Learn To Set & Keep Boundaries: Part 2
What You Want and Need Matters, So Set Those Boundaries!
The reason why some people end up struggling with relating in a codependent way is that they don’t understand the importance or don’t know how to set and keep boundaries. Sadly, they usually come to realize this when codependency has already infiltrated in their relationship.
But you know what? All’s not lost because, even though it may be a bit harder to achieve, the habit of setting and keeping boundaries can be implemented even after you’ve already spent a significant amount of time with someone setting poor boundary examples.
But why are boundaries so effective? Why is it so important for us to set clear rules and limits in our social interactions? What are the benefits that result?
Just like a country needs borders to protect itself from possible invaders, your personal self – and by this I mean the REAL YOU – needs to have a clear set of limits that will prevent any disturbing influences (uh hum…people) that may come from the outside. Living with the assumption that people are inherently good and know well enough to stay on their side of the street might be a bit naive.
Look, we’re not living in utopia. Sure, you might find people who provide you with unconditional love and support; those that respect you for who you are.
Or, you might encounter all kinds of individuals who want to take advantage of your good nature and spend time with you only to satisfy their selfish needs and desires. (Narcissists are abundant, I must say.)
But, not just narcissists. But how about those that are just plain selfish? Emotionally unavailable? The person struggling with alcoholism or addiction? Those that are swimming in emotionally pain and won’t let anyone get too close, yet they do want plenty of their desires met. (Sex, cooking, cleaning, at their beck and call, etc.)
Those that just don’t want to emotionally connect because they have no idea how?
Of course, I’m not saying we should act all ‘paranoid’ and build a huge fence between us and the outside world. All we need are a few limits here and there, so we can protect ourselves from allowing those in that can’t or won’t respect our boundaries.
Boundaries Put You In Your Power
Setting and keeping boundaries helps you gain control over your life. When you no longer allow others to do what they want with you; when you no longer put yourself second; when you finally manage to implement a strategy that helps you avoid unpleasant situations, you’ll gain a wonderful sense of peace and fulfillment.
A person who’s in tune and in control will not feel the need to engage in codependent relationships. When you’re in sync with your wants and needs, and God’s perspective of you, you’ll throw people-pleasing characteristics out the door.
Having control and being IN YOUR POWER means you can invest in a relationship because you want to, not because you need attention or affection to feel good about yourself. Remember, we feel good about our “selves” because we’ve been created in God’s image. We are God’s beloved.
We gain our self-worth based on our relationship with God; not others.
As mentioned before, personal boundaries serve as an effective strategy in separating your own identity from that of others. By doing this, you’ll be able to maintain your authenticity and originality. You’ll be more apt to “be real”, rather than living in the shadow of others.
Your boundaries will grant you access to your inner ‘reservoir’ of creativity and originality. As for relationships, you will be able to forge a strong connection with someone special, without feeling the need to make that person the center of your universe.
(A good way to know if you’re making someone else the center of your universe is if you find yourself saying, “But I did everything for you! I was always there for you! I gave you everything!”)
Well, what you might have done was make that person your god.
But let’s not get off track.
Now, your clearly-defined limits give you the possibility to grow individually and as a couple or friendship at the same time. You’re growing. They’re growing. Individually and together, and that can be beautiful.
“I’m Not Depending On You For My Level Of Happiness”
Lastly, a set of personal boundaries is a great way of expressing your self-respect and self-confidence. By establishing clear limits in your social interactions, you let others know that you’re the kind of person who cherishes and respects yourself enough not to depend on their approval and validation.
It’s like a ‘declaration of independence’ through which you announce to the whole world that you can make it on your own. That you’re taking full responsibility for your level of happiness and fulfillment in life.
And, if they can’t honor that, and get in step with your boundaries, then you’re alright to cut ties or keep time with them at a bare minimum, as in the case of say, family members.
As you can see, boundaries give you the opportunity to bypass codependent relationships where you would be little more than an ‘extension’ of your that other person’s life.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why a set of clear boundaries is worth all the time and effort in this world. Next, we’re going to focus on building your assertive attitude, which will aid you in implementing your personal boundaries.
Now, stick with me. This post is long, but necessary.
Before moving on, take a moment to think about your relationships.
- How are you doing when it comes to boundaries?
- Are you letting people walk over you?
- Are you lying a lot so you don’t have to deal with conflict that might come up if you were to speak your truth?
- Are you staying in a toxic relationship, putting up with some crumbs because you’re afraid to set boundaries?
Let’s move on and look at how assertiveness is a key ingredient in learning how to set firm boundaries.
Assertiveness – The Key to Setting Boundaries
If the process of setting appropriate boundaries is your journey, assertiveness is the ship that takes you safely to your desired destination. It is one secret behind healthy human interactions and the kind of tool that everyone can benefit from.
Assertiveness is an attitude or behavior that allows you to express your needs, desires, opinions, beliefs, etc. in a transparent manner. By transparent, I mean real, truthful.
Many experts consider assertive communication to be the most efficient and non-threatening communication style.
As we all know, good communication is one of the cornerstones of solid relationships. Without consistent communication, our partner will be ‘forced’ to guess, and that can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings and ‘cracks’ that has the potential to bring down the entire structure of the relationship.
In the absence of assertive communication, codependency can easily corrupt your relationship, because wants and needs will go unsaid. This can lead to anxiety, depression, abuse, and so on.
If you don’t speak up and speak your truth, you may continue to feel abandoned, be enmeshed, or deplete yourself fixing and care-taking the other.
So how do we learn to communicate in an assertive manner? Well, assertiveness often comes down to two basic rules.
- Begin your sentence with “In my opinion…” or “Personally…”
Let your partner know that what you’re about to say is merely a subjective opinion, not a universal truth. This way, he or she won’t feel threatened or offended by your different views. Let them know that while you know that it’s alright for you to have your own set of beliefs.
- Use kind words to express your opinion or needs. Regardless of how different or shocking your views, ideas, or needs might be, you can always make it easier for the other person to understand and accept them by using kind and non-offensive words. Avoid words like: “stupid”, “useless”, “dumb”, Also, use a kind and calm tone, paying attention to your non-verbal language too.
But assertiveness is not a bulletproof strategy. Sometimes, no matter how much we try to act nice and ‘diplomatic’, our partner will simply not accept our views or may balk at our needs. We may try to be assertive and set our boundaries, stating our wants and needs, and our partner may throw a fit or simply refuse to pay attention to it. Some even laugh at the thought of their partner standing up for themselves!
They may even try to choke our freedom by using manipulation and emotional blackmail. That’s the moment when you may need to make some important decisions regarding your future. You may even have to cut ties.
Now Set Those Boundaries!
Since the process of setting and maintaining boundaries can sometimes be a challenging one, I’ve come up with a step-by-step approach that will allow you to implement this habit gradually in your daily life.
1 Know your values
First and foremost, you need to know your personal values. Depending on these values, you can then decide what is and isn’t acceptable for you. It might be helpful to pick up a pen and paper and write down your values and/or belief system.
- What is important to you?
- What do you believe is good and right?
- What do you want and need?
Typically, your personal boundaries should naturally result from your values. You can call this an awareness exercise because it helps you become conscious of your identity and what you want and need. (and deserve)
2 Prioritize your needs and desires
Before you start setting your personal boundaries, make sure that your needs come first. Remember, the most important person in your life is YOU. This means that your needs and desires should be a priority. Your needs matter!
If you don’t find the courage to put yourself first, and you settle for second best, you’ll be the perfect candidate for codependent relationships. You’ll be lacking in self-love, and not living authentically. You’ll be wearing that mask that you think you like, but you really don’t.
I’ll say it again: What you want and need matters, so put yourself first.
Follow the same instructions they teach you when flying on an airplane: “Put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others.”
3 Express your needs and desires
Now that you’re becoming more aware of your values, needs, and desires, it’s time to share this newly gained insight with your partner. This is a perfect opportunity to practice assertive communication. If they don’t know, they can’t make any changes.
Using your words, you basically convert your thoughts into something real, something for which you are responsible.
For me, I had to get very honest with myself. What was important to me? What do I want and need in a partner? In a relationship? In life in general? I made a list of things I wanted and needed for me. I made a list of things I wanted and needed in a partner.
It wasn’t always easy to discuss my wants, needs, and boundaries. In fact, when I first started, I would be a wreck with anxiety. But I was determined to learn how to communicate my needs and boundaries in a healthy manner, so I practiced over and over.
These things matter, dear one, and my hope is that you’ll do the same, and then share openly and honestly with those in your life that need to hear your heart.
Persevere, dear one
Setting and keeping solid boundaries involves perseverance. You might not make it today, you might not make it tomorrow, but someday, you’ll finally have a reliable set of personal boundaries that will keep you safer from relating in a codependent way. Be patient with yourself as you progress in your codependency recovery journey.
If you’re struggling with setting and keeping boundaries, and you’ve tried everything you know to do, you may need some professional help. Spending time in therapy with the intent of learning how to set boundaries can prove quite valuable. I always encourage people to find a great therapist and have handy for the times in life where you want or need some support.
It’s worth the investment!
Attending a support group can help too. Consider Codependents Anonymous, or if you’re on the opposite end of someone struggling with alcoholism or addiction, consider Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
You are worthy. You are valuable. You deserve respect. As you grow, you will better be able to draw those lines in the sand and not allow others to try to take those truths away from you.
Remember, this inner healing work that you’re doing is important. To you, and to God, because God wants us emotionally whole so we can add more authentic value to humanity. Life is sacred. Relationships are sacred. Keep doing the work, dear on.
See it all as an opportunity to grow closer to God, to yourself, and Divine Love.
“Creating personal boundaries may cause some relationships to crumble….Think through the scenarios that may unfold, and prepare to meet them. Once you decide to create personal boundaries and become separate, it’s difficult to turn back. You’ll also need the support of other trusted friends who recognize your need for boundaries and who will support you when conflict arise.” Barry K Weinhold
“God, thank you for giving me the courage to stand up and speak my truth.”
Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.
She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.
Her books include Recycle Your Pain: It Has a Purpose, Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal, and a collection of poetry entitled, The Pain, It Shapes Her World.