What is a boundary anyway? When I use the word boundary it is in terms of relationship to one’s self and others within the physical, mental, psychological and spiritual worlds. They reflect beliefs and emotions. I love Melanie Tonia Evans description of boundaries in her book ‘How to Understand and Implement Boundaries’,“If we were to think of ourselves as a ship with a hull, we can understand the true meaning of the term ‘personal integrity’. Upholding our personal integrity means that we keep the ‘good’ in (in matters of the ship ‘air’) and the ‘bad’ out (in matters of the ship ‘water’). In relation to our own personal sense, the ‘good’ is healthy self esteem, and the ‘bad’ is damage from life and others, that can seriously compromise our self esteem.”
The dynamics are set from day one in a relationship and for the most part, do not change unless one or both members significantly change themselves. I try to establish boundaries from the beginning of any relationship. The following are the questions I ask myself when setting a boundary:
How much of this is true about me?
How much of this is about the other person?
What do I need to do (if anything) to regain my personal power or stand up for myself?
This last question is very important. Too often I do not stand up for myself by avoiding confrontation and end up weakening my internal shield, making it harder to set boundaries at all. So, if someone offends me, it may be necessary to let them know in order to protect and strengthen my boundaries.
The hardest thing for me when it comes to boundaries are maintaining and enforcing them. Ns do not care about the other person’s feelings. Other people are only objects to serve them.
When I was in a relationship with my ex N, I found out he went on a date while I was out of town. He lied and denied when I asked him about it, but I knew it had happened. This was not the first time he had betrayed me nor would it be the last. I set a boundary by asking him to move out. He did, but I allowed him to still see me and eventually he slithered his way back in. I did not enforce my boundary to stay away from him and focus on myself. I knew I did not want to be with someone who I couldn’t trust and betrayed me, but my fears (see rule #8) were greater than my need to take care of myself.
Boundaries shape the way others treat us. I am the only person responsible for my journey in my life. It is up to me to take care of myself, to create safety and a positive environment for myself, to know who I am and what I want.
Knowing who I am and what I want is an ongoing life experiment. I know that I want to be in a positive environment and can only do that when I set and enforce boundaries.
If I do not agree with something then I can leave a situation or sometimes I can just say something as simple as “I am not comfortable with that.” When I say that then I have to stick to it. I just don’t say I am uncomfortable and then try to participate in the uncomfortable situation. I have to match my behavior to what I say. Also, it is important to practice saying no to things that I don’t want to do or be involved with. I can be very accommodating and people pleasing, so it is important for me to know what I want in a situation and speak up.