Archive for November 6th, 2009

Learning how to set boundaries can be a real challenge for anyone who suffered from child abuse. We learned that we had no boundaries, and we did not have the first idea about how to set any, much less enforce them. When you enter into therapy, a good therapist is going to encourage you to start setting boundaries in your life. Expect to have some growing pains as you learn to develop this skill.

I used to believe that being called (or even thought of as) a b@#$% would be the worst thing in the world. I now understand that there is a time and a place when this is actually a good thing, such as when I am coming to the defense of my child. Finding the right balance between doormat and b@#$% can be a challenge. My therapist told me that, if I **think** that I being a little b@#$%y, I am probably only nearing the appropriate level of setting boundaries.

However, I have seen people go from one extreme to the other before they find a happy medium. One day, they are the world’s biggest doormat. The next, they appear to be trying to eviscerate anyone who comes into their path. This is not the same thing as setting healthy boundaries. Rather than assume that everyone on the planet is trying to take advantage of you, you need to learn how to assess each situation on a case-by-case basis. Here is what works for me…

I decide ahead of time what I want my boundary to be. Let’s say my boundary is that I want to spend two hours on Sundays doing something for myself. If someone asks if I can babysit her child on Sunday, I don’t go off on her and call her every name in the book for trying to take my time away. Instead, I say that I am really sorry, but I am unavailable on Sunday afternoon. If I wouldn’t mind watching the child another time, I might offer an alternative time.

However, let’s say that I say no, and the person tells me that I am a self-centered b@#$% for not changing my plans to accommodate her. I can go one of two directions – I can tell her not to talk to me that way (with or without colorful language), or I can choose not to invest in that relationship any longer. I do not invest in friendships where the other person is not grateful when I do her a favor.

If you are in that place where you are trying to make changes but seem not to know how to get setting boundaries right, don’t despair. This is a skill that comes with practice. I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet, but I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I used to be.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

Read Full Post »