Let’s talk about boundaries…. My favorite word that starts with a B! (So says my mother lol). Boundaries sound really scary when you’ve never enforced them. And so today, I want to talk to you a little bit about what that looks like for your interpersonal inter-relational communication. It may be that for you, establishing boundaries is a way to have a healthier relationship or reestablishing boundaries and learning how to enforce them in a way that feels authentic, feels safe, but also, I think, protects the relationship you have with that other person can be very trialing. It can be very troubling and very trial and error if you don’t have that framework really set up from the very beginning.
As we know it…
So first, I want to acknowledge that we live in a world where, I mean, we’re kind of in a boundary-less world at this point, right? We’ve got this phone that we scroll on all day and we have advertising companies and people constantly just hijacking our brain, hijacking our inbox. And so boundaries seem, I’m going to say it again, really scary before you enforce them. I want to give you an idea of what the definition of boundaries are first. I’m actually going to read it so I can give you a very accurate right depiction. And I want to let that sink in for a second before I talk to you about how to reinforce boundaries in your relationships. And I’ll probably give you two examples, something that’s relational, marriage, dating, that kind of stuff. And then something very specific to other interpersonal relationships you may have because they are quite different.
What makes (and breaks) a boundary
So if you want to set up a boundary, you need to make sure that it’s unbreakable and it’s completely objective. Okay. So if you want to set up a boundary with someone, you have to make sure it’s clearly delineated and it’s unbreakable. What I mean by that is, it’s one thing to state to yourself that there is something that you’d like to put some space between or a very clear line in the sand about. It’s an entirely other thing to explain that to another person, especially someone that you care about. So it’s important to do both. It’s important to internally decide, what is the boundary that I need to have a healthier communication, healthier life, healthier existence with this person? But then secondly, how do I ensure that it’s enforced? And when it’s not enforced, that there’s appropriate repercussions that feel authentic to who you are, that still show the grace and love that you have for that person, or respect, but that are also constantly building towards the boundary yet again.
I’m not going to lie. This is really tricky. It took me a long time to figure out the true meaning of boundaries and the true way to enforce them that felt right for me, which is different for every person. So that’s the first thing I just want to clarify. What works for me may not work specifically for you, but I think the general premise of setting boundaries and some ideas on how I’ve done so could really inspire you to create your own.
Boundaries are for sharing
So now, let’s talk about a boundary that’s really needed with a lot of couples these days, right? I’m married to the most amazing guy. And for us, a lot of times boundaries are something that came very intuitively in our relationship really early on. And then there are times that I’ll reference where I have really big boundary issues with my family members, past partners. So I want to give you that perspective. I don’t think we’ve got it all right, but we’ve certainly come a long way in the communication perspective. And we really just love talking to one another and sharing and being vulnerable. And I think that’s really helped us to create healthy boundaries, but at the same time, I know I still struggle with them with about everybody else in my life. So boundaries are a really special thing because it’s mutually beneficial. Right? It’s great for you. And it’s great for the person.
Boundaries are for encouraging
I’ll give you an example that may make you chuckle. I’ll give you an example that may make you chuckle. My little dog, Karamel, loves to please, right? He loves to know that I’m happy with him. He loves a “Wow” and a “Good boy”. And so I believe that we may not all be dogs, but we all really enjoy to love someone on their terms. To connect with someone in a way that feels authentic and safe. And I think that’s one of the most important things about boundaries is that we do so on our partner’s terms and on our own terms. So what that looks like is often a very clear depiction of what’s needed.
Boundaries are for reinforcing
I’m going to give an example about a boundary related to how you relate to each other day to day. I think something I’m hearing right now and has persisted for quite some time as our world gets busier and we get, I think, more focused on everything but ourselves and everything but our partner, that I see a lot of people just kind of having a hard time, having difficult conversations- whether in business or life! And what is scary about that is it’s the very most important thing you need to have a healthy relationship. So as an example, if your spouse is driving you absolutely insane about something that’s important to them, you can’t just say “Quit it, don’t do it,” because it’s important to them. But what you can say is, “Here’s a time that I can receive that,” right? “Here’s a time that you can share that with me. Here’s a circumstance that I need you to bring this to the table. Here is a day of the week that I’m comfortable taking this information. Here’s when I’m free to be able to be there for you and meet your needs.”
Notice what I didn’t say is, “I don’t have time for you. You’re not important.” And I think that’s what our partner often hears when we don’t have great boundaries. So they come walking into your office or your office space, or they pick up the phone and call you in the middle of the day and they really want to share something important to them. Maybe it’s something that they’re not really happy about. Maybe an argument or a tiff that you had, or maybe it’s just something really exciting for them, but you don’t have the space for it right now. Could be time related, could be interpersonal. You just don’t want to hear it. You don’t want to hear about whatever it is they want to share. And I think it’s really important to realize that even if you don’t have the time, you don’t have the care, you don’t have the interest, your partner likely needs you to.
So the first thing that I recommend is finding a way for both scenarios to work, right? It may not be that your partner can call you every day at noon and tell you what they ate for lunch, even though they do that to feel close to you. But what you may say is, “You can’t call me at lunch, because I’m really busy at that time and it’s distracting. But every day we have dinner, I would love to hear what you did at lunch. And tell me a little bit about what you had.” And that way I’m still meeting her needs, right? And that way you’re still meeting their needs, right? They’re getting to talk to you about something that they want to share. I’m giving a really benign example here, but I think what they’re really able to see is that you care, that you’re willing to make the effort, and that you’re giving them the best time for them to share so you can provide the best response. And I think that’s super important.
Boundaries are positive
I’m going to give another dog reference, so forgive me. When my dog goes potty outside, he gets a treat. He gets a “Wow”. He gets an “Atta boy”. He gets a belly rub. But when he goes potty inside, I need to also make sure I let him know not just that it was bad or that it wasn’t good for mommy, but that it was really important that he respect the boundary to go outside. I hope this makes sense. I’m trying to make it as broad as possible.
So that first kind of line in the sand, setting the boundary, it can mean a lot of things to your partner. If your partner is not familiar with boundaries and if you’re not comfortable sharing with them, like, “Hey, I need to set a boundary about this,” they’re going to feel a little stuck, a little lost. Someone I really respect used to always say, “It’s kind of like a dance, what you do with your people. And when you start enforcing boundaries, you’ve now changed the dance.” So you went from a nice, slow waltz to a cha cha cha, right? Or you went from a salsa to meringue, or a cha cha or a foxtrot. It just changes the rhythm in which that you guys have related for probably quite a while. And that’s going to be something that kind of hits them in a different way that it hits you, the boundary setter.
So in order to make that really effective and efficient, I do recommend that you establish that you’re setting a boundary instead of just telling them something about when they can share with you. The reason that that matters is I think people really value authenticity and transparency. And when you can share with your partner that this is the time that you can actually be there for them and receive them, I think they realize the effort that you’re making. And I think we need more of that in the world, right? Less people feeling lonely and disconnected and more providing people what they need, especially the people we care the most about. And especially the people who we’re closest to.
There’s no perfect path… just start!
So once you’ve established the boundary, I would say that’s about 50% of the journey because we all know the hard part is reinforcing and enforcing the boundary, because in a new dance, there’s going to be some mistakes, right? You’re going to miss a step. They may step on your foot. And so it’s really important that you have this establishment and then a reestablishment. A boundary set, and then a re, you know, a visit of the boundary. And this may seem really simplistic, but it’s important to make sure that your partner knows when you’re reinforcing the boundary and why.
There’s no perfect progress, so keep going!
A great example of this kind of going along with the example I gave is when they violate the boundary, number one is show that you care, right? Let them know that they really matter to you. And the reason you established the boundary was so that you could meet their needs. So that you could be close to them. But then secondly, get right back to what the boundary should be. Like, for instance, I cannot have you calling me in the middle of the day about what you ate for lunch, but I am more than willing to have this conversation with you at dinner. And I actually want to. I care to know what you ate for lunch at dinner. This is such a weird example, but I think it’ll kind of drive home if I get something that’s not so heated as an example to you.
And so in that moment, you’re kind of re-correcting and redirecting behavior, which I know, it feels a little parental. I’m not a mom myself, but I work with kids all the time and I love them. And I know that as a partner, there is no worse feeling for me personally, and I know for many of you, than feeling like you have to parent your partner. So I want to acknowledge that this is going to feel like that, but I recommend you resist the urge to kind of go full force into fixing and parenting, and actually just focus on the boundary, set it, reinforce it, set it, reinforce it, reinforce it, reinforce it, and set it.
A better world, with boundaries
And I think before you know it, you’re going to realize that boundaries are actually really healthy and really allow you to be in the best relationships of your lives. And there’s nothing negative about setting a boundary. There’s nothing negative about reinforcing a boundary. In fact, it really opens lines of communication. It really allows you to connect with your partner. And honestly, it just makes people feel heard and loved and seen. I don’t know about you, but there’s a lot of people that I see out there that are just walking around every day, just wondering if anyone cares. And that’s even in a relationship. One of the most lonely places you can be is alone in a relationship. So I want to encourage you today. I know communication is not easy and I know boundaries are even harder than that, but it’s worth the work. It’s worth the effort. And it’s certainly worth the trial and error that this is going to feel like until you really get into that dance, and until you’re both grooving and feeling really good about it.
But I can really share with you super authentically that setting boundaries has changed my life and made me such a better wife, such a better daughter, friend, communicator. And I wish that for you. I wish for you to feel free, unstuck, and with established guidelines for your happiness, because that’s really what boundaries are, right?
Here’s how I can love you better. Here’s how you can and respect me more. And here’s how we could do that symbiotically and have a really mutually beneficial relationship.
In short, having and enforcing boundaries does not make you a b*tch… no matter what culture tells us. It’s just not true!
What do you think? What are some boundaries that need enforcement in your life right now?!
Let’s talk about this, soon!
It’s necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life/business needs and the people in it. – KK FIT TIP # 1011