Earlier this week we discussed the challenges involved in setting boundaries. The good news is that the clients I have been working the past few days are becoming “Boundary-Setting Rock Stars!” From not accepting inappropriate behavior and the resultant “we’re not a match chat,” to a parent lovingly telling her teenage son she loves him, but will no longer allow him to speak to her using certain words, these women are taking steps towards creating self love that is boosting their confidence, making them happy, and feeling empowered.
While all this is fabulous, the hours and days after setting the boundary can often be a grueling test of our commitment to self-care and maintaing our dignity. Here are a few tips and scripts to ensure that when you set a boundary, you are able to enforce it with love, compassion and fierce commitment to YOU:
1. An effective boundary is one in which YOU are in control of you, and not based on the other person changing his/her behavior. Quite simply, it is not a boundary if you can not enforce it. For example, if you no longer want to receive text messages or phone calls after ten pm, you would simply ask the man who is calling after 10 to not call you after this time, and then gently let him know you will no longer accept his calls. Then, of course, you must follow through on your commitment. Often, when someone is on the receiving end of a boundary they will test you to see if you are sincere. (See number 3 below.)
2. Be clear. When setting a boundary, make sure you are SPECIFIC and clear when articulating it to the receiver. Often, if there is room for interpretation, the receiver will take this space and create his or her own version of the boundary, using his/her interpretation as an excuse to wiggle and manipulate. If the boundary involves someone doing something differently, be specific about what needs changing, and communicate it in a loving and compassion tone. Setting a boundary does not require “conflict-energy.” In fact, to be an effective boundary setter, practice using the Dating With Dignity “Combat-Free Communication System” in which you:
- acknowledge the other person’s feelings and state your understanding of his or her position,
- state your needs clearly,
- and, create an opportunity to collaborate with him or her to come to resolve the challenge.
In order to set a firm boundary and articulate it with clarity, you first must be clear on the boundary yourself. This is a great opportunity to get help from your coach or a supportive friend, to ensure that all the “holes” are filled, and that there is no wiggle room for the receiver. If you are a person whose “default tendency” when you feel under the gun plummets towards uncertainty and self-doubt, take time before the conversation to anchor yourself to your values, rights, and long-term goals.
3. After setting a boundary, plan on being tested. Repeatedly. During “Breaking Free of Your Romantic Rut,” students create a list of trigger situations and then strategize on how they will respond so that they are prepared for the challenges that may arise. Knowing your triggers in advance, and expecting the feelings of fear and vulnerability that can arise when you are challenged can help you to remain firm. It is imperative that you remain firm, as once you remove the boundary you have set, the receiver may now believe that you are a person who issues random “threats,” but that they hold no meaning. Your words and actions MUST match. Remember, you want to “be” the person you want to date. That said, your words and actions must then match if you want to attract a man into your life whose words and actions also match.
4. Boundaries can be set to ask for what you WANT, not only what you will no longer accept. In a true “win-win” relationship, it is important that you ask for what you want, and that you articulate your needs clearly. These are important boundaries to set. For example, last Valentine’s Day I learned that when it comes to holidays, birthdays and other special occasions, I needed to set a boundary regarding my expectations for these “Hallmark Holidays.” As a result, the Brit and I had an important conversation in which I expressed what I want, enjoy and like. When Mother’s Day rolled around, be assured my needs were met, and that the Brit took pride in being able to anticipate and meet my needs.
5. Check in with your limits. Are you REALLY ready? While we often say we are “sick” of what we have created with another person, often the true “bottom” is yet to come. As a result, when the person calls to see us, or our boss asks us to take on another task that is not within our job description, we give in and acquiesce. If this is happening to you, check to determine if you are really ready to set a boundary. If not, don’t “should” yourself into doing something that doesn’t set you up to win. Instead, relax and understand that part of the journey is in the learning that comes from each experience. Have compassion for yourself, and then, when you are TRULY ready, get the support you need to set a boundary that you can enforce.