So, you maybe already know that I’m living with my parents temporarily.
Yeah, you totally read that right. I have so many comments that I have no comment.
And despite it being really, really challenging, there have been a few gifts that have risen out of it. I’m going to share one with you today.
The gift that keeps on giving.
My mom has zero boundaries. This results in her expecting other people to take care of her because she’s not willing to draw a line to take care of herself. My range of offenses is wide, from not filling up the coffee pot with water to keeping her from making that around the world trip she’s always wanted to go on.
When one of these events occurs (which is often just a thought that passes through her mind, no visible event has actually taken place), she gets super huffy and resentful. At some point I’ll ask her what’s wrong (because the tension becomes unbearable). And then she unleashes the Kraken.
And you can likely hear the tone of judgement I have about this, right?
The level of disdain I have for this kind of behavior is off the charts – for two reasons.
First, because as I mentioned, most of the times she feels stepped on have happened in her mind and no one else knows about them! Seems like a simple fix would be to speak them out loud, right?
The second reason is that it’s not my job to make her happy. It is not my job to spend my energy making sure she is getting her needs met, or guessing what they might be. (Gah, I can feel my blood pressure going up right this moment.) And I get super frustrated that she thinks it is.
Plus, being judgey allows me to be super self-righteous about how I’ve got this all handled in my life own life. I would never behave like this.
Wait. Oh shit. Like mother, like daughter.
Surely you’ve heard that the things we judge most harshly in others are the things that we dislike/carry shame for about ourselves?
Cue all the times in the last couple of months that I’ve been hit over the head with feeling like other people were causing my momentary misery/unhappiness/etc. I’ve been getting the crash course in needing stronger boundaries. And, the gift is that seeing it in my mom made it much easier to see in myself.
Turns out, I’m pretty good with basic boundaries. Time. Energy. Attention. Priorities. Putting myself first in general.
The ones I’m needing practice in? The little things that people do where my feelings get hurt, and finding enough of a pattern there to create a boundary.
The remedy for finding and drawing boundaries.
All boundary violations (when someone has crossed the line of what is acceptable to you, or what you’re willing to do) begin with a feeling. I usually feel it as a heaviness in my gut or a tightness in my chest.
My body is typically the first place I feel that something is off, before my mind can wrap around what it is.
When you notice a feeling like that in your body, ask yourself, what feels off? See if you can identify the thing it feels like someone is doing to you that you don’t have any control over.
I had this happen to me just yesterday. I was feeling “off” with some tightness in my chest over the fact that a guy in my life had taken longer-than-usual to respond to a text where I was looking for some information around potential plans that we were making.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was off, so instead of making assumptions about him blowing me off, being lazy, or not caring that his delay was impacting me, I asked.
I said, “Hey I’m noticing I’m bumping up against a need or boundary I have…wondering I can ask you a couple questions to see if I can understand it better/articulate it clearly?”
He agreed. So I asked what was usually going on for him when it took so long to get back to me. After I received his response, I asked myself a few more questions around why this bothered me, and what I was really needing here.
Ask yourself what you need and share it.
I shared something like this with him:
The lapse in time when I presume you’ve seen my text has me feel disconnected.
It feels much better to me when you say things like, “I’m busy with other things now and can’t answer this until tomorrow,” or “I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out and let you know,” or even, “Yeah, I want to, but I don’t know when.”
I think I want to feel that I’m being received/acknowledged. I also want to feel like my communications are valid, worthy, and not “too much to deal with.”
Hearing some kind of acknowledgement from you, even if not a solid plan, would provide that for me.
In this particular case, he was on board and agreed that he was up for meeting my request. But the point isn’t that I got him to say yes, it’s that I figured out a thing I need to keep myself “safe.” Not physically safe in this case, mind you, but emotionally safe.
What if he hadn’t agreed?
This is where the boundaries come into play. I’m not willing to feel unsafe emotionally, and I am armed with information about one thing that has me feel that way. If I can’t have that need met for me, I have a choice.
I can stay in it and suffer – blame him for not doing it right – or I can remove myself from the situation.
Having boundaries broken results in consequences.
Once we’ve identified what the boundary is, the other challenging piece is to stay accountable to yourself for it.
What’s the consequence if this man had decided that he couldn’t support my need for acknowledging receipt of my communication? Relationship done? No communication? (I honestly hadn’t played it out that far because I hadn’t suspected it would be an issue, but I knew that a consequence – or action, if you want to feel less punitive about it – would be necessary if this didn’t work for him.
Your turn. Practice it.
In the comments below, share the last interpersonal interaction you had that felt off.
- Recall the feeling you had in your body.
- What else did you need to get clear about what was going on? (This is a good place to be generous with people and their intentions being good.)
- Then ask yourself what you need to feel safe.
I’m looking forward to hearing your comments and helping you find a boundary that fits.