Life Lesson 5: It's Ok To Have Boundaries

Yesterday: People Love You, Then They Don't
Today: It's Ok To Love From A Distance.
You are not obligated to be close to a family member. If any kind of relationship in your life is toxic, it’s in your best interest to establish boundaries.

Establishing boundaries is one of the hardest things to learn how to do, if you're not already one of those people who can set boundaries in your sleep. Chalk it up to your zodiac sign, your gender, your age, your race, your sexual orientation, your attachment style... whatever you want. Some of us can, some of us have to learn how. I'm in the latter group.

I'm actually a boundary pusher. I'm always looking for the line and the limits; the out of bounds. In turn, it can make it difficult for me to set boundaries with people I love. Yes, even the toxic ones. Hell, ESPECIALLY the toxic ones.

Framing this conversation around family makes a brutal point: everyone -- EVERYONE -- needs boundaries. Even your family. Facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram and all the other wonderful forms of social media we love to enjoy have only served to make boundary setting that much harder. You know the struggle: the people who want to vent on facebook about their relationships but then get mad when they hear folks are talking about their relationships.

Boundaries really do keep you safe; they establish norms and rules. My mom always tells me, you show people how to treat you and boundary-setting is one of the tools you have to show people how to treat you. From what time is ok to call you, to how to speak to you -- let me tell you from experience: don't assume people have common sense and will apply it to your relationship. They don't, they won't and it'll be you with egg on your face.

I'll never forget: someone I really admired got into a serious relationship and posted several things about it on facebook (this was awhile ago, back when this sort of thing didn't seem to happen as frequently). She broke up with this guy and obviously had to change her relationship status. I thought she and I had a pretty good relationship, so I didn't think anything of commenting on her wall that I was disappointed to see she had broken up with him as I had gathered from facebook, she was really into him.

Shortly after my post, she sent me a SCATHING facebook message admonishing me for my post. She said angrily, "this is why I hate Facebook. Everyone thinks they can comment." Aside from hurting my feelings she confused me. What boundary had I crossed? That changed our friendship -- we didn't speak for awhile and when we did, she acted as if nothing happened which only furthered my assumption that she attacked me out of anger with her situation, not necessarily with me.

Boundaries are important because they give both people a set of rules to operate from. But you have to be careful about your implied boundaries. In the previously mentioned relationship, from my perspective, AND the fact that she had posted frequently on her relationship on Facebook, I assumed it wasn't a big deal for me to make my comment. Turns out, it was.

Toxic people can often be the hardest to set boundaries with. Sometimes that's precisely what makes them toxic. So far, the only method I've found that works is to take everything away and give it back a little at a time. The one time I didn't do that -- when I needed to set boundaries with someone who wasn't good for me -- they took advantage of the small openings I left and it just created more mess. They felt entitled to things they weren't entitled to and I ended up having to cut off contact ANYWAY just to make the solid point that I wasn't playing around. It's so much easier when you make the point on the front end instead of the back end.

Set boundaries because they're healthy, helpful and important. Respect other people's boundaries because it's the right thing to do and they have a right to have them. Remember, you don't have to understand AND agree to support something.

Monday: Choose your motivation wisely

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