No one likes to feel like they are being taken advantage. Setting clear personal boundaries is important to ensure that relationships are mutually respectful and fulfilling. Strong boundaries are a clear indication of your self-esteem (or lack thereof). They are a way of saying, “I deserve to be treated well” or “I don’t deserve to be treated well.” I’m sure there are many of you who have never really thought about your own personal boundaries. You may feel used and sometimes disrespected, but have never given any specific thought as to why and, more importantly, how to change them. If you think your personal boundaries are weak, here are a few things to think about.If you are single and looking for a certain dynamic in a new relationship, by voicing your feelings you are not only doing yourself a favor, you are actually helping the person you are trying to build a relationship with. It’s by knowing what your boundaries are that someone will know how to treat you. You may think that someone SHOULD instinctively know. Well, that may be true, but there are many people who want control in a relationship and by paying attention to how they treat you right at the start, you can save yourself a lot of heartache. And from your own point of view, isn’t it much easier for you to interact with someone when you have a sense of his or her expectations?
In many new relationships, boundaries are often tested in small steps. If you don’t stop and let someone know they’ve bumped up against a boundary, they will usually push it further next time. Never assume that something that seems reasonable to you is reasonable to someone else. And remember, a cold shoulder or an angry look is NOT sufficient in conveying a boundary. It’s only by being clear in your communication to someone that you can then make decisions about whether someone in your life should go.
Not everyone has the skills to easily voice their feelings, but you can begin the process of making and maintaining your own boundaries by starting with small things. To strengthen your boundaries, make a list of each important person in your life and list the way(s) their behavior may feel disrespectful. If you’re trying to diet and your partner slides a piece of chocolate cake in front of you, say something like, “Please don’t sabotage my diet. If you care about me, you’ll help me to succeed, not fail.” Every time you communicate your feelings and needs, you build your communication “muscle” and when larger issues come up – you’ll be ready.
By choosing NOT to speak up when someone uses you or treats you poorly, you are teaching them how to treat you. If you have communicated how you feel and what your expectations are and they are ignored, it then becomes your responsibility to decide whether or not the relationship is one that you want in your life.
Be aware that not all of the people in your life will be pleased with your newly-stated boundaries. Some may have gotten used to a certain dynamic, and it may very well be that THEY will be the ones who won’t tolerate your new way of being. That’s alright because the relationships that are built on mutual trust and respect will be the ones that survive in the long run.
Denise LaFrance coaches via Skype, telephone or in person when feasible.