In the two classes we have running right now, “Breaking Free from Your Romantic Rut,” and “Living Beyond the Rut,” there are more than 35 women embarking on journeys of self-discovery. One of the most important themes that bubbles to the surface each week is the concept of how to set appropriate boundaries.
For those of you who have that covered, keep in mind that I am not just speaking about telling a guy “no,” when it comes to sex, or asking that he be on time. I am talking about the types of boundaries that set your stomach a-twitter simply by envisioning the conversation in which you have to say “no,” face the retaliation, see the look of dismay or have the argument that ensues once you draw the line. What’s more, consider if these boundary-setting conversations may need to start happening in your life with colleagues, your boss, family members, and even friends.
To help with this delicate concept, I am sharing 5 boundaries that are mostly non-negotiable. In addition to my “own” list of critical boundaries to set based on several Dating With Dignity High Potential Dating Concepts, I am also gleaning insights from America’s Numero Uno expert on setting boundaries, author Melody Beattie, who released her recent book, “The New Codependency,” in 2009.
1. We are done saying “yes,” when we mean “no.” In “Breaking Free From Your Romantic Rut,” we work diligently to create lists of what we will no longer say “yes” to, and then, as a result, what it means we will say “yes” to. For example, “I am saying no to getting merely crumbs of attention from men,” and “I am saying yes to believing that my needs are important.” Get the picture? In setting effective boundaries, we stop saying yes when we really, truly mean “no.” Often, words such as “it’s fine,” or “whatever,” escaping from behind your lips in whispered disgust may be a sign you are not setting or enforcing this boundary.
2. We say what we feel, even if people are not ready to hear it. Living in fear that the listener can’t handle “the truth,” stymies our growth, consciousness, self respect and dignity. It is imperative that we learn not to edit our thoughts and feelings based on a feared reaction from the listener. Take my client, Sue, for example, (whose name has been changed). Sue decided to set a boundary with her sibling and tell him she can no longer be in the relationship unless they discuss their mutual needs and expectations. In working with Sue she wrote me via email saying, “I’m not sure if he will get it, but it is what I need to say.” Bravo Sue! Sue set a boundary, expressing her dissatisfaction in the give/take ratio of her relationship and was able to send this email without too much regard for how it might be perceived. What’s more, she is willing to live with the consequence of stating her needs.
3. We are ready to let people feel awkward by reminding them they didn’t pay back money they borrowed, instead of us feeling awkward when we didn’t do anything wrong. (Thank you Melody Beattie for this one; it’s AWESOME!) I can’t tell you how often I hear women who are afraid to ask men, family members, or friends to be paid back what they are owed or promised. Mostly, they are afraid to hurt the borrower’s feelings, or make them feel bad. This is a critical boundary you must set, and extends past money into clothes, CDs, or whatever else you have lent people in your life.
4. We are done letting someone drive us nutz. When you are truly sick of receiving “I need/want you,” texts or phone calls at 1am, tired of complaining that the man you are dating won’t pick up the phone to touch base, or exhausted from continuing to keep men in the queue who flake and don’t call or show up when they said they will, then it is time to set a boundary. In the work I do with clients I often hear them expressing this feeling of being driven completely crazy by the behavior they are tolerating from men in their lives, even men with whom they have not even yet had a first or second date. Yet, often, they put up with it because they don’t know how to set this critical boundary. The truth is this; simply tell them it is not tolerable, and that you aren’t a match because you clearly have different values. Ultimately, you must decide how much nutz you are willing to tolerate. If you want to be treated with respect, and keep your dignity in tact, stop the nutzos from orbiting in your world by setting clear boundaries.
5. We don’t drop our life, what we are doing, or our plans for him. How often have you kept putting off making plans, waiting to see what will shake out for the weekend? Did you wait until Thursday night? Friday morning? Or maybe even Friday at 6pm? Did you cancel plans with your aunt or best friend for Saturday night when Mr. Right Now called at 4pm to “hang out?” Setting boundaries regarding your availability is crucial to beginning to command respect from men. If you stop what you are doing to accommodate his needs or schedule, you are playing with emotional fire. Ensure that you are clear, and able to use the word “no,” when asked to be picked up at the airport when he hasn’t yet taken you out to coffee, or when he swears he will “never do this again.” He will do it again, because you choose to let him.
In short, remember that setting boundaries is critical to learning how to dating with dignity to get the results we want — a healthy, fulfilling, FUN relationship. What boundaries are not are empty threats made in anger, words we leak in an attempt to manipulate, or a last-ditch blatant attempt to exert a power play over someone with whom we are in relationship.
Tomorrow we will dig deeper into setting boundaries, and discover what you can be expected to face once you set boundaries, as well as some tips and scripts on how to enforce them with love, compassion, and dignity.