I wish there was a class in high school that taught people about the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries in personal relationships.
Unfortunately, the powers-that-be decided that learning the exact year of the Battle of the Alamo was more important than learning how to have healthy relationships with yourself and others. And so, we’re left fumbling about in adulthood trying to figure it all out.
The following are signs that you might need to put some effort into setting or strengthening your boundaries in one or more relationships –
Anger is often one of the first signs that our boundaries have been crossed. It provokes a sense of being disregarded or even assaulted as others railroad us in pursuit of their own desires.
Often, either shock at the disregard for another’s feelings or an entrenched discomfort with anger prompts us to keep our mounts shut in the name of keeping the peace. And well it’s true that boundaries should not be set in anger, anger is a sign that they may need to be instated once tempers have eased.
Anger requires energy and energy is a finite resource. Over time, when boundaries are continually ignored, anger waters down into chronic bitterness or frustration. This is an interesting state because our irritation is aimed at the other person when often we hold the key to change it.
Of course, a certain amount of frustration is inevitable whenever you’re dealing with a fellow imperfect human, but if it has become a constant companion, it’s the light on your dash informing you that your boundaries are low.
Having your emotional and intrapersonal space invaded on the regular is exhausting. Relationships require energy, but if yours is continually leaving you feeling drained and wrung out, it’s a clear indicator that some guidelines need to be established.
This is often an ignored sign of a lack of boundaries because when you’re feeling exhausted, the last thing you want to do is expend the energy to create and maintain new conventions. Yet here’s the fact – if you don’t change your approach, you will remain feeling used and exhausted and if you invest the energy up front, you will eventually feel restored and revitalized.
You know what people who ignore your boundaries don’t do? Appreciate and thank you for the opportunity.
Over time and with repeated disregard, you will inevitably feel resentment for the other person. Often, those of us that end up in this predicament have a belief that if we just give enough, the other person will love and appreciate us.
What we’re forgetting is that we teach people how to treat us. So if we give and give with no limits, we are communicating that self-sacrifice is to be expected. Interestingly, when giving occurs within well-established boundaries, it is both more appreciated and less self-sacrificing.
Walking on Eggshells
Frequently, boundaries are absent or poorly enforced within relationships that are control and/or fear-based. The encroaching partner seeks to dominate and the boundary-lacking partner is afraid of being discarded.
When a sense of walking on eggshells in an attempt to let sleeping beasts lie becomes the norm, it is important to take a look at what you’re willing to tolerate in the name of being with this person. If you struggle to see this clearly for yourself, think of what you would advise for a friend or your child in a similar situation. Would you want them to put up with the same behaviors you are?
When we’re in difficult or toxic relationships, we often fall back on wanting – or waiting – for the other person to change. What we often fail to realize is how much power we have to alter the situation. And that all begins with boundaries.