One of my core values is “personal responsibility.” If I am held accountable for a result, then I want control of implementing how I will get it. I love clear expectations. As a planner, it makes me feel secure knowing my resources and limits. I do not like ambushes from people who never communicate their limits and then explode when I’ve pushed too far. Not only does it cause conflict, I then have to revise all my previous planning. I need to know what I’m responsible for. I also need to know what I am not responsible for so I don’t try to fix problems that I don’t own.
“Drawing the Line” series is about looking at our personal boundaries in an effort to have healthy relationships. In learning about where my own line is, I can then give more respect to where other people draw their line. When I clearly communicate my boundary, I invite others to communicate their boundary.
The beginning of a new series allows the opportunity to pause and review the purpose of writing this blog, “wisdom served in bite-sized pieces.” I love learning about personal growth. I’m passionate about sharing the most valuable parts in hope that it will be impactful to someone else. Highlights from self-development books provide a taste of insight for people with busy schedules. This blog series is based on Henry McCloud & John Townsend’s book, “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.” We will begin the next trip of self-discovery here. Please join me on “My Journey to a Fulfilled Life.”
Boundaries with my Self (#2)
The “disease to please” has infected many females. There are evolutionary purposes to need a tribe for safety and security. In modern times, feeling compelled to be liked and accepted can easily lead us to violating our own boundaries for the sake of pleasing someone else.
In every relationship I have, the common denominator is ME. The first place I am going to explore in this blog series is boundaries with our Self. We can easily be our own worst enemy. We can pull back in relationships when we need to lean in. We can over-rely on our willpower to solve boundary problems.
In the book, Boundaries, the author tells us we have an “out of control soul” that violates boundaries which include:
1. Weight – “The overweight person feels enormous self-hate and shame about her condition.” The unhealthy ways we comfort ourselves with food. The intimacy we avoid by gaining weight.
2. Money—Avoiding honesty about emotional imbalances through “retail therapy.” The debtor becomes the slave.
3. Time – Always running late and making others wait. Causes include: belief of omnipotence, over-responsible for the feelings of others, lack of realistic anxiety, rationalization.
4. Task Completion—Poor finishers struggle with: resistance to structure, fear of success, lack of follow-through, distractability, inability to delay gratification, inability to say NO to other pressures.
5. Tongue—Using words as a curse instead of a blessing include: Nonstop talking to avoid intimacy, dominating conversations, gossip, fake flattery. Not being able to hold our tongue still makes us responsible for the hurtful things we say in anger.
There are two areas where I have had to practice implementing boundaries. First, when I made a decision to get my body to a healthy sustainable weight, I realized that tracking my food intake and documenting my exercise was my path to success. When I ignore my calorie boundaries, the weight slowly slips back on until my clothes are too tight. I am then forced to recommit to my tracking system. After resisting temptation for chocolate treats for so long, I get tired of resisting once I reach my goal. I continue to learn that by eating within my limitations, I can reach my goal of a sustainable healthy weight.
Second, I made a decision that I will be debt-free. I had laser-like focus to quickly pay off my lingering student loans. I documented every penny against what I had allocated. I have been on a budget for years. When extra money comes, I still have to fight the impulse to not splurge. I remind myself that budget boundaries allow me to save so I can have a financially secure future.
I am responsible for drawing the line for my personal boundaries with my Self. It is okay to be healthy and within my ideal weight range. It is not okay for my clothes to be tight and uncomfortable. It is okay to have an automatic system that ensures financial health and to live within a designated flexible budget. It is not okay to carry debt. These are my personal boundaries. What are yours?
Boundaries at Work (#3)
“YOUR procrastination is not MY emergency.” I am a planner so I have little empathy for people who wait to the last minute and scramble around causing panic for others. I provide resources to empower the students I manage to find the answers they need. I intentionally don’t tell them the quick answer they want. I say, “Let’s all get out the syllabus and find out.” I put the accountability of finding out information back on them.
This is the third blog in a series based on the book, Boundaries. We will be looking at how we can “Draw the Line” to protect ourselves at work.
A lot of conflict can erupt when people are not clear about expectations and responsibilities. The book identifies common boundary problems at work.
1. Getting saddled with another person’s responsibilities – When we make someone else’s job our priority, then our responsibilities get neglected. We are paid to complete our responsibilities.
2. Working too much overtime – When we have limited time to accomplish the task, we can focus better and release the non-important tasks. Instead of working overtime, the book suggests asking your boss a question. “If I am going to do A today, I will not be able to do B until Wednesday. Is that okay or do we need to rethink which one I need to be working on?” Realize your limits and do not allow work to control your life. Limits force prioritization.
3. Misplaced priorities— If time is limitless, you may say yes to everything. Spend time on the most important things. Don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by distractions that are not high value. Your boss’s essential goals must get done.
4. Difficult co-workers. You must see yourself as the problem, not the other person. You only have control of yourself.
One of the bite-sized pieces of wisdom that I got from the Boundaries book is to embrace work as a spiritual journey. Thinking of work as a partnership between me and God allows me to be generous with my talents so I can continue to develop them. Through refinement, I can better serve others.
I actively manage 150 people every semester. I found myself frustrated because I felt responsible for poor quality work produced by students. In the process of “Drawing the Line” I was able to protect myself from people taking time, energy, and resources that I’m not willing to give. I decided to define what is on my side of the line: It is my responsibility to make expectations clear. I set a reasonable time-frame for task completion. I provide clarification of what I want the end result to look like. I set aside designated time to answer follow-up questions. I am not responsible for poor quality work. I am not responsible for last-minute scrambling around that causes panic. I am not responsible for the emergency caused by procrastination. I will soon give my line an upgrade so I don’t have to SAY “it’s in the syllabus” over and over again because students don’t want to be accountable for finding out the answer themselves. Instead, I will follow the lead of another professor and get the shirt.
Boundaries with Kids (#4)
“I’m not here to be your friend” was my parents’ mantra during childhood. They had a job to do. Their goal was to train us to be functioning members of society who know how to work and know how to give by 18 years old. Even after the divorce, there was no dividing and conquering one parent to play against the other. Co-parenting was their highest priority, married together or not.
This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. We will be looking at how we can “Draw the Line” to create boundaries with kids.
Kids like to test limits to make sure they are firm and to find out if they are pliable. Overworked parents find it easier to make kids happy (and quiet), so the rules get broken more often. Parents teach children if “no” is a real answer or the beginning of a negotiation.
Develop boundaries early in young children. Teach responsibility, limit-setting, and delay gratification to have a higher probability of YOU surviving THEIR adolescence.
Parents’ job is to prepare children for adulthood. There are real consequences to choices. When children have a safe place for trial and error, they can learn from their mistake to do better next time. When parents don’t practice good boundaries with their kids, society will put their adult-children in grown-up “time-out”, called jail. Using the family to simulate society, parents have the opportunity to help children see how their choices affect other people. It is better to learn tough lessons from gentle hands.
1. Self-Protection – Give your child the freedom to say no, tell the truth, and maintain physical distance. For example, if a dad is rough-housing with his son. The son can say, “Stop Dad.” The dad will respond without withdrawing love or teasing. By giving children permission to disagree without losing love, we teach them to stand up for themselves.
Rite of Passage: During the teenage years, parents get to see what kind of character has actually been built into their children. We want our young people to say no to bad influences. We want our tweens to assert a comfortable physical distance from someone who is getting too friendly. We want our teens to tell us the truth, even if we don’t like the answer.
2. Taking Responsibility for One’s Needs – Helping children identify their feelings so they can communicate emotions will serve them well. When kids can self-monitor what they need, then they can take the initiative to get it. Boundaries help kids define what their needs are and how it differs from the needs of others. The freedom of verbal expression allows kids to ask for something that may go against the grain. When young people initiate caretaking of themselves, they learn the power of self-sufficiency. They will grow into adults who are empowered instead of placing the burden of their needs on someone else.
“We must allow children to experience the painful consequences of their own irresponsibility and mistakes.”
Throughout my childhood, we were given clear expectations. We were expected to do our best in school. The C+ in math was my best, not my strength. We were allowed the space to experience natural consequences to our choices that my parents’ didn’t shelter us from (e.g. cutting my own bangs way too short). Some bad choices meant we paid fines out of our savings account because we broke a rule. Other bad choices meant we did work-detail in the backyard in absolute silence for an hour.
We were not sheltered from the car accidents of drunk drivers. We knew there were real dangers out in the world and that our parents were training us to make good decisions. My dad told us every child-abduction that made the news as a reminder of what could happen when we don’t protect our personal safety and trust strangers. We were allowed to express our thoughts as long as we were respectful. We learned to persuade our parents to consider extending our boundaries by making a strong argument and addressing their concerns for our health and safety.
My mom and dad’s parenting theme was to help me survive without them at 18 years old. Good discipline sets limits and delays gratification to teach responsibility. My parents’ role shifted from active parenting into adviser-guide as I transitioned into the passage of real adulthood. Parenting is an important job. Training children to become functioning members of society is challenging and emotionally uncomfortable. I learned tough lessons from gentle hands. I’m thankful my parents weren’t my “friend” during childhood so we can be friends now.
Boundaries in Marriage (#5)
“When two become one.” Separate and together is a dichotomy in marriage. My marriage has needs. I have needs that are different than my husband’s needs. Loss of identity has always been a big concern for me. I never wanted to get swallowed up in a relationship or be confined by marriage. I believe in clear expectations and healthy boundaries so we both understand each other’s limits and responsibilities.
This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. We will be looking at how we can “Draw the Line” to respect boundaries in marriage.
1. “More marriages fail because of poor boundaries than any other reason.” Gender roles have changed. There are options now about who will be doing the finances and who will be the primary childcare provider. The line is blurry about who is responsible for what and for how long. Boundaries need to be continuously renegotiated when needs change over time. There is danger in taking or expecting more than what is being offered. There is also danger in not expressing what you really need.
2. Boundaries need to be defined. Limits need to be communicated. Consequences need to be clear in advance. One frustration that I’ve had in my relationship is effective use of time-management. If people are expecting me at a certain time, being late is unacceptable. My husband’s philosophy is more go-with-the-flow, we will get there when we get there. Our personal core values are in conflict on this issue. One day I finally drew the line. I explained to him that it was important I arrive on time. I notified him that I was leaving at 5:00pm exactly. The consequence of him not being ready would be that I leave without him. My car left at 5:00pm exactly and he wasn’t in it. He was then responsible for getting himself to the destination in a separate car. His lack of preparation wasn’t going to make me late. Suffering the natural consequences was a must. This scenario only happened once. Since time-management isn’t his strength, we made a deal. I will only tell him the time when HE needs to start getting ready by. If we need to leave by 5:00pm, I tell him 4:20. The boundary lesson was that my husband now knows I will leave him if he isn’t ready to go on time for an important meeting.
3. We must take responsibility for our own feelings in order to have true intimacy. Feelings can be warning signals that tell us we need something. It is our job to communicate what we need to our partner. Not dealing with feelings of hurt or anger can kill a relationship.
Household duties can be worked out based on interest and individual abilities. Each spouse maintains their own personhood. Spouses can cross the line to trespass on the other’s personhood. When we try to control the other’s feelings, attitudes, behaviors, choices, and values, we are violating boundaries.
4. Setting limits is an act of love in the marriage. When we draw the line in marriage, we become very clear about what we are okay with and what we are not okay with. We define what is my responsibility and what is not my responsibility. When there is a boundary violation, we must act responsible to our partner by confronting him or her. “Only we know what we can and want to give, only we can be responsible for drawing the line.”
“When two become one” the boundaries become blurry. We can be separate people together in one partnership. I am responsible for my feelings, my behaviors, and my choices. When we clarify expectations and communicate needs, we can establish healthy boundaries while “Drawing the Line” in marriage.
Boundaries with Family (#6)
There is a saying about how “good fences make good neighbors.” The fence defines what is mine to take care of and what is NOT mine. Fences help us feel secure because the limits are identified, understood, and respected. That same perspective could be applied to our family of origin and in-laws, “good boundaries make good family holidays.”
As a newlywed, this is the time to give my marriage a lot of space to grow. We are still defining the identity of “our new family” we created on our wedding day that makes a distinction between our family of origin. The holiday season brings up scheduling conflicts and decisions of where we will be investing our resources (travel time, money, and energy). A big struggle for married couples is with managing the in-laws, our spouse’s parents. We also have to look at our own family as a our spouse’s “in-laws.” What is acceptable to me may be a boundary violation for him. My husband and I may have different definitions of what “family time” is and how much is too much. Annual special occasions can trigger territory conflicts between his side, my side, and our side.
This is the sixth blog in a series based on the book, Boundaries. This week, we will be looking at how to “Draw the Line” with family.
Boundaries protect our sanity. The holiday season is fast approaching. Expectations and family-time can lead to stress. My family, his family, step-family, out-of-town family… there are so many moving parts and too many people to try to please. Fulfilling obligations, appeasing drama-queens that start a ruckus, or soothing the sulking mother who is not happy about the every-other-year Christmas rotation schedule. There is a limit to what we can effectively handle.
Lack of boundaries with family can inhibit our growth. The holiday season comes with pressure. We put pressure on ourselves to make up for all the times we should’ve called, but didn’t. We have to look at old traditions and decide if we want to create new traditions now that we have our own family. Group dynamics change with new spouses, who have their own family traditions. New parents want to create new rituals.
Sometimes we don’t realize how much we need boundaries until all our family is in the same room. The book, Boundaries, identifies some specific areas in family dynamics that are in urgent need of healthy boundaries.
1. Preventing Independence: (aka “Failure to Launch”). The great benefit of discomfort is that it gets us to start making changes. Feeling the lack of resources inspires us to hustle and do some creative problem-solving. Parents “help” their adult-children by financing their road of failure because they want to protect them from discomfort. What really ends up happening is that critical choices about life-management decisions get postponed, delaying opportunities for growth and independence.
“An adult who does not stand on his own financially is still a child. To be an adult, you must live within your means and pay for your own failures.”
2. Second Fiddle: (aka “Daddy’s Princess”). When a wife gets married to a man, she is agreeing to leave her family of origin and “cleave” to her husband to create a new family. The problem occurs when every time the wife is around her dad, she wants to please him to the point of only having leftovers for her husband. When a spouse shows that her real allegiance is to her family of origin, the husband is reminded that he doesn’t have his wife’s loyalty.
3. Perpetual Child Syndrome: (aka “Mommy’s Little Man”). Keeping an adult child from emotionally leaving home can lead to dysfunctional relationships. Mothers are a boy’s first source of nurturing and care. Some men transfer that job over to their wives when they get married. Some, do not. When a mom still performs life management functions for her adult-son, a wife can see this as a threat. She is reminded that she doesn’t completely have her husband’s loyalty.
Just when we think we’ve matured and moved passed issues, our families remind us that we may still have some more work to do on ourselves. One of the most important bite-sized pieces of wisdom I learned: “People who own their lives do not feel guilty when they make choices about where they are going. They take other people into consideration, but when they make choices for the wishes of others, they are choosing out of love, not guilt, to advance a good not to avoid being bad.”
The holiday season provides us opportunities to renegotiate our boundaries in advance to have clear expectations for what we need. When we define a boundary, it is the other person’s choice to accept or not. Your new boundary may not work for others. This may mean that the tradition goes on without you or you may not be included in the new ritual. We can’t control other people. They make their own choices. We can only control ourselves within our own territory.
As I clear some space for my new marriage, I am reminded about the philosophy of how “good fences make good neighbors” applied to family. The great aspect of fences is that it allows for openings, gates that filter through what I want while protecting what I need. What I need now is to not do double holidays. I don’t want to have dinner here and then hurry out to have dessert there. I don’t want to be commuting on a holiday so that everyone is happy while I’m frustrated. It reminds me of being a child of divorce flipping back and forth between two sides. This is where I draw the line. I made my priorities clear early while still being fair to my husband’s needs. We created a plan that puts our marriage first and our family’s needs second.
Growth and change are continuous. We need to redefine our evolving boundaries and “Draw the Line” with family.
Boundaries with Resistors (#7)
I love the role of the Pack Leader. Clear expectations help people feel safe. One thing I learned from having a dog is that implementing boundaries comes with initial resistance. Just like dogs, when people are blocked from having things their way, the boundary is tested for weaknesses. There is a series of strategies that are deployed to figure out a way to NOT respect the new boundary.
The new boundary can be overcome.
Loopholes will be identified.
Creative tactics will be dug out.
This is the seventh blog in a series based on the book, Boundaries. This week, we will be looking at “Drawing the Line” with Resistors. In the previous blogs, we addressed boundaries with our self, kids, marriage, and family. This covers most of the people who will be celebrating the holidays with us. When “Drawing the Line,” we define the boundaries to ourselves and we communicate where the limit is of what we are willing to do.
Just as dogs are creative in finding alternative ways to not respect boundaries, humans use their own tactics to have the new boundary withdrawn. The book, Boundaries, identifies how the Resistors can push back on the line.
It is no secret that people generally do not like change. They especially don’t like YOUR change that negatively affects THEM. Instead of adapting, the Resistors try to get you to NOT change by implementing three popular strategies.
1. Angry Reactions: “How dare you disturb my world with your changes.”– Anger could manifest itself into the adult temper-tantrum with grown-up words to express disagreement. This is an intimidation tactic from selfish individuals. “People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem.”
2. Guilt Messages: “Sad face and whimpering.” – Instead of directly confronting disagreement with boundaries, manipulative people will try to use guilt to make you feel bad. The hope is that you will feel so bad you will remove the boundary that they don’t like. Tip: Do not explain or justify your reasoning.
3. Counter-Moves: “My way or you’re cut off” –Freedom from someone who wants to control you comes at a cost. You may get ignored and uninvited to family get-togethers. When you stop playing the family’s dysfunctional games, you may get cut from the group. A controller may leave a relationship when they no longer have power over you.
Boundaries allow for respect of yourself and for other people. When we start “Drawing the Line” with Resistors, we teach people how to treat us so we can be the Pack Leader in our own lives.
Boundaries with Money (#8)
Lending family members money can hurt the relationship.
Dave Ramsey advises against loaning money to family members. The relationship becomes awkward because the power dynamics change. When sitting down to eat with someone who owes you money or you owe them money, Thanksgiving dinner tastes different.
Dealing with family and money can be a dysfunctional process. A sibling who asks for a loan because they are in a desperate situation, then spends it on a vacation. Parents who give a loan to the newlywed couple for a down payment on a new home, then find out they missed a house payment after leasing new cars. Loaning money to your father, who assumes he doesn’t have to pay it back because, well, “we’re family.” When it comes to dysfunction with family and money, it usually is not a financial issue, it is a boundary problem.
This is the eighth blog in a series based on the book, Boundaries. This week, we will be looking at “Drawing the Line” with money. I first heard of the Boundaries book when listening to the Dave Ramsey podcast about personal finance. There was a theme that centered around fuzzy boundaries and family money drama.
Ramsey recommends a couple of boundary options when being asked for a loan by a family member:
Option #1: Gift the money. If it is a one-time transaction, consider “giving” the money as a gift. Dave Ramsey says, “Giving money to a friend or relative can be a nice thing to do if it helps them out, but when it turns into a loan, it turns into trouble.” The gift frees the borrower from being a slave to the lender. Giving avoids the awkward questions, “when are you going to pay me back?”
Option #2: Deal or No Deal. If the loaning process is continuous, then more drastic measures are needed. “Help them change their life, not live in denial.” When your mother-in-law lives a life of luxury that is financed on credit and comes begging for “help” to pay her BMW car payments, you have a boundary problem. The asking will never end. The “helping her out this one time” turns into a monthly conversation.
Throwing money at bad habits doesn’t fix the problem. One of Dave Ramsey’s solutions for someone who is perpetually a financial victim of life is to make them a deal. First, there will be no more “loans” of help. Second, the borrower must agree to the plan-of-action to make the problem stop. The borrower will attend Financial Peace University to learn about how to live within their means and managing money effectively. Third, the giver can provide an incentive program for effective money management. Dave recommends a “matching” program. For every “X” amount of money that is saved, he matches it (up to a certain amount). Instead of fixing the short-term problem, Ramsey recommends family members help their loved ones to change their relationship with money forever by encouraging them to install positive habits of money management. “Drawing the Line” is placing boundaries around what you are willing to offer and to protect yourself from making decisions that will lead to resentment. If the perpetual borrower doesn’t agree and follow through with the terms of your boundaries, then No Deal.
If you are thinking about asking a family member for a loan, consider the shackles that will be placed on your relationship. The dynamics change and the lender will be watching how you spend the borrowed money. You will be inviting someone else to be invested in your money management choices.
The next time a family member asks to borrow money AGAIN, say no. Start a discussion of what you are willing to do and how you can “help” them without providing a loan. Lending money to family members can hurt relationships. “Drawing the Line” with money will help protect the taste of Thanksgiving dinner.
Boundaries with Friends (#9)
Marriage changes our relationships with friends. We once shared all the details about the guy we were dating, now we have to practice censorship out of respect for our spouse’s need for privacy. Laughing over cocktails at happy hour has been replaced with quiet dinner parties and kiddie play dates. My friends’ priorities have changed and I wanted our friendship to stay the same.
Since I was a late-bloomer to matrimony, I was usually the friend that others outgrew. I am someone who wants one-on-one time and friendships became more of a group event. It first starts with the coupling process and being the single friend when others want to double-date. Then “going out” at night turns into “staying home” for the day as new suburbia home-owners host backyard barbeques. The next stage is when “get togethers” really mean pool parties with kids screaming all over the place. With each new life stage, distance grows in life experiences and interests. Sometimes friends move forward with you into grown-up land, while others linger behind.
This is the ninth blog in a series based on the book, Boundaries. This week, we will be looking at “Drawing the Line” with Friends. I’m taking the theme of the book chapter and expanding on some of my own ideas. As individual needs evolve, old friendships need new boundaries. We need to redefine what we can offer our friendships so others can be clear of what to expect.
1. High-maintenance friends need to be put on notice. The friend who is always recovering from a break-up or seems to attract drama needs to be told where the line is. Getting married (or starting a family) means there will be a limited amount of energy to invest in friends. Priority goes to home-life. You will no longer be available every week for a shoulder to cry on.
2. Privacy in marriage needs to be protected. There will be some pieces of yourself that only your spouse will know. There is no longer unlimited self-disclosure because protecting your spouse’s trust and public image is a higher priority.
3. Keep friendship opportunities open. If you only have mommy-friends, then your world view stays limited. It is unwise to insulate yourself too much into one type of friend. If you are only friends with your siblings or parents, then you are blocking new perspectives. Having a variety of types of friends helps you remember different sides of yourself that can easily be buried under your roles of spouse or parent.
4. Abandoning friendships because life changes is unacceptable. Priorities shift and time-availability becomes limited. Relationships that are worth keeping still require an investment. You may not be able to heavily invest like you have in the past. This may mean that you have to block out time on the calendar further in advance in order to make a friend-date a priority. You may need to schedule workouts together on the weekends or plan phone dates with long distance friends for your commute home. “We learn that the bonds of true friendship are not easily broken. And we learn that, in a good relationship, we can set limits that will strengthen, not injure, the connection.” Friends can adapt for a phase in your life. They don’t want to be dumped.
When life gets messy, friends are the ones who will rally to your aid. Friendships are important to cultivate even when priorities shift. Husbands can leave through death or divorce. Babies grow up into adults who don’t need you anymore. Friends are the ones who will be there to get you through all the seasons in your life. They are the ones who will help you remember who you were before you were married or had kids. They will introduce you to parts of yourself you never explored before.
I accept that quality time with friends may not happen as often as I prefer. Being the late-bloomer, I understand that I have to be the flexible one because there are limited openings in a friend’s kid-free schedule. This means that I have to put more work into keeping myself on their social radar.
As a quality-time person who values undivided attention, let me share with you where my boundaries are: I don’t want to compete and lose for your attention. This means taking your kids to Chuck E. Cheese and you refereeing their interaction doesn’t count as spending time with me. Inviting me over to a house party of 20+ guests doesn’t count as spending time with me. I have boundaries too. “Drawing the Line” with friends means we communicate that we love them and there is a limitation of availability. From there, we can negotiate how to stay involved in each other’s lives that works for both of us.
Marriage changes friendships: HOW it changes is up to you. We may just discover how much we need our friends to help us through another stage in life and to help us remember how far we’ve come.
Boundary Problems (#10)
“Do Not Cross” is a boundary marker. The purpose is to clearly communicate what is expected and that there is a limitation to be respected. We have to create our own “do not cross” markers in relationships.
The Boundaries book identifies three types of people who have boundary problems: Compliants, Avoidants and Controllers.
1. “My boundary problem is that I don’t have any.” People who are identified as “compliant” take on too many responsibilities of others. They don’t have boundaries because they are afraid. The disease-to-please is a fear-based infection. They dis-empower themselves by giving up their freedom of choice and say things like, “I have to, there is nobody else.” This can show up as a need to be needed. Becoming a dumping ground for other people’s tasks becomes the norm. Overwhelm can lead to literally making yourself sick. Giving out of perpetual obligation leads to feelings of resentment that deteriorates relationships. Action: Set a boundary with pleasantness. “No. I’m sorry I can’t help you.” Or try saying, “No thank you, that doesn’t work for me.”
2. “I don’t need help, I can do it all myself.” People who are identified as “avoidants” have a hard time ever asking for help. They don’t recognize the limits of their capacity. There is no space to let anyone else in. Maybe you have seen a hostess at a dinner party try to do everything herself. This can come from a desire to have everything perfect or a fear of relying on other people who will eventually disappoint you by doing it “wrong.” The end result could mean that dinner is served at 10pm and everyone standing around starving because assistance is refused. Action: Control the parts you care most about. Delegate the things that just need to get done.
3. “When I need something, you better have it.” People who are identified as “controllers” don’t respect others’ limits. They are over-takers who usually pair up with over-givers. They resist taking control of own lives and need to control others. The “aggressive controller” will have an attitude of “you better answer the phone when I call you.” There is complete disregard for inconveniencing the other person. They don’t listen or acknowledge that other people have boundaries. Action: Ask instead of demand. Apologize for the inconvenience. Give space for someone to say “no.”
Red Flag! People who are dysfunctional will not respect “no.” They may react in revenge (“I’ll get you back”) when you refuse to give them what they want. If someone tries to punish because they don’t get their way, then you need to move away from their dysfunctional behavior immediately.
“Do Not Cross” is a boundary marker that we all can practice. There are places in our lives where we are Compliant by taking on too much of other people’s work because we want to be liked. There are other times when we take ourselves over the edge of what we can handle because we are Avoidant in knowing when to stop and ask for help. We can also be Controllers who demand our needs be met immediately.
We have to create our own “do not cross” markers in our relationships to help people respect our limitations.
Boundaries with God (#11)
When tragedy happens, it is easy to blame God for “allowing” it. The vulnerability of failing health, an unexpected accident, when innocence is lost, these are all times when we are reminded of the fragility of life. We need answers. We need someone to blame.
I’ve always been intrigued by people’s relationship with God. Some follow a hard line of their religion. Others have more of a free-flowing connection. In moments when I feel I’m in crisis or extremely vulnerable is when I surrender. I maximize my capacity of choices first before I ask for help. When I have nothing left, I stop talking in prayer. I start listening to the “still small voice” that can only be heard in my own silence. My beliefs may not meet the definition of the world’s religions. I appreciate aspects of different perspectives and still never felt I belonged to one religion. I focus on where there is overlap. I focus on the burning desire to feel connected to a higher entity.
The Boundaries book identifies key concepts regarding how we can have healthy boundaries with God.
1. God respects our boundaries. We have a right to feel we are doing it on our own. We have the right to say, “no thanks God, I got this” and go in our own direction. We are still loved when we move away from God.
2. God allows us to feel the consequences of our choices. We can go through life on our own. In making that choice, we also choose the results of our decisions. We are allowed to be responsible for our choices.
3. Own our boundaries with God. We need to be clear how involved we want God in our lives “When we own what is within our boundaries, when we bring it into the light, God can transform it with his love.” We need to be responsible for our own hurt feelings. We need to take appropriate action to make things better. Instead of expecting God to change everyone around us to make our lives more comfortable, we have to make the choice to open our own hearts to be transformed. That means that we have to take responsibility for the mess we make. This may show up in releasing someone who is toxic from our lives to love them from afar. It may mean that we forgive someone who has hurt us so we can release the pain so we can start healing.
4. Don’t be a Freedom-Hater. Childish entitlement can happen when we resent that someone is exercising their own right to choose. We don’t mind if others have choices, just as long as they don’t negatively impact our lives. “When we get angry with Him for what he does not do, we are not allowing Him the freedom to be who he is.” When someone’s choices get in our way, freedom-haters withdraw love. Demands and ultimatums violate boundaries.
There is empowerment experienced in the struggle to overcome challenges. When we do the work that is ours to do, we get to see the depths of our capacity. We are allowed the space to struggle. God waits for our invitation for His support. God may not erase our pain, He may send us someone to provide comfort. We may not be able to fix failing health, He may send us someone to hold our hand as our physical body expires. God may not give back the loss of innocence, He may help us become more compassionate toward a fragile life. When we have questions, God may not share all His answers when we demand them. When we want to blame, we are given an opportunity to take responsibility for what is ours and accept the things we cannot change.
I may never belong to a specific religion. I am continuously reminded that life flows more smoothly when I stop talking and start listening to that “still small voice.” I am directed to be a vessel of service for the highest good of others. The best reminder from the chapter is that God responds when we make our feelings known. “If we do our work, and God does his, we will find strength in a real relationship with our Creator.” Drawing the Line with God helps us have clear boundaries so we can co-create a partnership with God that is based on a burning desire to be close.
Measuring Success with Boundaries (#12)
As this year comes to a close, it is wise to pause to assess growth. Building boundaries in our life takes effort. Boundaries need continuous reinforcement as individuals push up against them to test the firmness. In the process of trying to create a protective space of our limits, it is important to measure success with boundaries. This is the 12th blog in a series based on the book, Boundaries.
Four ways to tell if you know how to “Draw the Line” when implementing boundaries.
1. You feel resentment. The early warning sign that there has been a boundary-violation is the feeling of resentment. There is a desire to stand firm on the line that has been drawn. When we start to feel frustration and anger, we need to pay attention to where our line is and if someone crossed it.
2. You feel an attraction to boundary-lovers. Being around people who have strong boundaries will help reinforce your own. When you say “sorry, that doesn’t work for me,” you may get a response of “oh, okay, what works for you?” This question can invite a counter-offer that respects your limits. When someone respects our “no” we feel free to say “yes” to a good deal. For example, when going to parties my husband or I may not want to stay long. We both have the freedom to give “the signal” that we are ready to go in the next 15 minutes. This gives the other spouse some space to wrap up a conversation and to prepare for departure. Another possible option is that we take separate cars so we have the freedom to head home early when we’ve reached our socializing limit. “We become attracted to boundary lovers because in them, we find permission to be honest, authentic, loving individuals.”
3. You feel responsible only for what is yours. When we take responsibility for only the parts that we are responsible for, we are practicing healthy boundaries. We are not interfering in someone else’s responsibilities without being invited. Taking responsibility for other adults’ lives is destructive behavior. By focusing on our own boundaries we can love ourselves first and lead by example.
4. You feel confident in saying “no” to the little things. We can practice boundaries by testing our resolve with small decisions. Telling your dinner date, “6:00pm puts me right in the middle of traffic, can we push the time to 7:00pm?” We can ask for our ideal choice first. From there, we can negotiate options until the “acceptable” limit stops. If we agree when someone makes requests (or demands) that surpasses our boundaries, we say “yes” out of compliance or guilt. The person who suffers most is us. “The goal is to have a character structure of boundaries which will set limits of self and others at appropriate times.”
The closing down of the year can lead to reflection of how much we’ve grown. Measuring success with boundaries helps us see how far we’ve come in “Drawing the Line.”
10 Boundary Laws
Law #1 Sowing & Reaping (#13-a)
The New Year brings new opportunities. What we sow, we reap. The decisions we make today will show up in our results later in the year. This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. There are 10 Laws of Boundaries addressed in one of the chapters. This week we will explore the first one. Boundaries Law #1: “Sowing & Reaping” illustrates the connection between cause and effect.
New Habit #1: I will stop rescuing irresponsible people from the natural consequences of their bad choices.
Sometimes people confuse enabling with love. Boundaries help others claim the negative outcomes of THEIR own decisions. I will no longer interrupt the process of cause and effect in someone else’s personal choices.
“Confronting an irresponsible person is not painful to him; only consequences are….They need to suffer consequences before they change their behavior.” Suffering allows an irresponsible person the opportunity to make better choices by changing their behavior. We are the only ones who can help stop our own suffering. We cannot save someone else from themselves. We have to choose not to “co-sign the note’ of life for the irresponsible person.”
When people beg for money on the street corner, I rarely give cash. I keep snacks in my car so I will sometimes give one away. The Boundaries Law of Reaping & Sowing has inspired me to give to organizations that help people transform their lives, like Father Joe’s village. If people are on the street because of substance abuse, giving them money or a snack does not support a life change. I am only perpetuating bad decisions that got them in their current situation. If I’m really concerned about people going hungry, then I will volunteer at the local soup kitchen, donate clothes at the consignment shop, or shop at their online retail store.
Once I get good at implementing Law #1 on perfect strangers, I will have the confidence to start applying this new habit on people I actually know. New Year, New Habits!
Law #2 “Responsibility” (#13-b)
“Stupid Tax” is commonly used by personal finance expert Dave Ramsey when referring to the cost of bad choices. Everyone eventually has to pay this tax, some more than others. The wise people have a special fund for “stupid tax” because it is only a matter of time.
This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. There are 10 Laws of Boundaries addressed in one of the chapters. This week we will explore the second law. Boundaries Law #2: “Responsibility” allows a person to pay the price.
New Habit #2: I will be responsible for myself and allow you to be responsible for yourself.
Marriage is a partnership. I benefit from my husband’s efforts and he benefits from mine. The flip side is that partnership can also mean that one spouse pays the price for the bad choices of the other. The Boundaries Law of “Responsibility” reinforces the idea that rescuing someone from the consequences of their decisions will only set yourself up to have to do it over and over again. We need to allow people to pay the price for themselves.
This lesson literally showed up in the household budget. I got a parking ticket for almost $60 because I didn’t see the sign posted in the residential area about street cleaning that day. I did not pay the ticket from our joint funds. It was my financial burden to accept. I didn’t want it to have repercussions to our bottom line at the end of the month. The loss of my personal spending money has made me more aware of parking restrictions. I am responsible for paying the price for my own “stupid tax.” New Year, New Habits!
Law #3 “Power” (#13-c)
One of my favorite prayers is the Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” I am reminded that there are actions that I can take to make a situation better. Sometimes there is no action for me to take because it is out of my control.
This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. There are 10 Laws of Boundaries addressed in one of the chapters. This week we will explore the third one. Boundaries Law #3: “Power” to make amends for violating boundaries.
New Habit #3: I will mend broken fences in my relationships.
There are limitations to how much I can help someone. I cannot live their life for them. I also do not want to have their bad choices impact me. Instead of forcing change on bad choices, I have to change myself to interact with bad choices differently. “Since you cannot get them to change, you must change yourself so that their destructive patterns no longer work on you. Change your way of dealing with them, they may be motivated to change if their old ways no longer work.” In the process of believing I know better, I end up violating their right to make choices and to experience their consequences.
This lesson caught me before I started violating boundaries. I have teenagers in my life that could benefit from my mentoring. They will be transitioning into adulthood unprepared for what is ahead of them. As much as I want to take the lead on their launch, it is action that is not mine. I would be violating their boundaries and rights as young adults. I chose not to bulldoze over their boundaries. The choice I made was to ask, “what can I do to serve your highest good?” She told me her concerns about her level of deficiency in knowledge and preparation in specific areas. I offered some suggestions of ways that I could contribute to her life. She told me what I have that she would be open to accepting. One day I might bulldoze her boundary. That is the day I will have to mend a broken fence I created.
The Serenity Prayer reminds me that there are things that I can change and take action on. There are also things that are not mine to change. Sometimes I still need help figuring out the difference. New Year, New Habits!
Law #4 “Respect” (#13-d)
Seeing morbidly obese children waddling around the cruise deck violates my core value. I caught myself being judgmental to parents who allow their children to carry around excessive fat that forces kids to not be able to walk properly. I was offended at their disrespect for health.
This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. There are 10 Laws of Boundaries addressed in one of the chapters. This week we will explore the fourth law. Boundaries Law #4: “Respect” helps us focus on building our own fence.
New Habit #4: I will show respect to others by minding my own boundaries.
It’s easy to place our core values on the lifestyle choices of others. Based on how we make decisions, we apply the same criteria for others. “We judge the boundary decision of others, thinking that we know best.” One of the bite-sized pieces of wisdom that I got from the Boundaries chapter is to give respect to the boundaries of others, the way we want our boundaries respected.
In a previous blog I wrote about Boundaries with Self, one of the areas that I identified that needs continuous tending is health-management. Not tracking my food intake leads to my jeans not fitting. After weighing myself on the scale post-cruise, I need to be offended by my own disrespect of my health and let others be concerned with their own. New Year, New Habits!
Law #5 “Motivation” (#13-e)
The “disease to please” can be contagious in many aspects of our lives. The exhausted volunteer who says yes when they shouldn’t or the overworked employee who takes on more assignments until they literally make themselves sick. When we pause to look at the driving force behind all our giving, we may see a boundary violation. This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. There are 10 Laws of Boundaries addressed in one of the chapters. This week we will explore the fifth law. Boundaries Law #5: “Motivation” helps us look at why we give. If you don’t have the freedom to say no, you don’t have the freedom to say yes. When someone asks me to do them a favor or requests that I inconvenience myself, I have to pause to take notice. I question whether I am saying yes because I will feel guilty if I don’t or if saying no will cause tension in the relationship when the other person doesn’t get the answer they want. The bite-sized piece of wisdom is: “Freedom first, service second.” I need to have the space for both answers of yes and no to be equally respected. New Habit #5: I will give out of gratitude for my blessings. When I got a call from the Dog Rescue asking if I could be a foster, I paused. Am I saying yes out of a desire to please someone else who is in a desperate situation or is this something I want to do right now in my schedule? My husband and I decided that we are able to help. We worked out a deal for dog-care that wouldn’t be a burden on either one of us. We serve out of our abundance. We have the freedom to say no, which makes our “yes” more meaningful. New Year, New Habits!
Law #6 “Evaluation” (#13-f)
Setting boundaries is an occupational necessity. The beginning of a new teaching semester requires drawing the line early. I have one class that is a special condensed course of full-time employees. This special class was added to my schedule unexpectedly. I had to take a second look at all the lines that I normally draw and evaluate if they will work in this new context.
Boundaries Law #6 “Evaluation” helps us take a second look.
Hurt is temporary, harm is permanent. Sometimes people don’t appreciate the boundaries we set because it causes a disadvantage to them. When we look at the bigger picture, we can see that temporary discomfort yields to a higher purpose. “Setting boundaries is difficult because it requires decisions-making and confrontation, which in turn may cause pain to someone you love.” As time progresses we have to take a second look at our boundaries to evaluate to what extent they are still necessary.
New Habit #6: I will evaluate the effects of my boundaries on others.
My special class was very vocal about what they need. I listened. I took a second look at where I normally draw my boundaries to determine if they are necessary in this situation for this circumstance. The bite-sized piece of wisdom I learned from this chapter was “We need confrontation and truth from others to grow.”
Setting boundaries is an occupational necessity AND as I continue to grow in my profession I can embrace push-backs as an opportunity to grow. I am inspired to experiment this semester to evaluate if I need to take a second look. New Year, New Habits!
Law #7 “Proactivity” (#13-g)
While working in bureaucratic institutions, I can feel the quiet frustrations. It seethes out as low-level grumblings of suppressed discontent. Getting handed a book of the organization’s rules and regulations is overwhelming. The desire to communicate clear boundaries can lead to feeling trapped in limitations.
This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. There are 10 Laws of Boundaries addressed in one of the chapters. This week we will explore the seventh law. Boundaries Law #7 “Proactivity” helps us express our needs early.
One of the bite-sized pieces of wisdom from the chapter was that suppressed compliance breeds rage. When people don’t express what they need, they accept what is given to them. Instead of asking for what they want, they complain about what they get. Pent up frustration can lead to rage. Rage apathetically bulldozes boundaries. “Proactive people show you what they love, what they want, what they purpose, and what they stand for.”
New Habit #7: I will be proactive in sharing what I need.
I do not want to passively accept what people offer me when it doesn’t meet my needs. Not expressing myself is disrespectful to the other person because they are making decisions on a false perception. As a representative of an institution, I have to be clear about what I need before someone violates a boundary that they didn’t know about. I also need to be proactive in asking what others need so my efforts will be valuable. New Year, New Habits!
Law #8 “Envy” (#13-h)
Boundaries can help us feel protected. Having a clear line of where our personal responsibility ends can be freeing. Boundaries block us from taking on other people’s problems that we don’t have the power to solve.
Boundaries can be misused as a tool to distinguish that our grass is not as green as our neighbor’s. Modern day social comparison can be used to measure how we are doing in the game of life. We check Facebook to see whose life is better than our own. We can log off feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. There are 10 Laws of Boundaries addressed in one of the chapters. This week we will explore the eighth law. Boundaries Law #8 “Envy” helps remind us that we need to tend to our own lives.
Envy can make us pay too close attention to what others have and enjoy. The danger happens when we stop focusing on our responsibilities and neglect the power we already have within our boundaries. “Boundaryless people feel empty and unfulfilled. They look at another’s sense of fullness and feel envious. This time and energy needs to be spent on taking responsibility for their lack and doing something about it. Taking action is the only way out.”
New Habit #8: I will be inspired to take action in my own life when I see the blessings of others that I want to enjoy too.
When I look on Facebook or other social media to see the exciting lives of others, I will pay attention to what it tells me about what I want for myself. Social comparison can help me be inspired to take action in areas that I have neglected. Instead of watching someone else’s grass get greener, I’m going to see my friends’ lives as motivation for what I need to do within my own boundaries. I will get excited to see examples of what is possible for me too. New Year, New Habits!
Law #9 “Activity” (#13-i)
When we were little, we were told not to help a butterfly come out of the cocoon because it will die. The process of struggling was necessary for development. In our own lives, we may have created boundaries that may be limiting our growth.
This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. There are 10 Laws of Boundaries addressed in one of the chapters. This week we will explore the ninth law. Boundaries Law #9 “Activity” helps us to be assertive in pressing against boundaries we’ve outgrown.
We need to be in active pursuit of assessing if our boundaries are confining. “Many times we have boundary problems because we lack initiative.” Law #9 reminds us to be the initiators of activity instead of responding to someone else’s activity. We need to be seeking. “Be assertive and active in knocking on the door to life.”
New Habit #9: I will take the initiative to pursue growth.
One area in my life that I’m pushing my boundaries is my lesson planning. In the pursuit of continuous development, the boundaries I made for myself a few years ago are now confining. I struggle through the experimental process of trying a new strategy or activity. I’m stretching myself into my discomfort zone in hopes of having a break-through. The struggling is messy at first and necessary for my professional evolution.
Like a cocoon, boundaries are intended for safety and protection. There will be times when growth requires renegotiation of limits. In the process of being assertive we can become stronger. New Year, New Habits!
Law #10 “Exposure” (#13-j)
I used to love riding my bike in circles around the cul-de-sac when I was a kid. Now, if I want to ride a bike it requires that I interact with cars. A ride around the neighborhood becomes more stressful when I need to cooperate with moving vehicles to weave around parked cars. There is not a clear place where my bicycle belongs on the road. The carefree feeling of riding bikes has been replaced with a vulnerability of being exposed to traffic.
This blog series is based on the book, Boundaries. There are 10 Laws of Boundaries addressed in one of the chapters. This week we will explore the tenth law. Boundaries Law #10 “Exposure” helps us communicate in relationships where the line is.
Don’t be Roadkill. Allowing ourselves to be run over is not an act of love. “We will privately endure the pain of someone’s irresponsibility instead of telling them how their behavior affects us and other loved ones, information that would be helpful to their soul.”
Making boundaries unclear or inconsistent can make them hard to follow. Secret boundaries don’t work. When we over-give or go pass the point of what we can handle, it is often easy to passively withdraw or send quiet hints. What we need to do is communicate an honest “no”. How people express where the line is can be clear or subversive. “If our boundaries are not communicated and exposed directly, they will be communicated indirectly or through manipulation.”
New Habit #10: I will make my boundaries visible.
Many roads have incorporated exposed boundaries that clearly define the bike lane. I miss the joy of riding bikes. Maybe it is time to take a ride around the neighborhood.
New Year, New Habits!