How To Set Boundaries In Emotionally Draining Relationships
You need consistently high levels of positive energy if you’re going to use the Law of Attraction to get what you want, but many of us are driven to devote unnecessarily large amounts of that energy to pleasing other people.
If you’re the type who can’t stand to disappoint anyone and says “yes” to just about every request for a favor, read on to learn more about how to set boundaries in your life.
How to Set Boundaries
1. Understand Your Boundaries
As with most personal blocks, the first important step here is understanding why you have such permeable boundaries. In other words, why do you feel the need to please others? While every person’s narrative is unique, one common cause is an underlying belief that you’re not valuable if you’re not making others happy.
Do you only feel good about yourself when you’re helping someone? Do you secretly believe you wouldn’t make interpersonal connections if you weren’t useful to others?
Write down the things that make holding boundaries tough for you. Plus, if you can, write a little bit about their root causes. For example, you may have only been praised by your family when you were self-sacrificing. Or, perhaps you were even scolded if you took time to care for yourself.
Accumulating all this self-knowledge and rejecting the related false assumptions will help you hold firmer boundaries in the future.
2. Make Small Changes First
If you’re used to running around after everyone, it will be awkward and painful to immediately hold very strong boundaries instead. To make the process easier on yourself, think of it as a gradual journey. Begin with little behavioral changes, such as setting aside 2-3 hours a week for your hobbies and for relaxation.
Make this time non-negotiable and uninterruptable. You’ll soon start to see where you can cut back on other commitments that aren’t so good for you.
As you get used to this new way of being, you can increase the amount of time you devote to self-care or personal development. Also, take a more critical look at the specific emotional draining relationship.
3. Listen to Your Body
Those who aren’t used to setting boundaries often say that they just don’t have a natural feel for when it’s appropriate to say no. Here, your body is one of the best resources at your disposal. No matter what kind of cognitive response you have to a request for your time or energy, there’s a part of you that automatically reacts to another person trying to transgress your boundaries.
Tune into your heart and gut. So you feel an uncomfortable twisting in your stomach or a tight feeling in your throat? These types of bodily responses all tell you that on a basic level, you don’t want to do what’s being asked of you.
4. Require Reciprocity
When you’re thinking about which friendships, family bonds or romantic relationships are healthy, reciprocity is a great gauge. If the balance of power or effort in your dynamic seems unfairly weighted in favor of the other person, this relationship either needs work or to be abandoned entirely.
That’s not to say the balance needs to be perfect all the time. For example, a friend may need you more often in the weeks after a great loss, while you might require more of that friend when you’re under pressure at work. The trick is to make sure that all your close relationships balance out overall. This will tell you if you’re actually holding healthy boundaries.
When you think you’re struggling with boundaries, remember that it can be useful to actually talk about this with another person. This is especially helpful if you’re dealing with a family member or partner. Remeber, the issue doesn’t need to be approached in a confrontational way.
You might invite a debate with a question like “What do you think of the current division of labor when it comes to housework?” or “I know you’ve got a lot on your mind, but I feel like we haven’t talked much about the things that are bothering me lately. Could we take some time to look at those things just now?”
Experiment with different phrasing you might use to challenge, change or establish boundaries, and find words that feel authentic.
Anyone who really cares about you will accept the appropriate renegotiation of boundaries, even if they feel a little defensive at first.
6. Stop Viewing Self-Care As Selfish
When you set boundaries that define how much you’re willing to do for other people, this isn’t a selfish act. It’s actually a necessity if you’re going to thrive and make the best of your unique talents. If you’re only just starting to advocate for your own needs, you are probably feeling guilty, as you’ll likely still have a lurking assumption that your only value is in your ability to please others.