Are You Setting Boundaries That Work?

 In America


When we’re dealing with our difficult ex or other difficult people in our lives, we’re often advised to “set a boundary” to stop this person’s unwanted behavior.

This can be very good advice, when you know how to set a truly effective boundary.
However, there is common misconception about what constitutes a boundary. We think it’s about controlling the other person to get them stop their unwanted behavior. If we make a “boundary” from this mindset it may come across as a threat or ultimatum. Few people respond well to threats and ultimatums, so the outcome may be more drama in your life, not less.
Instead, a boundary is something you create for yourself. It’s a way of creating an emotional or physical border around ourselves; it is not a tool to control someone else. Why? Because ultimately we have no control over someone else’s behavior (exception: if the behavior is dangerous or life-threatening then you need to involve the authorities.) 

When you set a boundary from a place of self-care and self-respect you express it in a calm, charge-neutral way. The less “negative” emotion you display the more effective you will be. If you are angry or frustrated, work through these emotions before addressing the individual.
Effective boundary-setting is a two-step process: 
  1. The Request: Ask him/her to stop doing something that infringes on your physical or emotional space.
  2. The Consequence: Tell him/her what you will do if they don’t comply with your request. And then you do it.
For example, your ex consistently sends you angry, provocative text messages. You ask him to stop. You then explain what action you will take if he continues to do it: you may temporarily block him, turn off your phone, or simply refuse to answer his texts until demonstrates he can control his emotions.

And then you follow-through. For you. To feel empowered and in charge of yourself.

Again–the ultimate purpose of creating your boundary is not to control his behavior, but to safeguard your mental/physical space. This skill is a key aspect of living in emotional adulthood.

To learn how I help women who co-parent with a difficult ex or to schedule a complimentary session, please contact me!

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