Why Boundary Isn’t a Bad Word

Why Boundary Isn’t a Bad Word

Caring for yourself while still having meaningful relationships with others can be a tricky balance, especially when it comes to family. Have you ever found yourself dreading instead of looking forward to the next family gathering? If so, it may be helpful to look at the boundaries you have in place with your family. 

When you hear the word “boundary” what comes to mind? Often people will come into my office and say, “I can set boundaries in every other area of my life, but when it comes to family, I feel mean and guilty”. This is likely because sometimes the word “boundary” is thrown around in the culture and media today as if it is a way to get revenge or exert power. But that isn’t what boundaries are meant to be, especially with family. Believe it or not, boundaries can be set in love and actually IMPROVE the quality of our relationships.

Before setting boundaries, it is important to tune into your values. What is important to me? What do I want this relationship to look like? What am I comfortable and uncomfortable with? Knowing the answers to these questions can lay the foundation for what you want your boundaries to look like and why you are setting them. If I start a boundary from a place of, “I want this relationship to foster mutual respect and love with less resentment”, I am less likely to feel guilt about setting it because I know that it is congruent with my values. It comes from a place of love for myself and love for the other person. 

When setting a boundary with a family member it is best to be clear and concise so that the boundary is not misunderstood. Some examples of boundaries that may need to be stated with family members are; “You are welcome to attend the family party, but only if you are sober.”, “Please stop asking when we are having children, it is putting too much pressure on our relationship.”, “If my child does not want a hug, we will respect their decision.”, “I expect my spouse to be treated with respect or we will have to leave.”, “I appreciate your input but I have made my decision.”, “I will no longer be the middle person in family arguments.”.

Lastly, hold your ground. It is not uncommon for family members to object or even protest when you try to set a boundary. Remember your values and hopes for the relationship. Hold the boundary and they will come to accept it or fall into the rightful place in your life. And remember, “Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by choosing what you will and won’t accept.” -Anna Taylor

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