Healthy Boundaries for Grandparents

healthy boundaries for grandparents

It’s holiday time! Lots of stress can happen when expectations are high, time is short, and buttons are pushed. Old family issues can rear their heads making this an unpleasant time for some people. Here are some guidelines for healthy boundaries for grandparents that may help.

The Parents Rules are Your Rules

“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” That means that the parents get to decide what are the rules for their children. Consistency matters. It helps to create stability. So, defer to the parents when it comes to bedtime, diet, discipline – everything. This doesn’t mean you have to ask how to do every little thing. Observe how the parents do things and keep the rules the same when the kids are with you. It shows respect and confidence in your kids’ ability to parent. This will go a long way with the parents and the kids.

Don’t Pass the Baby!

Times are different. The previous generation did a lot of things that today’s moms don’t do. One of them is pass the baby. Babies have undeveloped immune systems. Passing the baby to many different people can make the baby vulnerable to infections. Let people admire the baby from afar. If mom wants baby to be held, let her pass the baby to others.

Don’t Ask About (More) Children

Today’s adults are having fewer children or even no children. Trust that if they want kids, they will have them when they are ready. It’s not “wrong” to wait, be childless, or stop at one or two. Infertility is also on the rise. The inability to get pregnant could be a sensitive topic. Avoid talking about it unless the subject is brought to you.

Don’t Let Your Grandkids Run Amok

It can be tempting to be the “good time” grandparent and let your grandkids just run wild. Unfortunately, you don’t have to deal with the temper tantrums later. Kids need discipline. If a child gets away with being sassy, messy, undisciplined, you’re teaching them that’s it’s worthwhile to manipulate and have temper tantrums. It’s much healthier to show them how to make amends, be pro-social, and cope with disappointment.

Don’t Sneak the Kids Treats

Lots of grandparents want to treat their grandkids. Back in the day, that was often done with sweets. Many of today’s parents are more food conscious than in the past. We have a lot more food-like substances and foods with sugar added than in the past. Many people have struggled with emotional eating, too. So parents may not want their kids to associate sugar with rewards. Follow the parent’s guidelines.

Don’t Pump Your Grandkids for Information

Grandparents may be concerned about how things are going. Asking the grandkids for information is not the way to get it. Let your relationship with your children dictate what is shared. Don’t go through the backdoor to get information.

Don’t Use Guilt or Manipulation to Get Your Way

Guilt and manipulation are never the way to improve relationships. They are power plays that create a winner and a loser. If someone loses, the relationship loses. Approach the parents with respect. Allow them their dignity. Respect their power. Parenting is a huge responsibility. They need support. Give it to them.

Assume the Best

People are different. Generations are different. There are bound to be differences in values when it comes to how your kids are rearing your grandkids. Assume that the parents want the best for their kids and are doing their best. Unless the kids are being abused or neglected, it’s all going to be okay. Even the most well-meaning parents make mistakes. Most of us turn out okay.

Grandparents can assume that being a grandparent gives them certain privileges and rights. When children grow up, they become sovereign beings who guide their own lives. They may decide that their rules for themselves are different than those that they were brought up with. That’s okay. Everyone is healthier and happier when their boundaries are respected.

Maintaining Your Energy Body

energy body maintenance

What is the Energy Body?

Everything is made of energy. The “energy body” is the invisible bubble around your physical body that forms the barrier between your energy and everything that is not your energy. It’s the container for your thoughts and feelings. It also contains your available power.

Why Should You Do Energy Body Maintenance?

Your energy body needs care just like your physical body. If you are not doing energy body maintenance, your energy body is likely to be porous. Think of it as a bucket with holes. It leaks! So you will have to generate a lot of power to do simple things because your power is being lost to the outside environment. When your emotions are negative or dis-eased, and others pick up on it, they can perceive you as toxic.

Since you need so much energy, you also suck up other people’s energy leaving them drained. When your energy body is porous, it can be hard telling the difference between your feelings and someone else’s. So, you can absorb negativity, doubt, fear, anxiety and feel that it’s yours. Now you have to figure out how to cope with something didn’t even originate with you. This is exhausting! Even when the energy you absorb is positive, if it’s more than your mind can process or more than your body can contain, you can still feel depleted because it’s overstimulating.

Another way that this can show up is that perhaps you are hyper aware of how others are feeling. You spend a lot of time thinking ahead and anticipating their questions, thoughts, and emotions. Consequently, you are rushing around (either literally or in your head) taking care of things. This takes you out of your body and out of the present moment. This can also deplete your energy body because you have to actually be in your body and grounded to keep the energy flow balanced.

When you live in your head, you can’t tell what is going on with your body so you don’t respond to its cues. When you need more energy, you simply drink caffeine, engage in drama, or steal someone else’s to keep you going. This depletes your adrenals and energy field even further making you unbalanced and vulnerable to dis-ease and fatigue.

How to Do Energy Body Maintenance

Get Grounded & Move the Energy

Energy needs to move. When it doesn’t move, you become sluggish and depressed. If it moves too fast, it’s like a flood. It’s moving too fast to be harnessed, used, and conserved and becomes destructive. To keep the energy moving at a moderate pace, you have to be grounded and embodied. So, the first step is to get in your body. When you’re spun up, you can practice the Five Things exercise to get you back in your body. This is to notice five things in your environment from each of the five senses. For example, you could engage your sight by letting your eyes rest on five different things while really allowing yourself to see them for a few moments. Then go to sound, taste, touch, and smell.

When you’re not triggered, you can practice being grounded through meditations that bring you into your body. One example is to close your eyes. As you inhale, imagine your breath coming in through the crown and into the heart. As you exhale, follow the breath from the heart down through your feet and into the earth. Another grounding breathing exercise is to imagine your energy flowing around you in a circle that starts behind you at your feet and flows over your head, down the front of your body, and back down to your feet. As you inhale, the energy flows feet to head behind you. As you exhale, it flows from the head to your feet. Trace this movement with your hands making the motion of a water wheel in front of you as you breathe.

Eat Fresh Alive Foods

Energy also comes from the food you eat. When you eat processed, dead foods, the quality of energy is not nourishing. The amount of energy is not as plentiful. So choose fresh, alive foods to nourish your body. “Fresh” means recently harvested. “Alive” means something that was recently flying, crawling, swimming, growing, or grazing on the earth. Alive also means minimally processed. If you alter alive foods too much, you remove the life force. No life force = no energy. Avoid stimulants and depressants like sugar, caffeine and alcohol. These will deplete you.

Sleep

The body needs to balance activity with rest. When you push yourself beyond your limits, you begin borrowing energy. When you borrow more than you can repay, it leads to a crash. I have lots of clients who have lived this way. It’s a long, hard road to recovery. It’s like putting gas into a tank with a hole in it. Listen to your body. When you’re tired, rest.

Exercise

I just said that the body needs rest. It also need to move. It’s all about balance. Most of us sit all day most days. If this is you, make sure you take breaks to move. Exercise in moderation so that you don’t push yourself to depletion.

Social Interaction

People aren’t designed to live in isolation. We need other people to help us feel connected, inspired, cared for, important, help us to grow, and to give our love to. Isolation leads to depression. Intimate, happy interaction keeps our juices flowing. We don’t need a lot of people, an entourage, likes, or a fan club. One or two real, deep relationships is enough. Being with vibrant people generates and circulates our own energy in healthy ways.

Be Positive

Thoughts have energy. When you’re seeing and speaking negativity, you create draining energy around you. This isn’t to say that you should put on rose colored glasses and deny the ills of the world. It just means that adopting a nonjudgmental attitude is healthier for your energy body. This will keep you grounded in reality so that you can see what’s going on without getting wrapped up in it. And this is the point of the healthy energy body. When you have a healthy energy body, you can be in the present moment where you are responsive, not reactive. Your contained, not either over the top or flattened. You can give without over giving and depleting yourself. When others are dramatic, you can witness it without getting wrapped up in it.

Choose Well

There is no good or bad energy. It’s just energy. Some is beneficial, some isn’t. It’s really all about the right energy in the right place at the right time in the right amounts. Too much is not great. Too little it not great. Snake venom is great for a snake who needs to eat, but not great for a person. So it’s important to choose the things in your environment. Feng shui is all about placing the right colors and elements in the right places to maximize harmony. These things matter. Be mindful about who you allow around you, what you do for work, where you live, and how you live. It makes a difference. If you don’t have a great energy body, you probably need to limit negativity. When you’re strong, you can expose yourself to more without being toppled. Know yourself and your limits.

 

 

You Might Have Rigid Boundaries If…

rigid boundaries

I’ve posted a lot about boundaries lately that focus on establishing barriers between oneself and others. As with most things, you can either have too little or too much. In this article, we will focus on what it looks like to have boundaries that are too rigid.

Boundaries are learned. If we don’t learn how to contain our energy, emotions, thoughts, and actions, we can be depleted, hurt, and exhausted. Some of us respond to that by putting up walls. This is what rigid boundaries are about. They are walls that go up to keep us safe. We create them when we’ve had bad experiences that we don’t want to repeat. Unfortunately, this makes it hard for people to get to know us so we often feel misunderstood, isolated, and lonely.

Let’s take a look at what this looks like.

You Might Have Rigid Boundaries If…

  • You’re requests are more like demands. They don’t allow for any wiggle room.
  • Your tone or words let’s others know how they have failed or are stupid.
  • Outsiders are kept out. This could be people outside the family, a work group, or friend group.
  • You know you’re right and are willing to argue for your point.
  • You want things done your way.
  • People say it’s hard to talk to you because you don’t listen.
  • You don’t have a lot of close friends. People find it hard to warm up to you.
  • You can’t get vulnerable with people because you find them untrustworthy.
  • It’s hard to tolerate dumb, bumbling, inefficient people. And there are a lot of people like that.
  • People have said you can come across as harsh, cold, and unfeeling.
  • When things get tough, you often “take your ball and go home” rather than be flexible.
  • You’re alienated from family.
  • You tend to do things yourself rather than ask others because it’s just easier that way.
  • It’s hard to tolerate the messiness of life.
  • You don’t need other people’s input. You know what you want or what to do.
  • You’d rather be right than happy.

Some people are surprised to know that these things can be related to boundaries. Maybe they think it’s just part of their personality. No, these are defenses. They are not permanent parts of who we are. They can be changed. Nobody needs to erect the Great Wall of China to be safe. A simple fence with a gate will do.

Making sure that you’re the one in control assures that dangerous situations are kept to a minimum. However, this creates walls that keeps out so much of the joy of life. If you control how other people behave, they aren’t going to want to be around you. Would you like that? It may be better to learn more skills to deal with adversity than to try to control it in advance.

If you keep out anything that is not within your control, life gets pretty boring and sterile really quick. New ideas can lead to breakthroughs. Unconvenience and inefficiency are sometimes a small price to pay for connection. Kids are messy and slow. Imagine a world without kids! It would be a whole lot less fun. It may be more rewarding to learn flexibility than to go through life alone.

Boundaries are meant to be barriers, not walls. Too little flow of feeling and interaction isn’t life affirming. It makes you an island. We all need each other – even the messy parts. You’ve got messy parts. What if no one wanted you around because you’re simply human? When you tolerate, or even embrace, the differences in others, it makes it a lot easier to love yourself.

Why You Can’t Learn Healthy Boundaries Without Good Face to Face Communication Skills

Once upon a time, long, long ago back before there were cell phones, computers, and televisions, people sat on the front porch and actually talked to each other. In those days, people felt less lonely, more connected, and had better boundaries. Why? Because even if you learn all the rules about boundaries, they change. Boundaries shift based upon environment, relationship, and the current moment. This can make learning healthy boundaries problematic if you don’t have the experience and skill of relating to people face to face. What skills?

Mindfulness

Most people, most of the time, are not aware of the current moment. They think about what they’re going to say next rather than listening. They worry about all the possibilities of what could happen rather than see what is happening. Awareness allows you to be right here, right now. This keeps you from playing out your past stories. When you’re present, your perceptions and actions tend to be more Effective. So, the next time you are talking with someone, stop what you are doing. Turn and face them. Do nothing but be present and alive in that moment. See how it changes things for you.

Embodiment

Today people don’t live in their bodies. We live in our heads. Our minds lie. They calculate information based on past experience and past programming. They are heavily influenced by emotions like fear. Our thoughts are also limited by what we know. This makes our minds highly unreliable.

Our bodies are much more intuitive. They can tell us when someone is unsafe while our rational mind talks us out of that. Yet if we are not in our bodies, we don’t pick up those cues.

So often we escape into our minds to help us deal with uncertain to terrifying events. Somehow many of us never make it back. Your body is an important part of the human experience. Your five senses become alive through your body. If you’re not there, you’re not living fully. If thinking your thoughts has you in a perpetual state of anxiety, escaping to your head isn’t working anymore. It’s time to try something else. Maybe it’s time to be embodied.

Accurately Reading Body Language

We don’t understand or rely on body language anymore because we no longer understand it. Our faces focus on computer screens. We communicate through words and emoticons. So when we misread people and situations, we can feel deflated and mistrustful. This makes us retreat further behind impersonal communication methods or rules. This is how we come up with these black and white boundary rules of like “Always ask before touching, kissing, addressing someone by a nickname, etc.”

Asking for permission is always a great idea! Don’t get me wrong. But do you remember being a child and your mom asking you if she could kiss you? She just kissed you, right? And what about your partner giving you a kiss. Most of the time, there were no power plays or violations involved. It was appropriate and loving. Why? Because we have the relationship and intimacy where we know it’s okay. We can read each other’s body language so we know when it’s appropriate to approach or not. If you aren’t mindful, can’t accurately read body language, or live in your head instead of your body, boundary violations are much more likely.

Respect for Sovereignty

We live in a hierarchical society where some have power over others. Some get things they did not create, produce, or earn while others are taken from. The pervasiveness of these practices lead some to believe that we live in a dog eat dog world, and that’s just the way things are done. It’s all about looking out for number one. These attitudes creep into other areas of our lives and can reinforce the idea that we have the right to know what they are thinking, feeling or doing. It’s okay to tell them what is right for them or maybe make them do what we think is right. This is a lack of respect for other’s sovereignty.

Sometimes we don’t step into our own sovereignty. We give responsibility for our well being to others. We blame others for our state of affairs. This is also a disrespect for sovereignty – your own.

Putting It All Together

Let’s bring all this back into the real world. Guy says to Sheila “Sweetie, can you get me a cup of coffee?” Is that appropriate or inappropriate?

  • If Guy and Sheila are romantic partners, it’s probably appropriate if they have a level of intimacy in that moment that makes it okay.
  • If Guy and Sheila are romantic partners and he’s using it in a condescending way to make her subservient, it reflects a lack of respect for sovereignty. This is not healthy.
  • If Guy and Sheila are co-workers it’s iffy. It’s probably unprofessional, but some work places are more relaxed. If the culture is open, warm, and joking, this could be okay.
  • If Guy is Sheila’s father, it’s probably a term of endearment. It’s appropriate and healthy.
  • If Guy is Sheila’s boss, it’s probably inappropriate. The power difference could create tension. Again, workplaces are different. In some businesses – especially small ones – the boss works closely and on the same level as the employees. In some areas of the country, among some people, things like this are really common and don’t mean anything. It really depends on the circumstances.
  • If Guy is Sheila’s neighbor and he’s trying to let connect with her, it’s iffy. If he perceives no body language from her that she wants this, and is getting physical cues in his own body that she doesn’t, it’s definitely inappropriate. The best thing to do when there is uncertainty is to respect her sovereignty and ask if it’s okay to call her Sweetie before doing so. This is especially true because Guy has an agenda. It’s okay for Guy to like Sheila. It’s not okay for him to force his attention upon her. If he doesn’t know if that attention is welcome, he needs to find out.

Seeing this in black and white will give you black and white outcomes. We don’t live in black and white worlds. The world is full of color. What is the voice inflection? Where are the two people standing in relationship to each other? What is their past relationship? What are the personalities like? Is this typical for the culture they both came from? How do these people feel about each other? What were they doing just before this?  All of this colors the situation.

Hard and fast rules would say that we don’t ever use terms of endearment without permission. Since situations are always in flux, that would make things really awkward. Can you imagine saying, “Can I call you Sweetie?” every time you wanted to say it to your partner? Can you imagine never saying it to your partner? The world would be really sterile and boring.

My advice is to go with the black and white rules in most situations with most people. This will keep you safe. In the meantime, develop face to face skills of relating to people. Be mindful. Be embodied. Check out what you think the other person’s body language is saying before acting on it to learn. Be prepared for surprises. What we perceive is not always accurate – even once we become good at this. For example, someone may be upset, but not upset with you. Finally, respect sovereignty – yours and others. When you are able to do these things well, you will be able to relax the rules and be more spontaneous.

 

 

What Boundaries Are Not

boundaries are not

Is it Mercury in retrograde? Holiday stress? The full super moon? I am not sure, and I don’t suppose it matters what is causing the boundaries to be pushed. But you know what? it’s a good thing. It’s practice for strengthening them and making them healthier. You can’t fix what you can’t see.

I’ve already written a lot about healthy boundaries, so this article isn’t going to be about that. This is about what healthy boundaries are not.

Healthy Boundaries Are Not Walls

Some people deal with stressful situations by shutting down, pushing away, or making sure that nobody gets close enough to upset you. This is not an example of healthy boundaries. These are walls. With walls, it’s true that no one can get to you, but walls keep everything from coming in. This means that you don’t get love, comfort, attention, or any of the good stuff either. Shutting others out requires that you shut yourself down.

Boundaries are more like fences. You can see out. Others can see in, but you are in control of the gate. This allows for you to have relationships and true human contact.

Healthy Boundaries Are Not Rules

Some people set rules for how things are going to be. This is actually pretty good… unless it’s dictating what the other person must agree to in order to have a relationship with you. The only way for two people to be happy in a relationship is if both have a say in how things are going to be. You want both to be free to be authentic and take care of themselves. If your rule is “You must be here when I get home from work,” the other person may have to jump through hoops and do a lot of self sacrifice in order to live up to those expectations.

It’s easier to understand what I mean by “rules” if you have some examples. So here are a few:

  • If I don’t like someone, you can’t hang out with them either.
  • When I get angry, I express myself in ways that you may not like. That’s just who I am. Don’t ask me to change.
  • I’m talking to you. When I ask you something, I expect an answer now.
  • Don’t ask me about my past, my relationships, my thoughts or feelings. It’s none of your business.
  • Don’t bring up topics that you know will make me angry or touchy.
  • Act the way I want you to around other people. Don’t embarrass me or make me angry.
  • I am only possessive or jealous if I like you. You should be glad I care enough to set boundaries.
  • I go to sleep at 10:00 p.m. You have to go to sleep then too.

Boundaries are limitations. They let others know what you want and who you are, but they don’t tread on other people’s boundaries to do so. When my boundaries don’t line up perfectly with yours, that’s when we have a conversation about how we to do things in a way that honors both of us. Without that, one of us will feel disrespected or less important. That’s not the goal. Healthy relationships go for the win/win so that both people can feel great about being together.

Healthy Boundaries Are Not Political Correctness

Boundaries are not about saying all the politically correct things when in the presence of others to keep from upsetting people. Political correctness is a rule that tells you how to behave that may not be reflective of your true nature. So in other words, it’s a mask. This is how people end up in long term relationships with people they feel they don’t know.

It’s true we want to be sensitive. Yet we also need to be honest and true to ourselves. Disagreeing or being different is a part of relationships that can lead to growth, creativity, and deeper understanding and connection. Disagreeing isn’t bad. Being upset is not the end of the world. Simply use it as fuel to go deeper into your truth. When both parties are exercising healthy boundaries, they are both being authentic and empowered. When they are wearing masks to please others, neither is authentic or empowered.

Healthy Boundaries are Not Control Mechanisms

Sometimes people pull the boundaries card in order to control others. That could look like me not wanting to give my partner a chance to speak up, so I shut it down by leaving, changing the subject, or going into hysterics. That’s not setting boundaries. That’s attempting to manipulate the situation to get my way.

Healthy Boundaries are Not a Guarantee of a Happy Ending

Practicing healthy boundaries doesn’t guarantee that you will always be happy. They will guarantee that you are always standing in your power and truth. That’s it. This may lead to unhappy, stressful, or challenging circumstances in the short term. Your self respect and self worth will be intact. This can help you recover from unpleasant circumstances more quickly. This can help you to leave abusive relationships or job situations quickly instead of wasting a lot of time there and slowly becoming beaten down. So even though there is a cost, the cost of not upholding your boundaries is generally larger.

When you are Effective and things don’t go your way, you could feel cheated, like “I practiced healthy boundaries! Why was I not treated well?” Being in a healthy space greatly decreases the drama that comes your way, but it doesn’t make you drama repellant. Others may still be inappropriate or demanding because you don’t have control over how others treat you or what their boundaries or values are. You only have control over your own. Being in a healthy space means accepting that and allowing others to be who they are and have their own experience.

Understanding Personal Boundaries

personal boundaries

Imagine living in a high rise apartment building where most of the people’s flats have no doors or windows. Some have doors, but the locks are broken. Consequently, things get moved, taken, eaten, and used without permission. People can come in and watch your private business. You can see and hear what goes on in other people’s lives. It’s so close, you may even feel their emotions. Maybe you wake up with someone in your room or watching you sleep. Residents with doors may find them opened by people who don’t knock because everyone is used to just doing whatever they want.

This is what it’s like living in a society where lots of people don’t have healthy boundaries. You might hear things you don’t really want to hear, see things you don’t want to see, and even be touched by people who have no business touching you. (Or maybe you do this to others). You may take on other people’s struggles, feelings, or desires as your own. This can leave you feeling tired, manipulated, over burdened, and/or out of control. You may feel outraged or confused, like you don’t know what is going on. On the other hand, rigid or boundaries may leave you feeling isolated, fearful, and lonely. To understand how to fix this, let’s first look at what are boundaries.

What Are Boundaries?

More and more I hear people say that they aren’t even aware of what personal boundaries are. If we are a society that is unaware of boundaries, it’s no wonder that some people feel free to encroach on others’ space. It’s not surprising that others experience boundary violations. If you aren’t aware what boundaries are, it makes it really hard to enforce them or obey them.

Boundaries are a barriers that delineates where one thing ends and another begins. Take real estate for example. If you are a hunter and you hear that a plot by the lake allows hunting, how do you know where that land begins? How do you know where it ends? It is helpful to have a fence to form a barrier, isn’t it? It’s also helpful if those who don’t allow hunting or trespassing to have signs so that you know. That’s what boundaries do for you. They tell you what the rules are and give you parameters so that you know where those rules start and where they end.

Personal boundaries act like that fence. They are invisible energy barriers created by words, behavior, feelings, and intention that let’s people know where you begin and end. Like signs, they establish what is and isn’t acceptable to you. These boundaries are generally somewhat conditional and vary from person to person. For instance, people on a crowded bus or train often stand within inches of each other. However, if you did that while standing in line at a grocery store, people would think you were crazy. Another example is that “Guy” may allow people to hunt on his property, but “Sheila” doesn’t.

Now, if I am joking with my girlfriends about personal things we might all have a laugh. If I say those same things to my co-workers, someone might call me out for being offensive, insensitive, or harassing them. Context matters. I believe this is one of the reasons why #MeToo is happening. Boundaries can be confusing. So we may not know that we’re stepping over the line or what to do when someone violates our boundaries.

If the Rules Are Always Changing, How Do I Know What’s Appropriate?

Fortunately, there is an easy way around this. With a few simple guidelines, you never have to worry about violating someone else’s boundaries.

  1. Ask for permission before doing anything that involves another person. If someone else is affected by your actions, they have a right to be included and give permission first. This means saying things like: Do you want to …? Is that okay with you? How do you feel about that? Don’t assume. No mind reading either. A short skirt is not an invitation to touch. Having someone’s phone number doesn’t give you permission to send photos. What A agreed to last week is not true for B today. Avoid doubt. Ask.
  2. If your original request changes, you have to ask permission for the new request. Just because someone says it’s okay to kiss her doesn’t mean it’s okay to do anything else. Permission for X isn’t permission for Y. Again, don’t assume.
  3. Wait for a yes or no. The absence of a yes is a no. A maybe is a no. It’s hard for some people to say yes. Sometimes people are quiet because they can’t say yes. Backing away shows respect. It also teaches the person who can’t say yes to stand in her own power. It teaches the other person that she can’t get what she wants if she doesn’t ask for it and doesn’t accept it when it shows up. A healthy relationship requires equality and respect. This is one way to get it.
  4. Respect the no. Some people beg and plead until they get what they want. No means no. Talking someone into something is disrespectful. Trust that we all know our own mind. If we don’t, it’s not up to others to change it for us. If we lose out enough times, we will eventually catch on. But as long as we’re saying no, it’s a no.
  5. If you are unsure where you stand, do not move forward. If you are thinking about touching someone and you haven’t gotten a clear, verbal, “Yes,” stop. Maybe you told this joke to twenty people and they all laughed, but now you are unsure about whether it’s okay in the present company. If so, stop. Think of any grey area as a no go zone.
  6. It’s okay to change your mind. We make the boundaries as we go. Either party can change them for any reason. Yes is only yes until it’s no.
  7. If you are subjected to things you don’t like, you can either remove yourself from the situation or let the other person know that what is going on is not appropriate. You’ll have to look at the circumstances to know what is appropriate for that situation.
  8. If someone tries to blame you for something or obligate you to something, think of it as an offer. You can decline. Just because I serve a ball to you doesn’t mean you have to hit it back. If you don’t hit it back, we don’t have a game. Don’t play the game.
  9. If you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of your behavior, don’t subject others to it. How would you like to be cat called? Would you like to feel you can’t say no? How about being disregarded or walked on? Would you want your wife, mother, or child to hear what you are about to say? Healthy relationships require consideration and respect. Taking a little time to think about how the other person feels goes a long way.

It’s Up to You to Set Your Own Boundaries

Your boundaries are determined by you. If you don’t have any, you’re going to be overwhelmed by other people’s energy, demands, and problems. You aren’t going to have a lot of energy left for yourself because people will suck you dry. I’m not saying that people are horrible. I am saying that the lack of boundaries is basically a green light for others to do whatever they want. Other people can blame you for things, obligate you to do things you don’t want to do, subject you to things you don’t want to hear, and violate your body.

Setting personal boundaries won’t stop everyone. Some people are clueless. Having boundaries will filter out much of it however. Having healthy boundaries will also mean that you don’t get blindsided when someone complains about your behavior. You won’t have to find out what boundaries are by being fired, dragged into court, or being accused of inappropriate behavior.

A really useful way for maintaining healthy boundaries is to practice mindfulness. When you are mindful, you’re always present. This gives you a bit of distance from whatever is going on so that you see it clearly and can respond instead of react. Without mindfulness, you can get caught up in things and get carried away with the flow. When you look back and see what you could have done differently, it’s too late.

Here are some examples of mindful statements that reflect healthy boundaries. They are clear, firm, and fair. There is no chance for misunderstanding.

  • Yes, I will be glad to give you my attention when I finish typing this email.
  • I am not comfortable with that and do not want to participate. Thank you.
  • I respect your opinion (or maybe “You’re entitled to your opinion”) and I’m not willing to argue with you.
  • Let’s wait to discuss that when you’re voice is as calm as mine.
  • No.
  • I am sorry. I thought I was okay with that, but now I see that I am not.
  • Yes, I’d love to.
  • I am not a party to this. Can we talk about something else?

Make sure your behavior reflects your words. If you say no with a smile on your face and move in closer, you’re sending a mixed message. This doesn’t mean you have to be mean, just firm and congruent. Don’t worry about seeming being rude or mean. It’s neither rude nor mean to set a boundary.

Loose personal boundaries don’t generally lead to gross violations. They just tend to make things uncomfortable or uncertain. However, little violations lead to big violations. One violation leads to repeated violations. You don’t want to leave it up to others to take care of you because you’re likely to be not very well cared for.

When you exercise healthy boundaries, you experience less stress. You know who you are, what you want, and how you feel. You also command more respect. This reduces interpersonal misunderstandings. makes you safer, and makes your relationships a lot happier. It also reduces the likelihood that you will be falsely accused of inappropriate behavior, so it’s a two way street. Healthy boundaries are better for everyone.

 

Skills to Keep Your Holidays Jolly

holidays jolly

Do holidays make you anxious? Do you feel pressure to please people? No worries. Here are some skills to keep your holidays jolly.

Ask For What You Want

If you don’t specifically ask for what you want, you’re not likely to get it. Even the best mind reader doesn’t anticipate correctly every time. What seems obvious or polite to you may not be understood by all people. Don’t take offense if others don’t believe as you believe. Just ask for what you want. This will avoid all the hints, manipulations, and hurt feelings.

Just Say No

No is a complete sentence. You don’t need an excuse or reason to say no. When you agree to do what you don’t want to do, you dishonor yourself because you go against your desires or values. You can’t be happy when you go against yourself. Saying no isn’t always easy. The price for doing something that you don’t want to do is often too high. So just please yourself.

RSVP in a Timely Manner

When someone invites you to do something, they need to know of your intentions so that they can plan. If you’re a “yes”, say yes. If you are a “no,” say no. If you are truly unsure, let them know that. Just leaving the host guessing is bad manners and could create stress for others. Instead of ignoring the question, hinting, or waiting to the last minute to decide, communicate. If you won’t know how you feel, if your schedule is clear, if you have the money, or something that can’t be known until the last minute, let the other person know. This will give them the opportunity to plan around you or ask someone else.

Don’t Hold Others Under Obligation

If you believe in your right to do as you please, it’s only fair to allow others to do the same. An invitation is not an obligation. A gift is not an obligation to get one in return. Spending $X is not a contract to receive something of equal value. When you make it so in your mind, you set yourself up for disappointment and blame the other person. This is a lose/lose situation.

No Blame, No Shame, No Judgment

Blaming, shaming and judgments project our negative thoughts and feelings outward. They then come back to hurt our own hearts. A win/win strategy is to approach things with an open heart. Love others enough to let them choose their own path (even if that means they don’t choose to spend time with you, don’t give you a gift, don’t get you what you want, want to do something other than what you want to do, etc.).

Love yourself enough to set your own limits about what is acceptable for you to do. Don’t overspend, jump through hoops to make magic happen, or overpromise. Make yourself happy and love yourself for it. A happy you equals a happy holiday.

Maintain Self Care

It’s easy to get derailed when you get off your schedule. Not enough sleep, overstimulation, over eating, too many sweets, and lack of exercise and downtime can lead to sickness or an emotional meltdown. Love yourself enough to set limits and put yourself first. Yes, there is a lot going on this time of year. That doesn’t mean you have to do it all or be “on” for all of it. Sometimes a night by the fire or in the bath with a book is just what you need.

Please Yourself. Allow Others to Please Themselves.

There are three things that people are meant to do in this life: love, serve, and practice wisdom. If you are doing all of these things while pleasing yourself, you will always serve from a place of fullness. This serves both yourself and others. What better way to spread joy than that?

Holidays don’t have to be stressful. Using skills takes the anxiety out of planning and participating because you have strategies that work. Just be sure to use them.

Help! I Can’t Get or Keep a Relationship!

relationship

Do you have trouble forming close relationships? If so, this is almost always because you either have a wall around you or you’re trying to have a relationship with someone who has wall (or both). What’s a person with a wall look like?

  • says he wants intimacy, but avoids intimacy and close relationships
  • has few close, warm relationships
  • rarely asks for help
  • closely guards information about thoughts, feelings, family life, personal details, saying that he’s private
  • may seem detached, even with romantic partners and family
  • doesn’t put himself out there to avoid rejection
  • can hold on to inappropriate, undesirable, or unhealthy relationships to avoid feeling abandoned
  • not sure of what she wants, thinks, or feels
  • words and behavior don’t match
  • if there is a partner, their lives are very separate (examples: long distance relationship, married partner, workaholic partner, or emotionally unavailable partner)
  • has more virtual interaction than face to face interaction
  • doesn’t get personally involved in other people’s lives
  • takes a long time to warm up to new people
  • engages in relationships with lower power people rather than equals
  • has a high degree of control over when, if, where, and how interaction happens

What causes a person to have a wall? Fear. Fear of being hurt, loved, abused, betrayed, embarrassed, abandoned, or any number of other things. This generally comes from an unstable childhood, a traumatic experience, or a hurtful relationship. People with walls either didn’t learn how to have healthy relationships or were hurt so badly that they don’t trust people.

Since they don’t trust easily, they want guarantees of safety before they engage in a relationship. Often it takes so much time and effort that the potential partner gives up before a bond can form. Or a relationship does form, but the walls never go down so neither party ever really feels emotionally satisfied. So what do you do?

If You Are With Someone With Walls

  • Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to decipher the mixed messages. If she wants you, she will be available to you. She will be consistent about her feelings. She will let you and others know that she wants you. A mixed message means either “no” or “I am not able to have a healthy relationship right now.” Leaving now will shorten your heartache and hasten the other person’s learning curve for taking down those walls.
  • Don’t let someone else control the terms of your relationship. If you start out like this, you will end up like this. There is no way to have healthy self-esteem in this situation. You’ll always be the “servant” and her the “master.” Nobody is worth that.
  • Focus on who she is not who she has the potential to be. It’s not your job to save her, mold her, or teach her. If she wanted to grow, she’d do it on her own. If she uses you for this purpose, she will probably leave you for someone else once you’re done with her because she will have outgrown you. Don’t be a stepping stone.
  • No matter how attractive, wealthy, fit, sweet, safe, or smart the guy is, don’t make excuses for your lack of intimacy. You can’t have a healthy relationship if one of you has walls.
  • Accept that the walls are there to keep you out. Do you want to bash yourself against a wall day after day?
  • Accept that you cannot change her. If you stay, accept her as she is. She will love you for it, (we all want to be accepted) and your life will be a lot easier.
  • If you go, don’t beat yourself or your partner up about it. Just know that a healthy relationship is not possible with someone with walls.

If You Are the One With the Walls

If you can’t get or keep a relationship, it’s because your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. When you take down those emotional walls, you will be able to establish the connection that you want. How?

  • Address the fear that makes these walls necessary. We all want to feel safe. Whatever created the wall is probably not present in your life today. This means that you don’t need this level of self-defense today. If your walls are interfering with your ability to have a healthy relationship, I’d suggest getting professional help. If you could take them down on your own, I am sure you would have already done so. Fear is what created and sustains the wall. If you do everything else on this list and still have the fear, your problem will remain.
  • Practice letting others see you. Start small with things like sharing your opinions, talking about your work, or feelings. Work up to sharing things that are harder to open up about. For example, if you create something, show people your work. Share your thoughts about something you love.
  • Initiate contact. I know it’s hard. The people who love you will notice and appreciate your effort. It doesn’t have to be deep or sustained. Start small, but show some interest in other people.
  • Learn mindfulness. This can help you to know what you think, feel, and want. It can keep you in the present moment instead of going to your fear place. It can stop you from rejecting love to stay safe or clinging to people you don’t want to avoid abandonment. You can’t feel connected if you aren’t here. Mindfulness keeps you here.
  • Go slow. You don’t have to tear the wall down. We all want to feel safe, so make a big enough hole to put up a gate. You can still control when and how much you open the gate. In fact, you can think of it as the love gate. Open it only to those you love. Close it when you have had enough.
  • Practice saying yes to what you want and no to what you don’t want. Just say “yes” for yes and “no” for no – nothing else. You don’t have to explain. Both are complete sentences. Once you get the hang of doing this, you will realize that no worlds collapsed. Everyone survived. Even if there is some discomfort for you and disappointment for them, everything was still okay. It’s okay to say yes and no. It creates clarity. Clarity leads to safety and understanding.
  • Communicate what’s going on to those in your inner circle so that they don’t feel abandoned, neglected, or confused. If you need space, ask for it. If you want company, let them know. You are responsible for caring for your own needs. Others can’t give you what you need if they don’t know what that is.
  • Listen to your body. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to eat, eat. Your body will tell you what it needs. Listen. Your body will also clue you in to how you’re feeling. All emotions have a physical component. Your body is always speaking. Learn its language.
  • Practice putting yourself in other people’s shoes. When you don’t let anyone in, it can be hard to imagine the world from someone else’s perspective. Observe your actions. Ask yourself how they might be impacting others. Is this the effect you want to have? If not, do something different.
  • Make space for those you care about. It may be hard for you to let people in, but if you don’t, they have no reason to stay. Reach out and ask about their day. Share your thought and feelings. Tell them that you want them in your life and are doing what you can to make that easier and more fulfilling for both of you.
  • Focus on balance. You are important, so are other people. You are responsible for your relationship, as are the people you are in relationship with. This means you have to share power and responsibility if you want a healthy relationship. It means that you don’t take on more or less than is yours to take.
  • Practice give and take. People with walls tend to be rather poor giver and takers. Think of this as a flow of feeling rather than stuff or time. If you want connection, you have to send out something so that it can come back to you. If you don’t send it out, it won’t have enough energy to sustain the flow. You’ve got to let it in to receive it. So, you have to be a good giver and receiver.
  • Work on one thing at a time. Focus on progress not perfection. It took a while to create the wall. It will take some time to open up a gate, but this is the gate that will make a healthy, lasting relationship possible. Aren’t you worth it?

People with walls are not bad people; however, their actions can feel hurtful to themselves and those around them. We all need safety. Building walls will give us that at the cost of living in emotional and often physical isolation. If that’s not the life you want, the good news is you can change it.

Note: Switching gender is done deliberately to show that that this problem applies to both genders. The suggestions above can also apply to friendships. 

Why People with Unhealthy Boundaries Are Scary

boundaries

I’ve seen a lot of articles written about boundaries that focus on the person with poor boundaries. Boundary violations and weakness affect not only the person with the unhealthy boundaries. People with unhealthy boundaries are scary for those they come in contact with, too. So let’s take a look at how unhealthy boundaries impact other people. We’ll use the following scenario as an example.

Monday at 11:00 a.m. Alice calls Wayne.

Alice: Hi, Wayne. My car is going to be in the shop Thursday. Would you be give me a ride from there to work? I can get a ride back after work.

Wayne: I’m not sure. When I get off the toilet, I will check my schedule and get back to you.

Monday at 4:45 p.m.

Alice: (via voicemail because Wayne is avoiding her call). Hey, just checking to see if you would be able to do me that favor. Could you let me know? Thanks!

Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

Alice: (via voicemail) Hi, Wayne. If you can’t drop me off, can you just let me know so that I can ask someone else? It’s not a big deal. I just need to make plans. Thanks.

Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Alice sees Wayne at a friend’s house.

Wayne: Hey! I meant to get back to you. Sorry about that. I have a meeting Thursday morning, so I’d have to be at work early. I’d really like to get in my morning workout too. I was just trying to see how I could make it work before getting back with you.

Alice: Okay, no problem.

Wednesday between 4:30 and 9:00 p.m. Alice tries calling Wayne to set up up a time to meet at the shop and give him the address. She doesn’t reach him so she calls the shop to reschedule. She follows up by sending Wayne angry messages about why he didn’t just call her. Wayne eventually responds by explaining that Alice didn’t  tell him when and where to meet. Wayne also defends himself by saying that he never agreed to do it. Then Wayne tries to smooth things over with jokes and tells Alice to not take it so seriously.

Unhealthy Boundaries Leaves Others With Uncertainty

People with unhealthy boundaries can have a hard time saying no. This leaves others wondering about expectations and outcomes. To some people, no answer means the question is still open. To others it means not yes. “Maybe” has the same confusion. To some people, it means “Yes, if” or “Yes, when.” In the example above, Alice may have heard, “Yes, I will do it if or when I figure out a way to work around my early work time and going to the gym.”

Another reason why unhealthy boundaries causes uncertainty is that there are often mixed messages. Wayne’s demeanor was pleasant throughout his interactions leaving Alice with the sense that he wanted to help. He even tried joking afterward to keep things pleasant. However, he also dodged her phone calls and didn’t give Alice a straight answer. This could leave Alice confused about Wayne likes her, respects her, or can be depended upon. She may be doubting her own perception.

Create Unnecessary Drama

Dealing with people who don’t have healthy boundaries can be anxiety provoking. We all see the world through our own lens. If it’s easy for Alice to say yes and no, she may not understand why Wayne can’t do it – especially if Wayne doesn’t own this. This creates tension between the two of them that can make their relationship swing from hot to cold. Or perhaps they have a hard time staying on the same page.

Can’t Achieve Trust or Intimacy

The example above doesn’t show this explicitly, but you can image what it’s like to be Alice. If she feels she doesn’t know who Wayne is, what he wants, or what he feels, there is no way she can really trust him. With no trust, the relationship will always remain superficial. Most people would rather spend their time with people who mean something to them.

Feels Violated

Everybody has a need for privacy, physical space, and emotional space. When Wayne told Alice about being on the toilet, he was oversharing. When you bring people into your personal space or they come into yours without an invitation or permission, it feels like a violation. This can lead to them withdrawing.

The example above includes only a few ways that unhealthy boundaries are demonstrated. Here are some others:

  • taking on the feelings of others. Many explain this by saying that they are “highly sensitive people.” While some people do have enhanced energetic sensitivity, if you have any of these other symptoms, you probably have boundary issues.
  • unaware of their own needs
  • violating the space, privacy, belongings of others
  • manipulation
  • unable to say no
  • unable to say yes
  • often blames self or others
  • can’t stand up for themselves/doesn’t ask for what he wants
  • indecisive/doesn’t know what she wants
  • either so flexible that he can’t be pinned down or is very rigid and unbending
  • takes things personally
  • highly reactive to feedback or other’s emotions or nonreactive
  • listens without responding or changing
  • overshares own business or that of others or shares nothing (can go back and forth)

Misunderstandings happen every day. When they happen habitually, it’s a problem. If this is happening to you, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself if you’re the cause. If it is, don’t beat yourself up, and don’t take the confusion or rejection personally.

Just look at it from the other person’s point of view. People with unhealthy boundaries are scary. They seem unpredictable, not trustworthy, can’t be relied upon, and can get too close one minute and too far away the next. When people respond by withdrawing, they are just trying to protect themselves.

Healthy boundaries can be learned. You can get a book to teach yourself what healthy boundaries are and how to practice them. You can take a class. Go to counseling. Go to a Cuddle Party. If you are in the Richmond, VA area, you can come to one of my Cuddle Parties. We’ll practice healthy boundaries. When your boundaries improve, your relationships will stop being scary for you and others.

*Note: the above example is deliberately mild to show that boundary violations don’t have to be earth shattering to be problematic. The issues created by unhealthy boundaries can be a lot more crazy making than this.

Be Consistent

be consistent

Would you prefer to go to a restaurant with the same menu every time or one that changes daily?

When you are in need, are you more likely to call on a friend who is always supportive or one who is only there for you sometimes?

Would you rather be evaluated for work performance based on subjective criteria or objective criteria?

In all these scenarios, most people choose the option that reflects consistency. Why? Let’s take a look.

Trust

You can’t have trust without consistency. If my friend calls me his best pal, then doesn’t call, acts distant when I am around, and doesn’t seem interested in being in my company, his words are inconsistent with his actions. This makes his words unbelievable.

If my boss tells me I am doing good work, then passes me over for promotion and doesn’t approve my raise, I am not going to trust him either.

When our words, emotions, and behaviors all send the same message, others perceive us as trustworthy. When they don’t, not only do others not trust us, we may become very confused ourselves about what we think, feel, and want where they are concerned. So being around people who flip flop and change their minds a lot makes us uncomfortable.

Integrity

Integrity is about being whole or undivided. An undivided person is one where what you see is what you get. It means that if someone is honest and true to her values in one situation, you can safely assume that she is honest and true in others. When you skip out on commitments, don’t meet your deadlines, or cancel meetings at the last minute, people will feel that your word doesn’t matter to you. Perhaps your friends and your commitments don’t matter.

Makes for Better Boundaries

There are always people who want to push your boundaries. Some do it to take advantage of you. Some just do it because they are trying to establish their place in your world. Whatever the reason, when you consistently enforce those boundaries, all your relationships get better. You won’t have to have the same arguments over and over. You won’t have issues with drama because people will learn that each time they push up against you, you hold firm. So they stop pushing. They can feel safe with you.

Creates Better Relationships

The single most important thing you can do to create healthy relationships is to be consistent. Relationships are tough! It’s hard to deal with your own baggage and feelings. When you mix in those of someone else and then try to get two horses to pull together in the same direction, it can be impossible.

When you do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it, your partner can relax and know that you are reliable. This allows them to not worry about you. All they have to do is hold up their own end.

For example, here’s something that a lot of people do to sabotage trust. They say, “I like you.” Then when the other person does something that they don’t like, they withdraw their affection and positive regard. That sends the message, “I like you when you do things that make me happy or that I approve of.” That’s not the same thing as “I like you.”

If you want trust, mean what you say. Say what you mean. Be consistent.

Strengthens Self Esteem

People who are consistent show that they know who they are, what they want, and what they value. When you don’t waver, you show others what matters to you. You show them what you believe in and who you are. This not only creates respect from other people, it makes you feel better about yourself. You don’t have to hide your opinions, make excuses for what you want or don’t want to do, or be vague so that you don’t hurt someone else’s feelings. You are fine just as you are.

Consistency is a sign of stability and reliability. Whether we are talking about your self care routine, work habits, or interpersonal relationships, being consistent will help you in all aspects of your life. Try it. I think you will find that you are much happier.