Relationships are hard. Trying to find the balance between being there for the people who matter to you and making sure that you’re taking care of yourself is like walking a tightrope.
Having to deal with relationships is a constant in your life. If you know how to tell when you need more boundaries and how to use that information to take a step closer to your loved ones, your relationships can be a source of comfort and connection, rather than a source of conflict and stress.
Unnecessary and fruitless arguments can leave you feeling exhausted and discouraged. Staying in contact with people you genuinely like and enjoy can start to feel like a chore if you don’t feel like you can say “no” when you need to, and through all of this it is all too easy to feel like giving up on the whole venture.
You may have even decided that avoiding everyone is the only answer, only to eventually give in and start talking to everyone all over again.
Going back and forth between holding no boundaries at all and then feeling like you need a complete break from everyone can give you some figurative whiplash.
You end up feeling like your relationships are always on again off again, and frustrated that no matter what part of the cycle you’re living out, you don’t ever seem to be actually happy with it.
Consider your relationship with your parents, for instance. I know for many people our relationships with our parents is a prime place for this dynamic to play itself out.
Imagine that you schedule dinner with your parents once a week. In the beginning everything is great! It’s nice to be able to catch up, and since you moved out you just haven’t been hanging out that much. They are super supportive and excited about everything you're doing in school.
It makes you wonder how you have ever thought that they didn't care or ask real questions about what is going on in your life. Weirdly enough, you really look forward to these weekly dinners.
But then you get busy. Finals are a couple weeks away, and the mountain of homework you need to do is only growing. Your parents stress how important it is for you to take breaks, but they don’t seem to understand everything you have to do. It's not that you aren't mentioning how busy things are getting. It just feels like they don't hear you, and if they do they don't care.
You drop a bunch of hints about how much there is to do and how little time you have, but they just don’t seem to get it, and they are still talking like you’re going to come over this week for dinner. You go, but you are terse the whole time; irritable.
You start snapping at them with the smallest provocation, and find yourself wondering if you ever really made any progress in dealing with your anger.
When you finally leave you shake the evening off and silently determine that you aren’t going to put yourself through that again. It's true that you used to take your anger out on others, but you've worked your ass off to learn how to chill out. Then one night with your parents and here you are again.
You don’t like the person you are when you’re around them, and they just don’t get the kind of pressure you’re under.
You end up avoiding them to try and avoid something that is true about yourself, rather than learning how to interact differently with your parents so that you can feel respected and appreciated, and still get to have your time with them.
Does this sound familiar? You start engaging with people you care about and it feels good, because the relationships are important. But when you need some flexibility you don’t feel like we can ask for it.
You end up doing what is expected of you and hating it the whole time.
You have such a bad experience that you decide that the relationship itself isn’t worth having to feel that again, and you shut out people you love. It doesn’t have to be that way. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have relationship with your parents in a way that feels good to you?
Look, boundary setting is hard. It’s hard to even really determine when a boundary is necessary. So we end up lonely half the time, and smothered the rest of the time.
When we are learning to set boundaries, it is really common to feel like you are swinging wildly from one extreme (getting walked on) to the other (maintaining strict and inflexible boundaries that keep you isolated).
So then, the very first part of the work is to determine where you are on that spectrum, and what to do about it.
It’s true that navigating relationships is really hard. However, if we can learn to tell when we are lacking boundaries we can start to feel comfortable and connected in our relationships.
When we learn when we need to set some more boundaries, and get some practice at using them effectively it is absolutely possible to enjoy our relationships. Keep reading for 3 surefire ways to figure out if it’s time for you to be setting more boundaries in relationships and a good next step.
Don’t let guilt and anxiety make your relationship decisions.
Like it or not, relationships are a huge part of your life. If you continue to allow your relationship choices to be directed by your guilt and anxiety, you will end up in relationships that don’t meet your needs. While you may feel like that’s ok now, your feelings will make themselves known. If you don’t communicate with intention, your feelings may come out in a way you don’t feel good about.
If you don’t end up losing your shit and feeling like an idiot, you will likely end up emotionally distancing yourself from people you care about. The ironic thing is that this ends up harming the very same relationships that you are trying so hard to preserve by meeting their needs. As counter intuitive as it may seem, setting boundaries saves relationships.
Living this way is just not sustainable. Your relationships feel like chores and responsibilities, and you are in a constant state of vacillating between beating yourself up for not being “there” for people in the way you think you should and avoiding them altogether.
You can get your needs met in your relationships know when you need better boundaries.
Although you feel compelled by guilt to put yourself aside and focus on the other people in your relationships, you can absolutely take care of yourself and only engage in your relationships when you really want to.
If you can set boundaries from an intentional place you can feel closer and more connected to the people you love. If you can get more comfortable and noticing the signs, you will notice that you can identify when to start setting some more boundaries and enjoy your relationships more.
3 Ways to Know that It’s Time to Set More Boundaries in Your Relationships
You are feeling lost in identifying when you need to set more boundaries in your relationships. The key is to learn to pay attention to the way that you feel about the relationship. When you think about learning to identify when you need to set more boundaries, it may seem completely out of reach.
What you are neglecting to consider is how much information can be gleaned from paying some attention to how you are feeling and acting in the relationship. Take a look at these 3 signs that indicate that it’s time for more boundaries in your relationships so that you can enjoy being around the people you care about.
Take a look at these 3 signs that indicate that it’s time for more boundaries in your relationships so that you can enjoy being around the people you care about.
1) You Notice That You’re Feeling Resentful
Your feelings serve a purpose. If you are noticing that you are starting to resent spending time with someone, or feeling bitter about the effort or energy you are expending on them, it is a sign that you don’t feel like your needs are getting met in that relationship.
It makes sense that you would be feeling resentful if you are putting a bunch of time and energy into doing what someone else wants or expects of you if you don’t feel that you are getting what you need.
Identify The Perceived Expectation and the Outcome of Not Meeting It
When you notice that you are feeling resentful, it’s time to do something to protect your energy. This is a good time to take a step back. See if you can identify what you feel the expectation is and what you fear will happen if you don’t meet that expectation.
If you decide to try counseling, this is something we can do together. When you are able to identify what you fear will happen if you don’t do whatever it is you feel is expected of you, you can make an empowered decision about how to go forward.
2) You Find Yourself Being Passive Aggressive
If you notice that you are being passive aggressive, it is likely that you feel like you need to communicate something that has made you angry. If you don’t feel like you are allowed to communicate openly without creating a really big issue, then passive aggressiveness becomes the only way to get your needs met.
Communicate Openly and Explicitly, Why You Are Upset
I know it’s hard, but communicating explicitly almost always has better outcomes. If you are being passive aggressive it is completely possible for no one to actually understand why you are upset. At least if you are open about what you need and what upset you everyone is on the same page.
Together with my clients I identify the passive aggressive behavior, explore what might have triggered that response from you. We then practice communicating the anger in a way that the client feels good about so that there’s not a need for the passive aggressive behavior anymore.
3) You Notice Yourself Avoiding People You Care About
Avoidance is a really common way of dealing with relationship issues. Sometimes that means we are just avoiding a challenging conversation, but other times it might look like staying late at work so you don’t have to deal with your spouse when you get home.
It makes sense that if every time you have tried to bring up things that are bothering you you have been met with resistance and anger you would learn to avoid the whole deal.
Bring Up the Elephant in the Room
If you just flat out identify that you are feeling avoidant because you don’t trust that what you have to say will be well received, it is the beginning of a conversation instead of the end of a relationship.
There is, of course, no guarantee that what you say will be received well, and certainly it is a difficult thing to hear and uncomfortable to talk about, but talking is a step above not talking.
Your relationships are not going to get better by not talking.
When you schedule a session with me we will identify a good starting place to open the lines of communication. We will practice different ways to have these difficult conversations in session and identify how you would know if it is a good moment to bring it up or not.
I can help you to start to bridge the chasm between you and your loved ones.
You can increase the intimacy in your relationships and enjoy the people in your life again. You can absolutely feel relief from the expectations you have been holding yourself accountable for.
Together, you and I can identify the signals that it is time for you to set some more boundaries. Then we can take it step by step to identify how to set these boundaries in a way that feels good to you and respectful of the people in your life.
Call me today for a free 30 minute consultation.
Call or email me today to schedule an free 30 minute consultation to see if we can heal your relationships.