Maybe you want your mother to stop nagging you about getting a job. Or maybe you want your boyfriend’s friend to stop coming over unannounced. The truth is, we’d all love a little bit more space and our wishes fulfilled sometimes. But, the way we approach the other person to comply with our request (or don’t approach for that matter) can lead to some major resentment and/or cause a less than desirable reaction.
Here’s how to say, “back off” or “stop it” in the most healthy, peaceful way:
1. The Request
The first step is to ask the person whose overstepping on your “property” to stop. This means both literally and emotionally.
Examples: Please stop asking me about my future plans.Please call before coming over.
2. The Consequence
The second step is telling the person what action you will take if they don’t comply with your request.
Examples: If you don’t stop asking me about my future
plans, I am going to leave the room.
If you don’t call before coming over, I’m not going
to answer the door.
Boundaries are not orders. The other person can continue to behave as he or she chooses. This is not about trying to control someone else’s behavior (because we can’t EVER control somebody else).
The boundary simply states what YOU will do if they don’t honor your request.
For example, your mother can continue to ask you the same questions over and over for as long as she’d like. You aren’t trying to force her to act in a different way. You simply change YOUR behavior by leaving the room.
Do you see how you’re protecting yourself without trying to force someone to change?
Boundaries are not a way to threaten or manipulate others. They are strictly created for physical and emotional self-care.
Example: You need to put your dishes away or I’m not going to make you dinner anymore.
Not putting the dishes away does not violate your physical or emotional boundary. This is manipulation. You’re trying to force that person to behave in a certain way.
Boundaries are not ultimatums.
Example: If you don’t propose to me within the next two months, then I am leaving.
This is an ultimatum, not a boundary.
Again, your boundary was not violated to begin with. By saying this, you are trying to get someone to act a certain way, so that you can feel better. This is disempowering for you and leaves the other person’s boundary violated.
You may be thinking, “OK, so I understand that this isn’t a situation that needs a boundary placed on it, but what do I do then? I really do need to leave if he or she doesn’t want marriage because that’s what I want.”
A healthier way to approach this situation is by having an honest conversation with the other person, but not hanging your emotional well being on his or her behavior.
For example your conversation may look something like this, “We’ve been together for six years and I’m ready for marriage. I’d love for that to be with you, but if that’s not what you want, then it’s time for me to move on.”
See the difference? You’re being upfront and honest about what you desire without pressuring, forcing or threatening the other person. You’re saying, “It’s OK for you not to give me a ring if that’s what you choose, but what’s best for me and what I want is something different.” Huge difference!
Boundaries come from a place of love. Many of us think that establishing boundaries creates more distance, but actually, just the opposite is true.
Imagine if you allowed that person to continue to come over unannounced without ever saying anything! Are you keeping the peace or are you building up a massive amount of resentment until you explode on that person? Not only is that person going to be blindsided by how you feel, but your relationship will most likely suffer.
3. Be Willing to Follow Through
Be ready and willing to follow through with the consequence when a request is not honored.
Be honest and practice this form of self-care. Many of us avoid setting boundaries because we’re afraid of upsetting the other person; we want to avoid confrontation or don’t want to risk losing a relationship. This is not healthy! What’s best for you is ultimately what will be best for the relationship because the foundation won’t be built on resentment and lies.