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Let's talk about boundaries.
You probably know that you need them to be mentally healthy.
But what does that actually mean?
In today's issue, we're going to look at 2 big examples of what boundaries are--and what they aren't.
Be prepared to learn something you can start applying right away.
Why You Need Boundaries for Relationships and Mental Health
You need boundaries.
Let's start from that statement and work ourselves backward.
Boundaries are not a bad thing. They aren't something that tell others you're a weak person.
Boundaries are life-sustaining things.
What I mean is that boundaries are the rules and systems you make for yourself that give you physical and mental air to breathe.
Without boundaries, your life is an open book.
No, scratch that.
Your life is an open library that never closes. Anyone can walk in at any time and start pulling books off the shelves and trampling all over them.
It seems like a great idea at the time to be so wide open with your time and emotions, but in the end, you just have a littered heap that used to be your life story.
This was my life before I started putting up boundaries, before I started to choose my time, goals, and interests with extreme intention.
It's not selfish. It's actually quite selfless to be able to clearly communicate to others what you will and will not stand for.
Let's learn how to do that now.
Types of Boundaries in a Relationship
There are all kinds of boundaries you can put in place in relationships.
Most sites will give you a neat and tidy list of the types of boundaries and what you need to know about them.
But they come across like you're reading from a history textbook from the 1980s.
So I'm calling BOUNDARY on that.
I'm here to give you exactly what you need to know to start making improvements in your own relationships.
Without further ado, here are the types of boundaries you need to consider if you want to take back your time and sanity.
Boundary 1 - I like you, but not that much.
This first kind of boundary is one of the hardest to implement. It's when someone likes you, but you don't like them like that.
I'm not talking just about romantic relationships.
I'm talking about anyone who is taking up a bit too much of your time. Another word for this kind of person is "energy vampire," and I've written about them here before.
Energy vampires drain you of your time and emotion because they have one goal in mind--to get as much from you as humanly possible.
If you're in this kind of relationship, it's time to establish some boundaries.
- Clearly state when you are available and when you are not
- Dictate how you will help (For instance, under which circumstances you will offer your time)
- Cut off the relationship cold turkey. If the person in question is more of an acquaintance, you don't need to feel bad about saying, thanks, but no thanks. Your time is your most valuable resource, and you get to decide how you want to use it.)
2 - Emotional Boundaries, the hardest of them all
And now we turn to what, I believe, are the most challenging kinds of boundaries to establish.
Emotional boundaries are often needed with individuals with whom you actually have a long-time relationship.
They are often needed with people who you might consider yourself quite close to--people like family members and long-time friends.
What do you do when you actually do deeply care about someone who, for whatever reason, is now cramping your style in a very uncomfortable way?
You make the tough decision to choose yourself for the sake of the relationship.
This is what I mean.
Say someone you love is oversharing details about other people. Let's say they are sharing intimate details about your close friends and family members--and you just don't feel comfortable being privy to that kind of information.
What do you do?
In this situation, there are no easy answers, but setting emotional boundaries is always a good option.
- Voice your displeasure with the kind of content you are receiving. Talk about how uncomfortable it is making you. Share your OWN feelings.
- If this doesn't work, more clearly state that you don't think other people would want their private information shared like this. Explain the consequences of this kind of behavior. You want to create some cognitive dissonance with your sparring partner with the hope that they will gain insight regarding how they are treating others.
- Draw a hard line. When all else fails, you need to call it what it is. Emotions are murky, shape-shifting things. When you don't name them and tame them, they have a tendency to consume your life. Clearly state something like this: "I'm sorry, this is a red line for me. I have to put up a boundary." And just let it hang there. No hours of explanation needed. If the person can't respect this extremely obvious declaration of discomfort, it might be time to reconsider how much time you're spending around them.
Concluding With a Boundary
And like all other good relationships in life, this written relationship must come to an end.
What if I continued to write and write? What if I tried to consume as much of your time as possible? Would that be fair to you?
This interaction we have here also should be based on healthy boundaries.
When I create signposts for what kind of information you can expect and how much time you should reasonably spend consuming it, I'm setting a boundary.
With that in mind, I hope you'll not only consume this information.
I hope you'll apply it in your own life.
You're not a monster for setting boundaries with others.
You're a human being giving healthy shape to your ongoing relationships.