When People Don't Like Your Boundaries

Fucked-up people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you and they teach you how to respect yourself.
— Cheryl Strayed

It feels silly to try elaborate on what Cheryl has said here, because she's said it perfectly, but I'd like to go deeper into how you put this perspective into action.

Boundaries are 'a purely peaceable thing.'

Then why don't they feel like it?

Why does setting limits with our kids feel mean and punishing?

Why does asking for what we want with our partners feel like conflict?

Why does saying 'No' so often feel selfish and wrong?

Last week I talked about boundaries being all about you and what you need in order to be respectful toward yourself. The prerequisite for being authentically respectful toward others is being respectful toward yourself.

So why do people act so disappointed or sad or angry when we set limits that allow us to respect ourselves?

Because your boundaries trigger Uncomfortable feelings.

Lots of people would rather you take responsibility for their feelings. If someone is young, or emotionally immature, s/he will believe that it is your responsibility to prevent them from discomfort, sadness, disappointment.

So many of us, particularly those of the female variety, have a core belief that other people's approval is our responsibility, so when people don't like our boundaries we can get really confused.

Unless you feel grounded in your values and believe in your right to take care of yourself, you will let the other person's upset dictate your behavior.

An example (a common one that causes plenty of controversy so if this pisses you off, that's okay with me):

Mom to child: "It's nighttime. I'm tired and need to rest. I'm going to leave your room and I'd like you to be quiet so I can rest."

Child to mom: "Nooooooo!!!!"

If you feel entitled to your need for rest you might say: "I know you don't want me to go. You are safe and sleep is important. I love you. Everything is going to be okay. I'll come in for one last kiss in a few minutes."

If you aren't sure if you're entitled to rest, you might think: "She's not letting me leave. I'm setting a boundary but it's not working. I have to stay."

In the above example, if you don't feel entitled to your rest you might immediately feel powerless to maintain your boundary.

This feeling of powerlessness in the face of disapproval or push-back is what leads to big angry blow-ups. You may stay and stay and stay but eventually you are so tired and burnt-out that you yell and slam doors.

Your betrayal of your own boundaries can lead directly to doing the harmful thing you were so afraid of doing in the first place.

The most gentle, generous, compassionate thing you can do for those you love is to know your limitations, honor them, and take full responsibility for respecting your own boundaries.

Let the other person know you care that they're upset, but that your boundary is important.

your boundaries are a gift: They give people the opportunity to feel uncomfortable feelings and survive them.

With love and optimism,

Dr. Jessica

p.s. - Boundaries work is difficult and often requires personal guidance and emotional support to make real changes to old patterns. If you're feeling inspired to own your boundaries and assert them lovingly in your relationships, schedule a complimentary consultation call with me and we can talk about how I can help.