What if setting limits hurts people that you care about? How do you know if you’ve put up walls of self protection that actually break relationship, or if you’ve set a healthy boundary that makes relationships safe? Is it really ok to have boundaries in close relationships? What does that even look like?
These are questions I asked for years as I struggled to break unhealthy cycles in my own life and let go of unhealthy relationships that perpetuate those cycles. It is really hard (especially for us feelers) to set limits for ourselves that make other people uncomfortable or angry. Here’s the deal, though guys. It is never appropriate to remove all your boundaries – not even in your closest relationships. Boundaries define your individualism, what you are responsible for, and what is not your responsibility. When boundaries are removed you become enmeshed and co-dependent and the relationship, toxic. If you put up walls of self protection instead of boundaries, you become isolated; opposite ends of the same unhealthy spectrum.
When your boundaries are violated, (and you will know because it’s frustrating/upsetting every time it happens) be honest about how you feel and speak up. If the person responds in anger and insists on crossing your boundaries anyway, you get to choose if that person gets to be a recipient of your emotional energy. You are not trapped by someone else’s choice. You get to choose for yourself what relationships you want in your life. You get to choose which relationships get to have your energy and intimacy – and which ones don’t.
Ok, maybe this sounds like, duh, of course it’s my choice. But I continue to be astounded at how many of us continue to allow others to violate and disregard us, continually making allowances for their mis-treatment. This is especially hard with relationships we have had a long time. We learn a way of navigating long-standing relationships so we can keep them, even if it’s a constant source of pain and frustration for us. It’s not easy. What I am saying might be like, duh, but if it were easy, more of us would have the kind of relationships in our lives that we actually want to invest in, and less of the ones that drain and take from us.
The good news is, if you identify with this, you’re not alone. There are tons of resources out there that can help you navigate out of unhealthy connections and how to build life-giving relationships – which at the end of the day is really what we all want.
Boundaries, by Townsend and Cloud is a great place to start.
It helps identify the areas where we are frustrated in our lives and begin to draw lines for ourselves to take ownership of what we are responsible for and what we are not. Without this foundation, we can’t have any healthy relationships.
Another great book is Love is A Choice by Hemfelt, Minirth and Meier. It explains what co-dependency is, what causes it, and helps you to identify the co-dependent relationships in your life, helps define abuse and how to being to heal and make choices to engage the relationships you really want to have. This book is great because it doesn’t just talk about co-dependency, but it lays out what healthy, interdependent relationships look like. None of the other books on co-dependency I have found do this very well.
There are so many more, but these two are really great starting places. Have you read them? What did you think? Did reading it bring any clarity into your life? What resources have you found that really have helped you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Until next time, my friends – make good choices 🙂