The following post is part of the Year of Healing I’m doing on my blog, where I will explore monthly themes on different aspects of healing. February is the topic of Relational Healing. Please click here for more info.
As I talked about last week…
Relational Healing comes from three things:
1) Admitting that painful things happened to you, realizing the roots of those lies and unhealthy patterns in your life. It’s facing the pain and honestly realizing how past relational wounds affected you. This can sometimes be the hardest battle, because we don’t want to honestly have to face pain.
2) Realizing that you are worthy of something different and that you can give something different to the people around you. You are loved, you are valuable, and better things can happen to you in your future. And these better things can be given to those around you. This again, can be HARD. If you don’t believe you are loved (because of wounds from the past), one of the hardest mentalities to change is that you are loved.
3) Setting healthy boundaries and learning to truly take care of yourself so that you begin to make NEW, healthier patterns in your life.
In the month of February, we’ve talked about relational wounds and trauma. We’ve talked about starting the journey towards giving and receiving love.
Now, we’ll talk about healthy boundaries.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
So what the heck is a boundary? In our society, I think it’s difficult to talk about boundaries simply because we hardly function with boundaries anymore. Think of cell phones and social media; the expectation is that someone can get ahold of you ANY time they want. A person is on demand all the time. There is no communication boundary anymore. This crosses into a lot of areas in our lives.
A healthy boundary simple means this: You as an individual value yourself enough to know what lines you will not cross. You do not allow others to cross those personal lines, because when you do, you know it will cause your personal suffering.
Sound a but vague? Well, that’s intentional. Because boundaries mean different things for different people.
For example, if you personally need to go to sleep at 10pm or you start freaking out the next day, you will go to bed on time. That is boundary for you; staying up until 2am every night is a line you will not cross. And you will not allow others to determine that you stay up too late all the time, because you know you will suffer if you do.
It seems simple. But in relationships (parents, friendships, romantic), this can be HARD–especially if you are a people-pleaser. I know I’ve personally struggled a lot with being a people-pleaser and have been in many toxic relationships/friendships due to this. However, boundaries are probably the most important thing to learn in interpersonal relationships simply because so much damage can be done when boundaries are crossed by someone you love.
I once read or heard someone say (and I cannot remember who or when or what, so if I’m plagiarizing, forgive me) that most real anger and pain inside someone are caused when personal boundaries have been violated by someone else. Interesting to think about isn’t it?
Here are a few boundaries to think about…
Types of Boundaries that Can be Violated
Does someone consistently use you for their emotional dumping, but rarely offers the same to you? Does someone expect you to be there for them when they need a shoulder to cry on, but never shows up for you? Or how about this idea, in the context of romantic relationship: Does someone use you for emotional support, but uses others for sexual or financial support? Is someone not in a relationship with you, but is constantly acting like they are and crossing emotional boundaries? You may need to reconsider what is healthy or unhealthy emotional sharing or attachment.
You are the owner of your own body, and you need to decide what is appropriate for you or not when it comes to sexuality. Did the last person you have sex with truly even care about you, and did it hurt when that person just walked away? Is someone you love so addicted to porn that it’s hindering the intimacy in your relationship? If you communicate sexual needs to someone and they simply and consistently dismiss your needs, do you feel unvalued? If so, a sexual boundary that means something important to you has been crossed. Think through what you truly are comfortable with and do not let others cross those boundaries, even if you love them.
A constant string of insults, sarcasm, or negative communication is not a healthy thing from anyone, and if you have people in your life that you feel are always tearing you down, then that may be a boundary you need to set. “You cannot speak to me that way anymore, or we may need to take a break from our friendship.” It sounds harsh, but in reality, words are one of the most powerful forces in the world. The way someone is wielding them towards you can either build you up or destroy you over time.
Do you feel overworked, overstressed, and completely busy? Chances are, you have no healthy boundaries set for your time. News flash: it’s okay to need time to yourself, time to rest, time to just chill out. If you don’t feel that way about your current life, you need to say no to people, events, or causes that are just too much. Set healthy boundaries, like, “I will turn off my phone at 8pm every night.” Or, “Wednesday evenings I will not go out; those are my nights in.” If someone you love is constantly setting up activities and you feel run-down, it may be time to talk about setting some time boundaries for personal rest and rejuvenation.
This one may seem weird to some, but because of my health issues, it’s something I’ve had to consider. But there are times that because of health, you must put restrictions of your lifestyle. For instance, you may have to restrict certain foods. Or because of health, you may be very sensitive towards certain events or circumstances (for example, due to the extreme fatigue I’ve been struggling with, I know that large parties or large crowds are something I really can’t do right now, so I do not typically accept invitations to large events). Standing up for yourself in these areas may seem selfish, but it isn’t. Maybe a serious lifestyle of exercise (in whatever from) is truly something vital to your physical and emotional wellbeing. If someone consistently scoffs at you for your choices, makes fun of you, tries to limit your healthy lifestyle because they are intimidated by it, or pushes you beyond what your are capable of without truly trying to understand or empathize–then they aren’t someone that values your health boundaries.
I’m a very giving person, so this one is especially hard. Yet while it is important to be generous and giving, what if you are giving all the time? Sometimes, givers tend to be sucked into relationships (be it friendships or romantic, etc) that are takers. People like to take, take, take, and you will give, give, give. If you feel emotionally exhausted by a current friendship or other relationship, you may need to set generosity boundaries. You need to realize that giving 100% of the time will leave you drained and unhappy 100% of the time. If people in your life demand and expect generosity (of resources, time, compassion, empathy, etc.) all of the time without offering the same to you, it may be time to step back and reevaluate.
Those are just some examples of boundaries, but hopefully this got you thinking. Maybe you are getting boundaries crossed, but maybe you are crossing someone else’s boundaries.
Toxic People Do Not Understand Healthy Boundaries
Before I close this blog post, I want to talk about boundaries and toxic people…
Saying “no” and setting boundaries can be hard, but if the other person truly values you, they will listen and try to understand where you’re coming from. Behavior will change if they are committed to a good, healthy relationship. If they don’t listen and repeatedly cross lines in a blatant manner, then they are toxic and abusive.
All abuse stems from disrespect for the boundaries and wellbeing of another human being. You should feel safe to communicate your boundaries to someone who loves you; if they don’t listen and continue to treat you in a manner that hurts or angers you, then they don’t truly care.
Toxic, abusive people swing in two directions:
1) They either have NO sense of boundaries whatsoever, or
2) they are obsessed with other people not crossing their boundaries while giving little heed to respecting others’ boundaries.
- Example of direction one: A friend who consistently stays up at your house until 4am, talks nonstop, and never thinks that you may need to get to bed (even after you may have hinted or downright told them that it is well past your own bedtime and you need sleep) is someone who has little understanding of boundaries and respecting another person’s needs. Or a person of the opposite gender who consistently flirts with you or shares emotional moments with you while being with someone else has no sense of healthy boundaries. These kind of people should be handled carefully, because there are usually toxic issues lurking below the surface. If you can communicate to them and they stop an issue, fine. But if they persist, you may need to distance yourself from them.
- Example of direction two: A person may have all sorts of rules of behavior for the way you are supposed to treat them. They will always stand up for themselves, always be the first to tell you that something upset them, always tell you exactly what they think (and expect you to think that way, too), always be setting rules, and will demand apologies but would never consider apologizing. In short, they will never regard someone else asking for mutual respect as okay, too. With these people, they are usually narcissistic people who love making other people follow their boundaries and rules, but could care less about anyone else. These people are toxic and abusive.
It’s important to note that toxic people may truly try to manipulate, charm, or convince you that your boundary is silly or ridiculous. If someone is consistently charming you or talking you out of real and valid concerns you have, again–they aren’t listening and truly don’t care.
This is hard to sometimes accept, but real love comes from the respect of boundaries and the real concern for the wellbeing of another. Period. End of story.
Think about the last time someone truly hurt you. What did they do? What kind of boundary did they cross?
Have YOU crossed someone else’s personal boundaries recently? Might you need to reevaluate how you are treating others?
Do you know your own boundaries? Have you ever taken time to truly think through your own verbal, emotional, sexual, health, time, or generosity boundaries?
Are you very emotionally tired or drained right now? Could it be that you aren’t setting good boundaries in an area of your life? Are there toxic people sucking life from you? Or are you just too busy?
***Be sure to listen in to my podcast interview, which I will be putting up later today or Friday. In the interview, I talk with a woman who went through emotional abuse in a marriage, how she learned to start recognizing harmful patterns/violated boundaries, and how she started standing up for herself.***
Photo by Adobe Stock/gilitukha