core because your partner is doing something that brings chaos or drama, give yourself permission to stand in your truth and speak your truth.
4. Consider the past
Did you grow up in a home where boundary setting was non-existent? Where no one talked about anything? Did you grow up in a home where alcoholism or drug addiction was present? Many times, in such cases people grow up taking on the role of “caretaker” or people pleaser. They let their own needs and wants go and “over-care” for others. This gets exhausting. They don’t value the principle of reciprocity, giving and giving, but not allowing themselves to receive.
What has been your past experience? What was modeled to you growing up? Take this into consideration as you learn how to tune into your needs and set boundaries in your life.
5. Allow yourself to care for yourself
Many people struggling from codependency have a tough time caring for themselves. They’ll place others’ needs before their own, and oftentimes never get around to doing the things they would like to do. Or, they don’t even know what they like to do or need to do, because they are so wrapped up in other peoples’ worlds. Make self-care a priority.
6. Ask for help
You may need some help when it comes to setting and keeping boundaries. No shame in that. There are counselors, books, and support groups that are valuable. Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and Codependents Anonymous are great support groups that will help in learning how to set boundaries.
Being assertive with boundary setting takes practice. Start small, and go from there. Don’t expect perfection or that it will all go as planned. In fact, you may experience some flack from others when you go to them and set a boundary. After all, they’re probably used to you NOT standing in your truth or perhaps even enabling them. Be persistent and don’t take the flack personal. In the Bible, it says, “Be strong in the Lord, and in God’s mighty power!” It’s alright to lean on the power of God or Universe!
Relationships need boundaries, so my hope is that you’ll continue to learn about setting and keeping boundaries with your loved ones. It’s a process, but I assure you that you’ll get better as you practice!
Are you struggling with boundary setting? In what way?