Setting Boundaries in Relationships
Setting boundaries can be one of the hardest things you will ever do. They can also be the best thing you can do for your relationship. Relationship with your parents, partner, children and the relationship with yourself.
Why is setting boundaries so difficult?
When it comes to adult children setting boundaries with a parent this can be difficult due to how a relationship changes when a child becomes an adult. As a parent it is your job to raise your children and doing so requires a certain degree of authority over them. Once those children reach adulthood it can be difficult to transition into the new roles.
This transition can go both ways. Parents can find it difficult to remove themselves from the authority to make room for a new relationship to form. For the child it can be difficult to move into the responsibility that comes with being an adult.
Adult children may also find it difficult to have parents remove themselves from the authority and the one doing things for them. It is helpful for the parent to explain to the children that they have already been taught all of these skills, it is up to them to put them into practice.
It is important that both parties learn to set boundaries to allow for a healthy parent child relationship to thrive even post childhood. But that doesn’t mean boundaries come easy.
If you have been biting your nails for 18 years it isn’t going to be easy to stop overnight. Your Partner may expect you to cook dinner every night, it can be hard for them to realize that they are just as responsible. If you have been used to them cleaning up after you and paying all your bills it will be difficult to take on the responsibility as an equal partner .
Change is never easy but more often than not change is a sign of growth and is healthy for yourself and your relationships.
Why might you need to set boundaries?
- Does the relationship give you anxiety?
- Does the opposite party make you uncomfortable?
- Is there an issue of trust?
- Do you feel stuck?
- Do you have feelings of resentment towards the other party?
- Do you feel angry?
- Does what people say to you make you upset?
- Do you find yourself judging people often?
- Are you always the one taking care of someone else?
- Do you feel drained by your relationship?
- Are you easily hurt by criticism?
- Do you have a hard time saying no to people?
- Are you constantly holding back what you want to say?
Tips for setting boundaries
You don’t have to start all at once. Practice makes perfect. If you are worried, start with a trusted friend, and set a simple boundary. Practice saying no. Another possibility is to practice what you are going to say or role play a conversation. It may feel silly, but allowing yourself time to practice may help you see that it’s not that scary.
Don’t have difficult conversations when you’re angry
When planning to have a boundary setting conversation try to plan it for a time when you will both be calm and level headed. If possible, have a pre-conversation. Tell the other party that you would like to have a conversation and you would appreciate their support and an open mind. Once having the conversation if it is not being productive and one or both of you is becoming upset you are allowed to walk away and try having the conversation again later.
Have a plan
Plan what you are going to say, and plan how you are going to exit the conversation if needed. How are you going to react if the conversation goes sideways? What is the end goal of the conversation? Practise in front of the mirror or write out what you plan to say. Whatever you think will help you. It will not only help calm nerves but can also help bring the conversation back to something more productive if you get off track.
You are allowed to want new things
At the end of the day people grow and change. Children become adults and have children of their own. Parents are allowed to want space after children grow up. Relationships evolve and change and you are allowed to make those changes. Sometimes people grow apart, sometimes they grow together. At the end of the day it is boundaries that allow for change. Not doing your childrens’ dishes anymore, not allowing your new partner to spend the night, not picking up phone calls during dinner or after 9pm.
What boundaries have you needed to set?
If you need help setting boundaries you can reach out to one of our counselors here.