Having good boundaries means taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions. If you have poor boundaries, you likely take responsibility for how others feel or act.
Do any of the items below describe you?
- I often have the urge to rescue others or fix their problems.
- I find myself sucked into other people’s dramas, fights or debates.
- I feel that others take advantage of me.
- I jump into new relationships too quickly, and I expect too much, too soon.
If any of the above feel familiar, you probably struggle with setting appropriate boundaries. The good news is you can start working on them right away. It’s easier than you think.
You can start by developing a “script” for communicating about a boundary. (In THE SEVEN STEPS TO LOVE, I offer a number of sample scripts you can adapt to your own situation.) Once you express a boundary, your confidence and self-esteem will grow.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a friend who teases you a lot, and it’s affecting your friendship. Practice saying something like this: “Beth, I want you to know how much I value our friendship. I need to share something with you that would make our friendship stronger. When you tease at me about personal and important things I’ve shared with you, I feel sad and angry. It makes me not want to share personal information with you. I’d like you to stop teasing me, because it’s hurting our friendship.”
An often-overlooked part of setting boundaries is stating the consequence if the other person does not respect your request. So practice verbalizing the consequence if Beth doesn’t agree to your request: “If you’re unable to stop the teasing, I will stop sharing things that are important to me.”
Here’s another example. Let’s say your date is late more than once early in the relationship, and timeliness is very important to you. You need to ask him, “Do you typically run late for things?” If he admits he does, you could say: “I understand that sometimes things beyond our control, like traffic, get in the way of being on time. But barring anything like that, I’d appreciate if you could get here closer to the time we planned.”
If someone is regularly fifteen or more minutes late, it could indicate he doesn’t value your time or care about the activity. Or he might just be habitually late. Is this a behavior you can accept, or will it be a constant source of tension if the relationship continues? If he keeps showing up late, tell him the consequence: “Being late isn’t a behavior that works for me in a relationship.”
When you verbalize a boundary and the consequence of violating it, you immediately feel more confident and empowered. These are healthy qualities that the right men will find attractive and desirable.