One of the easiest sure fire ways to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships is to establish clear boundaries. Learning how to maintain healthy boundaries is an essential skill in having happy positive relationships, or at least ones that will not totally stress you out.
It seems as if there is a growing culture where people seem to be more accepting of unacceptable behaviors. If you watch day-time TV or reality shows you may see a lot of people treating each other badly. You may find yourself asking, “how does he/she put up with that.” One way could be that they have do not have clear boundaries.
Having pronounced boundaries is a skill that is learned over time. Most people learn very early to excuse bad behaviors, especially if these behaviors are exhibited by a loved one. Everyone has that friend or family member who repeatedly crosses the line, and they find themselves saying, “that is just how he/she is.” While it is important to accept people for who they are, and be realistic about your expectations of their behaviors based on who they show you they are. It is also important for you to say I deserve people around me who operate from a place of love and respect for me. In order to get respect you have to be willing to give it. But first you have to have a clear definition of what constitutes respectful or disrespectful behaviors. Here are a few tips on how to get you started.
Know your limits - There are a lot of articles all over the internet about deal breakers in romantic relationships, but what about all relationships? Do you have any family members that constantly borrow money, and do not pay you back? Is there someone in your life who is emotionally abusive? Do you have anyone who constantly criticizes you or make you feel bad about yourself? You have to decide the types of relationship you want and what types of exchanges you will have. For example, you can limit contact with someone who calls you names or is constantly mean to you. It is ok to let them know that it is not acceptable and that you will not tolerate mistreatment. You deserve to have the types of loving relationships you want.
This is an important step because once you know your limits you will know when someone is crossing the line. In constructing these limits one clear sign that something is not ok with you is if it makes you feel bad in any way. If a person is physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially abusive or manipulative this should not be ok with you.
Once you have these limits you have to decide on your method of enforcement. What is a law without a consequence? You do not have to make a grand announcement, but you have to decide what infraction will make you show your friend the exit. If these are new boundaries you might want to give your friends some time to adjust depending on what they do wrong, however, you have to be wiling to end the relationship if they constantly step over the line. Just know that some of your boundaries will have different degrees of consequences. This step is probably the hardest step for most people. People tend to rationalize away bad behaviors and allow people who do not deserve to be in their life way too long.
Respectfully and assertively reinforce your boundaries. It is important that people know there will be consequences if your boundaries are not respected.
Keep in mind that no one is perfect and there are going to be times when your friends and family will do something to upset you, and you will need to decided if you will forgive the person and give them another chance However, if there is a clear intent to harm you or blatant disregard for your well being you need to start the process of removing them from your life.
If you chose to forgive you have to decide how many chances they will get.
Be Realistic- We all have character flaws. If you know that a person repeatedly crosses your boundaries, it may be that is just who that person is. You cannot take another person’s bad behaviors personal. Many people tend to internalize the bad behaviors of others. But the only person you are responsible for in any relationship is you. It is up to you how you chose to respond.
Making amendments- It is important to remember why the boundaries are in place to begin with. They are there to protect your interests. When you start to define your boundaries you will find that some of them may evolve as you do. When you decide to change them make sure that you are doing it because the proposed changes help you grow. It is also important to examine if the undesired behaviors of another stir up negative feelings in you and if the feelings serve and emotional purpose. If you are used to someone treating you badly because of your past experiences you might seek out people who reinforces these behaviors.
Take your time-The people you have known the longest will provide you with the greatest push back. New boundaries can shift relationship dynamics. If people are used to treating you a certain way they will have a hard time adjusting their relationship expectations.
Reciprocate; it is important that you respect the boundaries of others just as you want them to respect yours. Building boundaries is an essential skill to learn and is the foundation for great loving relationships, but keep in mind practice makes perfect. Depending on your family of origin it may be hard for you to know where to start.
Start off small. For example:
Here is a starter list to get you started.
• I will not accept any form of abuse; emotional, physical, verbal, financial abuse is unacceptable in my relationships.
• I will only have loving relationships. If someone does not operate from a place of love I cannot accept them into my inner circle.
• I cannot be around toxic people.
• My relationships need to be reciprocal. If they are one sided I need to re-evaluate them.
• I will surround myself with positive people who inspire me.
• I will not compete with my friends. There is enough love, wealth and success to go around.