The Basics of Good Boundaries

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Have you ever encountered a nosey neighbor? How about a mother or mother-in-law who just has to be in the middle of your family’s business? We have all had these types of people. They barge in often to do stuff that appears to be disrespectful. Sometimes they are belligerent about what they do sometimes they try to manipulate their way into doing what they want.

It is almost as if these people have never heard the word no. Let’s take mothers and mothers-in-law. These people believe they are helping and often there is an element of diapered butt syndrome going on. What is diapered butt syndrome? That is when someone who has diapered your butt believes they are still able to treat you like a child.

Many times they come in and almost seems like they like to disrupt your personal family dynamics. They like to should all over you and your family tell you how you are doing something wrong. Maybe they are criticizing your spouse. These are all examples of people who don’t know boundaries. WHy well mostly because you never set the boundaries of what you will tolerate.

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are setting a standard for what you will tolerate. It also means that you refuse to take responsibility for other people’s actions. You are forcing that person to take responsibility and act according to your code of conduct. This doesn’t mean just at your house but even if you are visiting other people.

Boundaries help us to conserve emotional energy because we are not allowing ourselves to become mired in the drama that the other person is wanting to dump on us. It allows you to decide how much you want to care. Setting a good boundary can help keep people who want to try to manipulate you.

Healthline states that we can set boundaries for the following

We can set boundaries for our

personal space
emotions and thoughts
stuff or possessions
time and energy
culture, religion, and ethics

When Can You Set Up Boundaries?

Boundaries can be set for almost any circumstances. They are used to give us agency over our Physical space around us, our mental space, and our bodies. You often have shown a boundary when someone punched you. You have a boundary for when you can have sex or with whom you have sex. If you are married you have an expectation that they are sleeping with you. IF they break that trust you may decide that it is time to leave them and find a person who respects your boundary better.

You are also able to build respect with boundaries. This is because when you properly set a boundary you are also setting expectations. You are laying out how you want to be treated, You are also saying what you will and won’t tolerate.

You can also use a boundary to help keep the emotionally unattractive people away. They know you won’t play their mind games and that your time is too important to waste with ask-holes or Needy people. These people will have to mature emotionally if they want to be in your circle of influence.

Photo by Jose Aragones on Unsplash

When can you set up boundaries?

You set up a boundary anytime you see that there is one needed. If your wife hates to go to your family’s house because they all gang up on her. Then this is a time that you can set a boundary. If your kiddo is feeling like they are getting looked over with family events then that can be a boundary.

You set boundaries before you start to take on other people’s emotional responsibilities, How close someone is standing next to you, you know, that whole personal space thing. Anytime you want to avoid taking on the responsibility for others’ problems or emotions. You actually don’t have to take on another person’s emotional baggage. You can protect yourself from sacrificing your needs and dreams for the sake of another person. When you sense that this is happening You can set up a boundary.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

If a person stands too close to you and you are uncomfortable you can set that boundary. If they keep crossing that line you have a reason to act. We normally set boundaries when we feel unsafe. Yet sadly we often fail to set those boundaries when it is with people that we love.

You can set boundaries anytime you feel the need to but know that as with anything setting boundaries does cost. You will set your boundaries at the cost of connection. Now that connection can continue to grow but the person at first will often feel resentment towards your boundary because you are limiting some of their choices.

How to set up boundaries

Setting up boundaries you have to actually communicate in a particular way. You have to use the most effective form of communication which is speaking assertively. As Cesar Millan says Calm but assertive. It doesn’t mean you yell or throw around a whole range of emotions. But you speak directly. So how do you set that boundary?

Define The Boundary

Positive Psychology covers many of the bases plus some. You have to know what the boundary is. You also need to know why you are setting this boundary. Decide that people are not going to criticize your wife in front of you. If they do, then you will have this consequence.

The Consequence is a part of the boundary. You have to decide what is going to happen if somebody violates that boundary. It doesn’t have to drop into a brawl or anything. It doesn’t have to be you yelling back. In fact, I would definitely avoid that. Your emotions getting raised up will just put you into their swamp, which is what you are wanting to avoid. So maybe if your mother crosses the line and says something rude and critical of your wife. You perform this action.

“Mom, I love you and I wanted to be able to see you but because you can’t say anything nice about my wife We are going to leave. We will try this again next time.” Then you pack everyone up and you leave.

Communicate The Boundaries

This is where you need to speak in a calm but assertive manner. Yes, they will probably take offense the first time you say this, but for the boundary to be effective you will have to accept them getting a bit butthurt.

Photo by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash

Keep the Boundary Simple

The person who is being given the boundary will probably try to muddy the water with a bunch of excuses or scenarios. You don’t have to explain. Just lay it out, explain what the boundary is and what will happen if they cross that line.

Nothing about the boundary has to be elaborate or complex. Just the facts lay them out in assertive words and be done with it.

Accept How They Act Once Told

Now especially with parents or the in-laws. There will be a bit of self-righteous outrage. This is often those people trying to find another way to manipulate the situation. They are going to say you are being unreasonable. Unfair. They only say those horrible things because they care.

In a sad twisted way, they do. They do care that they are able to control you or your wife, or your kids. So when you put up that barrier to what they can do they are feeling that you are removing a choice from them and they are right. You are taking the option of being manipulative off the table.

Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash

Follow Through

Now after you have placed your boundary up they are going to test it. Each and every time till they see that you are being serious. Will you bend just a little or Will you completely cave? They are going to hope that you will cave. So get ready if you are going to leave if the boundary is violated that you do leave. Even if you just spent 8 hours on the road getting to their house. Be ready to immediately pack it up and go elsewhere.

So be ready to get extra uncomfortable as they throw a fit for holding them responsible for their actions. You will find that even the most loving mother can sometimes turn completely against you. Know that it is only temporary and it really doesn’t mean anything to you. Why? Because their emotions are not your emotions. If it helps to look at them as kids at that moment there is nothing wrong with that. You are helping them grow.

Boundaries are Hardlines, Sorta

Now, this is where your will comes into place, you can choose what is the grace period. How wide of a zone do you want to grant individual people? Your mother in law maybe a once warn type of person or your father in law may be no tolerance.

When you set a boundary it is good to be consistent but at the same time, you can allow for a little flexing to include some vulnerability. You can work with people but don’t do it if you are going to sacrifice your values. If you don’t have trust in the person you may want to think twice.

These terms are yours so if you want to give a little that is completely up to you. You can tighten up the reins if they start to get out of hand.

When boundaries are not a good idea

There are times that boundaries really don’t work. They can actually impede the growth of your immediate family. Yeah, there are the boundaries like not sleeping with other people or honesty. Yet if you set too many boundaries to keep yourself safe that is also keeping people out of your life.

You have to take the chance of your spouse hurting you for you to grow. You have to get uncomfortable for you and your spouse to really connect and to build a deeper intimacy. If you shut them out you will feel as though you are alone and you don’t have the life companion you wanted. That is because you build it that way. Allow for yourself to be exposed and when they cross a line Instead of blowing up or just shutting them out. Take the time to understand why they did that. Talk it out and grow together. Because there is nothing keeping you from having a wonderful marriage but yourself.

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About Bryan Goodwin

I like being able to help people find their "why" and achieve the personal freedom they desire. Besides writing for Relaxed Male I also am a life coach. By helping men find the leader that is found in each and every one of us. I do this by encouraging men to get outdoors and find the balance they are missing. Realize that they need to be in contact with the outside as often as they can. It is not only good for them but for their families and relationships.

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