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The Importance of Clear Boundaries

By Rachel Vanni

Our country has been through the wringer the last year. Self-care has been almost impossible for most people, especially those who have been struggling with the unexpected consequences of the pandemic. Workers have been laid off, parents are having to act as teachers in addition to working at home, and our normal lives have been turned upside down. To make matters worse, there is more divisiveness than ever amongst family and friends. In order to stay sane, it is crucial that we set clear boundaries on what we will and will not accept from others.

Setting a Boundary Is Healthy, Not Rude

Sometimes people are nervous to set a boundary with someone because they may be perceived as “rude” or “unwelcoming” but that just isn’t true. Setting healthy boundaries is vital to your own well-being and can actually improve your relationships. Politics is a hot topic currently, but you don’t have to discuss it with people you feel uncomfortable doing so. If the topic arises, simply say, “I really don’t have space to talk about this right now.” and change the subject. If they keep pushing, let them know you love them and respect them as a friend but you can’t continue the conversation and you will reach out soon.

A common issue people are facing is setting boundaries on in-person visits with people who may have a different view on the pandemic than themselves. If you have children, maybe your parents or in-laws are constantly asking when they can visit. It is up to you to set boundaries on what you feel is in the best interest of you and your children’s health. It is ok to say “not right now” or provide a short visit outside while wearing masks and socially distancing. Perhaps you feel as though your family is ok to visit, but a friend is not. That is ok! It is up to you to set these boundaries and you should not feel guilty.

People Who Don’t Respect Boundaries Are Showing That They Don’t Respect You

Setting a boundary is telling someone your needs. If they don’t respect your boundaries, it is a clear message that they don’t respect you. Someone who continually attempts to ignore what you have asked is a sign that their relationship is toxic. While you can’t always choose who is in your life, you can choose how you interact. Try to limit communication and stay objective, don’t discuss any highly emotional topics. If they try to engage further, you have the right to cease communication.

You Have the Right to Peace Within Your Life

You have the ability to pick and choose how you interact with those around you. Clear boundaries provide the tools to live your life in peace. Once you begin to really utilize this concept, you realize how freeing it is. A lot of individuals, especially those who grew up without boundaries being taught, tend to accept chaotic relationships as just the way things are. If you are a parent, by setting your own personal boundaries you are teaching your children a valuable lesson in how to take care of themselves emotionally.

Examples of how to set clear boundaries:

“I am unavailable to have this conversation with you. I will contact you soon when we can discuss this matter at a later time.”

“I understand that x is important to you but I am unable to provide you what you need right now.”

“I am not comfortable with these circumstances and so I will need to say no.”

“I feel comfortable with x. I do not feel comfortable with y. I’m open to a respectful conversation about x.”

In conclusion, never feel guilty about taking steps to improve your mental health by setting appropriate boundaries. It is necessary for healthy communication and relationships.

Need help with communicating? Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center for assistance by calling (858) 736-2411 today!