The Secret To Honoring Yourself In Every Relationship
Boundaries are the flak jackets of relationships. Once mastered, boundaries ensure you don’t get used, manipulated, punished or guilt tripped by other people. For those unfamiliar with the machinations of boundaries, their newly born presence in your life can seem downright magical.
It is never too late to introduce these into your relationships. Be warned though, many who encounter your brand spanking new approach to self-respect are going to howl in protest. Oh yes, howl, swear, accuse you of all sorts of horribleness. Doors may slam, phone conversations may end abruptly as they retreat to figure out their next strategy to breach your new-fangled, shiny shield of self-respect. Relax, they’ll get over it. It is part of the process of teaching them how to treat you with the respect you deserve. It is totally your responsibility to teach others how to treat you. Do not relent by retreating into old patterns of submission. No need to be nasty; just be firm.
Some of the simplest relationship and communication solutions escape us, since as children we were so busy getting through each day with the craziness that was our life that we usually missed subtle social cues. For that reason, I am going to list some boundary ideas to get you started. Later I’ll discuss more techniques and the reasoning behind them. For now:
- There are no rules that say you have to a
nswer your phone. Every device nowadays has a message taking mechanism. You have the option of listening to the message and deciding when and how you want to respond. 1) Not at all. 2) If you don’t want to talk to them you can answer in a text or email. 3) You can text and say you will get back to them once you have had time to think about their message (sometime in early Spring perhaps . . .). 4) You can take the time to think about how you want to handle a conversation with them and call them back when you feel prepared to communicate clearly and calmly.
- When you get a text or email from a crazymaker in your life give yourself at least an hour before you respond. Stick to the facts and stay away from getting sucked in when you are clearly being baited. Better yet, just ignore it (deep breathing helps a lot to calm your nervous system down, which is easily triggered via your limbic system). Initially the messages will escalate, but eventually they will peter out. The other party is attempting to get their adrenaline fix by poking and prodding your buttons. If you remove their access to your buttons they will seek another victim from which to get their fix.
- If you are invited to go somewhere that you absolutely dread going, don’t go. Come up with a viable, polite excuse and don’t go. If it is a family holiday or reunion from which you leave each year wanting to slit your wrists-don’t go. Honestly, you don’t even need to give an excuse other than, ”I’m so sorry I can’t attend, but I’ve already made other plans.” You are responsible for your own happiness. Don’t blame others for making you miserable if you make it so easy for them.
- You are at work and a co-worker asks you a personal question, could be about your finances, your sex life, or your stand on a controversial subject. Your first line of defense is, “Why do you ask?” Another appropriate response is, “I don’t feel comfortable discussing that subject at work.” If you are being asked a question somewhere other than work, you still have every right to answer with, “I don’t feel comfortable discussing that subject.” Or, “I would rather not talk about that. It’s personal.” The point is if you feel uncomfortable about a question you have every right to not answer it. I know this feels like we are breaking some huge taboo, and we are actually, our childhood taboo which was, “What you need and feel are of no consequence.” Now you are your own parent to your inner child and you have a responsibility to protect that wee one.
- If there is someone (even family) that visits your home that makes derogatory comments about it, stop inviting them over. If your sister-in-law or mother-in-law insults your cooking stop extending dinner invitations to them. If your partner tries to insist they still come for dinner then let him/her be in charge of the whole meal. It really is that simple. Of course they are going to fuss. It is how they become adjusted to your refusal to be a victim. When the dust settles you’ll be the one grinning like a Cheshire cat. Just let it play out, eventually they will realize they are no longer going to receive a payoff for their bullying behavior and that, “Frankly, you don’t give a damn.”
Having boundaries is one of the most important relationship techniques you can learn. It can and should apply to every single relationship you have, including all family members, friends, acquaintances, your romantic partner and with every co-worker, including your boss. When your inner child knows you have a firm plan in place for self-protection it can relax considerably. Scientifically this means your amygdala can loosen its death grip on your triggers. The more consistent you are with your set boundary lines the less others will challenge them and the more blissful your life will become. Now that will take some getting used to.
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Copyright ©2014 Josephine Faulk, MPH(Excerpt from WORTHY: A Personal Guide For Healing Your Childhood Trauma by Josephine Faulk,MPH.
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WORTHY: A Personal Guide for Healing Your Childhood Trauma