In Part 1 of this 2 part series, we explored what good boundaries can offer in a relationship, and how to determine when to set them.
A clear boundary includes a statement of what the boundary is, why it is important to you, how it will improve the relationship, and what will need to happen if the other person is not able or willing to respect it.
“ I want to be able to invite you to my home, because it’s important to me that you are a part of my day to day life. However, I can only continue to do so if you do not criticize my housekeeping. I understand that you would do things differently, however I am not you. If you don’t feel capable of keeping your criticism to yourself, then it would be best for us to meet elsewhere for our visits so we can both really enjoy our time together.”
“When you regularly call me after 10 pm, it is really disruptive to my nighttime routine. I love talking with you, however at that time of night I’m tired and not able to engage with you the way I want to. If you call me after 10, I’m not going to pick up and I will call you back the next day so we can catch up.”
Then, once you’ve clearly set the boundary, make a decision on how rigid it needs to be.
If it is a habit that the other person is trying to break, and you see them making a clear and concerted effort to do so, then you may be more inclined to give grace when they occasionally slip up. Remind them of your boundary, thank them for all the times they’ve respected it in the past, and ask that they continue the effort.
“Hey, I’ve really noticed that you’ve cut down on the critical comments the last 3 times you visited – that has been so wonderful, and I really enjoyed those visits! I know you’ve been trying really hard and I appreciate your effort. Today, it felt like we returned briefly to how it used to be – could you please try to keep your criticism about my housekeeping to yourself so we can continue to enjoy our time here together?”
However, if you’ve set a boundary and the other person is not making an effort to respect it, or makes a brief effort then goes right back to how they used to handle things, then it’s time to follow through with changes on your end in order to maintain your peace of mind and the quality of the relationship.
Again, as we discussed in Part 1 of this series, it’s really important that you are thoughtful about what changes you’re willing to make to maintain your boundary. If you make a change that is more difficult for you, or that creates more internal stress, then you’ll struggle to maintain consistency and will feel resentment anyway.
For example, in the phone call example above, if calling back the next day will feel like a burden and will create frustration, then don’t make that promise. Instead, you could say that if they call after 10 you just won’t answer, and they will need to try you again during the day.
Be thoughtful about the point of the boundary (to reduce conflict, friction, and resentment, and allow you both to enjoy the relationship) and do the work on your end to offer solutions that do work for you.
Written by: Molly Halbrooks