When it comes to work and life, I’m all about the boundaries.
I never work past 8 p.m. (Elephant‘s cut-off time) and usually not past 6 p.m. I’m a stickler for not working on my days off unless I choose to. I don’t offer to cover shifts that I know I can’t or don’t want to cover. I speak up if I know I can’t get tasks done in a certain time frame. And I take a break when and for how long I need to.
The same goes for general life things. I don’t say yes to invites that I can’t or don’t feel like attending. If I’m making plans with friends, I’m honest about what days and times work best. I don’t answer the phone if I don’t feel like having a conversation. And if I make plans or schedule an appointment and I realize that I can’t make it, for whatever reason, I do my best to cancel in a responsible manner, but I definitely cancel.
I wasn’t always like this though, and in the past, I often felt guilt about saying no or doing what felt right to me or changing my mind. But getting older has a way of softening the blow (although not annihilating it completely) of disappointing others in order to honor our own needs. And luckily, this shift started kicking in for me in my mid-20s.
But one place that I still often feel the anxiety-inducing guilt when it comes to setting and maintaining boundaries is in my relationships, particularly when it comes to dating.
In my partnerships, boundaries often become these loosely defined suggestions that once seemed valid in my mind but leave me feeling panicked and miles away from in control when they escape my lips. I worry about offending my partner or making them feel like I don’t trust them. I worry that they’ll feel cornered or attacked. I worry they’ll think I’m too strict, too suffocating and they’ll walk away from the relationship.
Then I worry that my boundaries are too harsh, too unforgiving. People make mistakes, right? Shouldn’t I show this person I love some compassion? The grace of a second chance? I mean, I’m not perfect, so how can I expect them to be? (At this point, I’ve begun to spiral—clearly.)
Basically, boundaries stress me out. And yet, when I set boundaries and then feel like they are violated, I became irate. I can’t count how many times I’ve yelled at someone I’m in a relationship with: “Don’t talk to me that way” or “I told you not to do that” or “You know I hate it when…”
And yet, the behavior continues, or a different boundary is crossed at some point. Then I’m left wondering, “Well, what the hell do I do now?” Is the only response to a boundary being violated for me to leave the relationship? Is there no hope that a relationship can survive two people pushing each other’s boundaries every now and then? Isn’t that just the way relationships are sometimes?
Until recently, boundaries have always felt like both a necessity and a cause of overwhelm in my relationships.
But it turns out I was just doing them wrong this whole damn time. Yesterday, while in a deep dive of relationship advice TikTok, I came across a video that I believe will be a game-changer for me (and maybe you) when it comes to setting and following through on boundaries.
I’ll let KC Davis, a licensed professional counselor, explain:
@domesticblisters Boundaries are behaviors, feelings, and beliefs… but always my own. #strugglecare #boundaries #mentalhealth ♬ original sound – Kc Davis
And here’s the text for anyone who isn’t able to watch the video right now:
“As a therapist who most of my career was around boundary work, I have a slightly different take on boundaries than some other practitioners. For me, a boundary only has to do with my behavior. This is a really actionable and empowering shift. So, saying ‘Don’t talk to me that way’ is not a boundary; it’s a request. Saying or believing ‘I don’t remain in conversations with people that talk to me that way’ is a boundary. In this framework, it’s actually impossible for you to cross my boundaries because they’re always within my control.
Boundaries aren’t about saying how close you can come, because I can’t control that, they’re about saying how far will I go, because that’s always within my control. And I always feel empowered, no matter the situation, to have boundaries.”
It’s not about how close they choose to come. It’s not about them at all really. It’s about me and you and what we allow ourselves to put up with. And that doesn’t mean we need to storm off or abandon the relationship or add to the drama. Maybe we just need to assert our boundary and leave the conversation or the situation until things calm down.
Maybe we just need to remember that we’re always in control of what we choose.
So, have you been making requests or setting (and sticking to) your boundaries?
Let me know in the comments!