How to set a boundary with someone who doesn’t have any: what to do and what to expect
We all have those people in our lives who don’t have any boundaries and don’t understand when people set them. We might find ourselves saying something like, “wouldn’t it be easier if they were different…” yet that is a trap. We need to stay positive and handle what’s in front of us right now: mindfully and non-judgementally handling the situation. I'm writing out a quick "what to do" and "what to expect" if you find yourself in need of setting a boundary with someone who seems to know nothing whatsoever about a boundary.
*One quick tip= boundaries are more about you than them. Set boundaries for your well-being so you're not stuck with other emotions, like resentment or anger. Also, boundaries are not to be used as a form of punishment. Check your heart before you set a boundary!
Ok, so let's carry on. What to do when a boundary needs to be set and what to expect from the other person?
First, let’s go with how to set the boundary:
1) Identify the boundary- this might be the hardest part. Again, be aware of your heart in the situation. If you're feeling anger and you're not one to experience that emotion often, notice it. It might be a sign a boundary has be crossed. I encourage you not to set a boundary in the heat of an emotion. Let things settle a bit and take a step back from the situation, like you're an outsider looking in.
2) Be kind with words, yet firm- this is why I mention it's important not to set a boundary at the height of the situation when emotions are ramped up. I encourage you to do this first, because kindness is always king. But also because people who are not accustomed to boundaries might think you are "mean" no matter what, mainly because they are not used to limits. So this will help you know in your heart of hearts you spoke with truth and kindness.
3) Get support from another well-boundaried person- this is important because if you're looking for support from someone who can quickly get pulled into drama or is also not familiar with boundaries, you will most likely get advice that is not helpful. Be aware of who in your life can help you in your mission to set healthier boundaries, whether that be a trusted friend or therapist.
4) Pray- yes, I had to throw that in there! Prayer can help clarify what we want and our heart behind things. Spend some time in prayer to solidify the direction you want to proceed.
Now, what to expect:
1) Pushback- yikes, I fully understand this is not the fun part. I am so quick to tell clients to set boundaries, but I can sympathize from my own experience that the discomfort of pushback is just NOT fun. Yet I believe we should do it anyway. Why? Because we are in pursuit of healthier relationships. We are worth it to have healthy boundaries...YOU are worth it.
2) Name-calling- this doesn't always happen, but name calling could come out. Again, the individual is not used to boundaries, so they might thing you are being really mean by setting a boundary. If this is the situation, you might need to remove yourself from the situation (another boundary) until the person can respond in a more constructive way. Name calling usually comes when someone feels hurt or offended, yet it's STILL not ok. Know that you don't need to put up with any kind of name-calling!
3) Potential long-term breakthrough- Don't you wish I was more certain there is breakthrough? Yes, me too. Yet I know from my experience when you stick to setting boundaries, even if they need to be re-visited more than you'd like, breakthrough is possible. You see, the reason it's possible and not certain is because you know that you've been changing, but you have to wait for God to work on their heart. Often it takes a LOT of time because this person is likely to have lived an ENTIRE LIFE with unclear boundaries. They might feel entitled to how they've been living. So my biggest nudging here would be to be patient. You set boundaries with no ability to control how the other person will respond. That's why I say the boundaries are for YOU and YOUR well-being, not necessarily for them. Continue to pray for breakthrough.
I hope that was helpful! Especially if you find yourself working through a situation with someone who hates boundaries...that's what makes this work more important. Get support and set those boundaries! Happy rooting, everyone.