Relationship expert Henry Cloud states, “The best boundaries are loving ones. The person who has to remain forever in a protective mode is losing out on love and freedom. Boundaries in no way mean to stop loving. They mean the opposite: you are gaining freedom to love. It is good to sacrifice and deny yourself for the sake of others. But you need boundaries to make that choice.”
Boundaries. It sounds like a mean word, doesn’t it? It’s a subject I don’t ever tire of reading about, learning about, discussing with friends, and applying to my own life. Setting boundaries with others hasn’t always been easy for me, and I actually used to struggle saying “no” to almost anything or anyone that came my way–which ended up being a painful thing for me as a young adult, getting myself into a lot of situations I didn’t actually want to be in, and later reaping the consequences for it. Eventually I realized my behavior patterns with others weren’t healthy for myself (or those on the other end), and I began to learn what my own limitations were, and became intentional about learning new tools to use for setting boundaries in relationships. I’ve grown from not being able to set any boundaries at all, to now, generally being able to name them and own them with confidence. So, in a nutshell–this is why I’m passionate about this subject, and want to help others to feel the freedom I now feel in embracing what my personal boundaries are.
Now, to the precarious stuff. How many of you have family visiting this year for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or the New Year? How do you feel about that? Are you excited, overwhelmed, anxious? A mix of some of those things among others? One thing I’d like to encourage you with is that your feelings are valid. Our feelings can serve as a signal to us, indicating where someone else is violating a boundary, or where our boundaries might be in need of strengthening.
All of us were raised according to what was “normal” in our family of origin. What’s normal for you, could seem totally weird and dysfunctional to your girlfriend. 😉 The truth is, boundaries will look unique for each family. The important part is to know what your limits are, discuss them with your spouse (or kids if they’re old enough, or with a girlfriend who will lend you support) and free yourself of any guilt that any family members may place on you.
- Establish what your boundaries are. Write it down on paper! That seems to make things more official. Do you have to drive a long way to see family? Need to leave early to make it home in time for your little one’s bedtime? Whatever it is, set your limit, and be okay sticking to it! No matter how anyone else might try to make you feel.
- Have an open conversation with your spouse about these boundaries, a few weeks before the date you’ll be seeing them. Even if it’s hard and causes some tension or tough conversations, make every effort to be on same page! Think of it as a growing opportunity in your relationship together.
- Decide what consequences will be if someone doesn’t respect your family’s boundaries. This doesn’t have to be a huge statement. It can be as simple as distancing yourself from a particular family member for a time, maybe talking once a week instead of three times. Or maybe it means you leave a family gathering a little earlier than you initially planned.
- Have fun, and love on your family! For some of us, that’s having a week long celebration in our homes. For others, that means in just a few hours we’ve reached our max. Having healthy boundaries with family should be a good thing, that enables you to love the members of your family better, and frees you of any guilt or expectation that another may place on you.
- Debrief. After the event, talk with those who are supportive of you and in your corner. Tell them what worked, didn’t work, and anything else that resonated with you about being around family for the holidays.
A couple more things I’d love to encourage you moms with: You matter. Your peace of mind during the holiday season is important, and wanting to maintain your own family’s rhythm and sense of calm doesn’t make you a jerk, but actually just a really great mom. Feel free to reach out to our little community for support during the holiday season! 😉
And lastly, if you are in need of a good author or resource on the subject of Boundaries–be sure to check out Dr. Henry Cloud. If you click on the link below, a portion of your purchase will go to supporting the Reno Moms Blog community.