Have you ever dreaded a family gathering? I know I have.
Have you ever felt great anxiety – or someone else noticed that you seemed very tense – before a relative came for a visit?
Before someone really took the time to explain boundaries to me or offer me one of the many books on the subject, I lacked boundaries with the people that I was closely related.
I often felt disrespected and resentful, even had outbursts of anger, for how they acted or what they did to me. I expected people to know how I deserved to be treated.
But I never told them or showed them… so they never really cared.
I was treated how I allowed myself to be treated. It was what I put up with. And they knew I would never walk. Or so they thought.
Now… I walk!
Have you noticed any resentment or anger in your life with certain… or all… people?
Could it be a boundary problem?
Here are some signs that it might be.
1.) You have a hard time saying, “No.“ You feel guilty each time you do so. But you feel resentment for saying, “Yes” when you really didn’t want to or have time to do what you just agreed to. Or you just said, “Yes” to get them off your back, with no intention of following through with what you just said you’d do. Maybe not now… maybe not ever. You were secretly hoping they’d just go away and forget.
When you do this, you don’t allow yourself the freedom to make your own decisions. And you live in fear of rocking the boat with your own limits.
Without healthy boundaries or set limits (on your own time, money, and value), you worry about disappointing people and often feel guilty for saying, “No, I’m just not willing or able to do that right now.” This is because you feel responsible for other people’s feelings – happiness, anger, or disappointment.
Here’s the internal dialog: “I have to say ‘Yes’ because if I say ‘No,’ this person will have a hard time with their life and then blame me for that. I can be helpful, even though I don’t want to and I know they’ll need more help from me in the future, but I don’t want them to be disappointed in me right now.“
Then, you feel anger and resentment because you really didn’t want to help or have time (or money) to contribute. This is a real boundary problem. And often hard to stop once you’ve been enabling someone to use you, over and over again.
2.) Your relationships don’t bring peace into your life. Actually the opposite. You dread when your phone rings or you receive a message from certain people. You start to feel anger or panic especially when you’ve told this person to not contact you in this way… or on this day or with their problems. Then you feel bad if you don’t respond right away, knowing this person will be upset with you. Because of this you feel disrespected. And you try to appease this person, to make them feel better, while you feel worse.
Then you apologize when you do return the message. Sound about right?
The less you respect your own limits and standards, the more others will too. If I say, I don’t answer messages on Sunday, but I do so anyway, I’m saying I really don’t have this limit set for myself… so you can cross it at any time.
Furthermore, if I respond right away to everyone, all the time because people often expect it… I am saying their time is more valuable than my own. Their needs are more valuable. And mine can wait for another time.
No! We must fight that battle for ourselves. Healthy boundaries say, “My time is just as valuable as yours. Right now I’m putting me and my children first, and you second. I’ll get back to you when I can. Thanks for your understanding.”
3.) You often feel like you are annoyed, snarky or passive-aggressive with people. This is because you’re constantly trying to please other people at the expense of yourself. When we deplete ourselves to make sure others are taken care of or “happy” we’re left with the leftovers.
You have to take care of yourself first, in order to have the energy, love (Yes! Love! “Love your neighbor AS YOURself.” – Mark 12) and health to take care of others. Boundary pushers expect you to put them first. It’s your choice to listen… or not.
Set the boundaries. Put up a fence – with a gate – and keep these people out until they have proven that they can be trusted inside of your fence.
Boundaries are work.
Actually, learning boundaries is work. Hard work.
Seriously looking yourself in the mirror, realizing you can only change yourself… work!
But when you get to the point that life without boundaries is harder than changing. And when you can’t stand to be around the toxic people in your life, even for a second. That’s when you know it’s time to make the needed changes.
I set boundaries to neither offend people nor to please them. I set boundaries to put priorities or limits on my own life’s goals.
That’s how I found peace after divorce.
Many days growing and learning in Him,
My (Favorite) Boundary Books: