Setting Boundaries in RelationshipsSetting Boundaries in Relationships


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The Angry Self: A Comprehensive Approach to Anger Management

setting boundaries relationships

Setting Boundaries in Relationships

Why is is Important to Set Boundaries?

If You

I will

If you Continue this Behavior

Setting boundaries seems to be a crucial point to relationships.

There are basically three parts to a boundary. The first two are setting the boundary - the third is what we will do to defend that boundary.

If you - a description of the behavior we find unacceptable (again being as descriptive as possible.)

I will - a description of what action you will take to protect and take care of your self in the event the other person violates the boundary.

If you continue this behavior - a description of what steps you will take to protect the boundary that you have set. (whether or not you say this verbally or not).

The doors of my house have locks. I not only have the right to lock my doors, but I have the duty to protect my family from thieves and dangerous people. Yet, even with the doors locked, my home is occasionally invaded by telemarketers who interrupt whatever I'm doing with the hope of making a sale. At other times, an acquaintance may call and poison the atmosphere with endless whining about how unfair life is.

Yes, life would be unfair if we were forced to listen to someone whose only purpose in life is to complain. Thankfully, life is not unfair. We have power. We can define what we are willing to put up with. We can establish what is and what is not acceptable to us. We don't have to listen to every call. We can say, "Sorry, I'm busy now. Thanks for calling. Talk to you later. Good-bye," and hang up.

Make a list of I will not statements e.g. :

Here are a few examples:

I will not tolerate disrespect in our home.
I will not tolerate contact with the Other Person while we are working on us.
I will not tolerate secrets kept from me.
I will not tolerate anything but total honesty from you.

then continue, with the other parts of the boundary.
If you continue with this behaviour I or you will leave this house.

It is not always necessary or appropriate to share the third part of this formula with the other person when setting a boundary - the first two steps are the actual setting of the boundary. The third part is something we need to know for ourselves, so that we know what action we can take if the other person violates the boundary. It is very important to set consequences that we are willing to enforce. If you are setting boundaries in a relationship, and you are not yet at a point where you are ready to leave the relationship - then don't say that you will leave. You can say that you will start considering all of your options including leaving - but do not state that you will do something that you are not ready yet to do. To set boundaries and not enforce them just gives the other person an excuse to continue in the same old behavior. We want them to change their behaviour.
This may not be an instant step.

Well, the bottom line is that you cannot force another person change their behavior, so ultimately it is necessary for you to be willing to leave the relationship if they won't stop. That doesn't mean you have to leave - what it means is that you have to own that you do have the choice to leave. As long as you don't own you have the choice to leave if the other persons behavior is unacceptable - then you are just setting yourself up to feel like a victim.

Until we own that we have a choice, we haven't made one. In other words, if you do not believe that you have a choice to leave your job, or relationship, then you have not made a choice to stay in it. You can only truly commit yourself to something if you are consciously choosing to do it.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. If the person keeps doing the unacceptable behavior and you won't leave them, then the hurt you are experiencing is your responsibility. It is so important to start taking responsibility for our own feelings - and stop blaming them on others.

In a word, we can set boundaries. Boundaries don't separate us from life; they enrich it. After all, boundaries give us the freedom to become the person we wish to be. Some, however, are afraid to speak up. They are afraid of being rejected and losing their friend. They are willing to give up all that they can become in order to hold on to the little that they now have.

Courtesy of: Robert Burney --his good book is: Codependence / The Dance of Wounded Souls.

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Please note: The suggestions and advice offered on this web site are opinions only and are not to be used in the place of professional psychological counseling or medical advice. If you or someone close to you is currently in crisis or in an emergency situation, contact your local emergency 911 or a Counselor nearby