Okay, here we go.. *breathe in…breathe out*
The big "B" word.
This word trumps most others in the Psychology world. Using it can cause you to feel angst, deal with pressure, be a lightning rod of other people’s anger, feel out of control, massive anxiety, anger towards others, and feelings of being alone. Initially.
I know. I know.
Why would anyone want to use it if you’re going to feel all of these uncomfortable things?
Why be uncomfortable?
Comfortability is the enemy of growth. Without growth, your life will go no farther.
Are you happy with that outcome?
I will say that maybe you’re reading this right now because you are unhappy with something or someone in your life.
You may be depressed, anxiety-ridden, living with someone you don’t click well with.
It could be a mother, son, daughter, husband, sibling, friend or roommate. Anything.
I’m here to say, this isn’t the end.
You still have power over your own life.
Humor me with some of my life stories below.
I remember being in and out of relationships.
Not just romantic male partners. Friendships too. Family even.
I’ve never liked unnecessary cursing. Or anger. Or childish behaviors in an inappropriate situation. Loud noises. Disrespect of personal space and feelings. Being treated poorly. Being used for personal gain. I didn’t like having one-sided relationships; be it with a lover or friends or family.
Now, did I put myself in situations that I didn’t like? Absolutely.
Why? Initially, no idea.
I think it has something to do with the mind having a mind of its own.
Also a lack of self-respect for my own beliefs and feelings and not wanting to lose those I cared about. In a sense, people-pleasing to keep the peace. Not going after what I wanted.
But then I had to ask myself. Did they care about me? These people in my life.
Did they respect me?
I remember my last and current relationship, I got on a dating app.
After a little while, I met this guy. He seemed honest and upfront with a little excitement and the characteristics of a hardworking man. Being the person I am and having been used and not taken seriously in previous relationships, I had my profile page as blunt as possible.
I set my boundaries upfront with, “If you smoke *thumbs down* If you drink *thumbs down*”.
Respect and love are welcome and go without saying.
Unfortunately, the guy I was interested in, did more than drinking and smoking.
He was a high-class Anger Management needing, Borderline Personality Disorder childhood-traumatized Substance Abuser with a porn addiction, who seemed 100% loyal but had secrets he hid even from himself.
Of course, I didn’t find this out until we officially moved in together.
Reader 1: “Well, did you have any signs of him having these issues?”
OF COURSE, I did.
I just ignored them and chalked them off to “Well, no one else has the patience or determination to help him, so I guess I got to do it. I’ve put my heart into this. Into him. He really seems like he wants to change," and I wanted the man I saw underneath.
Rule #1) If they wanted to, they would. Your help will not change that unless they ask for help themselves and follow through with ACTION. Not your coddling.
My situation was a classic mistake of not honoring your own boundaries.
Not upholding your own standards in your life.
Let me tell you now; you don’t have to apologize for having boundaries. You don’t even need others to LIKE your boundaries. You have no obligation to anyone to continue to deal with what they dish out. Especially if it’s abusive in any manner or disrespectful or something you’ve repeated that needs to change.
Your boundaries are to protect you, your happiness, your surroundings, and your well-being.
If I had kept mine up instead of loosening them up a little, it would have saved me a lot of heartaches.
Now, I said this is my last and current relationship. Yes, we are still together, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t set my boundaries.
They are strong and in full force, and always will be. I have always held people to a higher standard than they hold themselves most of the time.
I just didn’t expect the man I am with to change himself to honor those boundaries I set and to have a better life for himself. (There are not many people that will do that. I consider myself blessed, but there are key things to look for. Don’t bank on people changing. If they do, then good on them, but again, don’t bank on it.)
He showed growth, consistency, and has been going to therapy for about 6 months for hours each week. I still watch for slip-ups mind you, but so far none.
Also, let me explain that he only started his journey to getting better once I left for 30 days. That’s right. I set my boundaries and LEFT when I realized this was not the situation I wanted to be in. We bought a house together one month before everything went down. No excuses.
He realized I was so much more than someone who shared space with him and that he took me for granted. I was someone who pushed him to always be better. To be someone that he and others could respect.
So he changed. By himself. No help from me; as it should be.
Now, there are pros and cons to Boundaries.
The cons are that boundaries set up walls for the people in your life who don’t care enough to uphold them with you and be respectful of you. Boundaries will cause you to lose family, friends, lovers, husbands and wives. IF they do not respect you.
There's a difference between respecting someone and obeying someone.
Do you want to keep someone in your life who does not respect you or your space?
Do you wish them ill will? No.
You can remove someone from your life and still wish them no harm or misfortune. That’s the power of letting go. That’s the freedom of boundaries.
So here’s the question.
“How do I set my Boundaries?”
First, everyone needs therapy. You have to make sure you are mentally and emotionally mature to set your boundaries correctly as to not cause harm by doing them in a way that is not productive. There are mental health clinics and community centers that get grants from the state so people can get help for pennies or even for free.
Once you’ve done that and have gotten a diagnosis (or lack of one hopefully), then do the following.
1) What are things you absolutely love about yourself, and what are things you don’t like?
Work on those and set boundaries for yourself to change what you need to, and keep what you love. Don’t make an exception for yourself or you’ll do the same for the people around you. Keep ahold of your morals.
2) What are things you want from other people in your life, and what are things you will not tolerate?
Write it down. Read it out loud. Remember them and see who is good to you and who isn’t.
Even write down issues you have with people in your life, one by one. Lovers. Friends. Family.
3) Communicate those issues to whom they concern with a calm and well-thought-out manner and attitude. Ask before you start, to be listened to 100% without being interrupted. You need their undivided attention to make sure you are heard and that they care enough to listen. Write down a whole speech if you need to but see if they actually respect your request of not being interrupted. You’re here to let out what’s bothering YOU and to see if they are willing to listen to you to get things off of your chest and to make things right in your life.
Now if they ask you questions in between for clarification and understanding of what you are wanting, and ask for a pause in the middle of conversation, that is respectful.
4) Set. Your. Boundaries. These boundaries are not optional. They are not bendable. They are your boundaries to make sure you are taken care of in the way that you need to be cared for and for the least amount of stress in your life. There is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Make sure they know that. Boundaries are not to hurt anyone’s feelings. They are to protect you and have your space respected.
5) Once you have expressed your concerns and SET your boundaries, then be open to listening to their concerns and their boundaries. Respect goes both ways and should be practiced daily.
If you are met with Anger for bringing your concerns up and setting boundaries, or anger for repeating yourself again, dismissive behavior that invalidates the way you feel, bullying, being made to feel overly sensitive, manipulation to make you feel like you shouldn’t have these thoughts or feelings or boundaries or that this is all your fault, or ANYTHING of the like, this person does not respect you enough to have you in their life and they need help themselves.
End of story.
How they treat you is how they feel about you. No excuses.
I had a roommate who rented a room in a home that I and my partner owned. She also worked with me.
She seemed responsible even though being young (about 20), and she seemed to have her life in decent order. Family issues, but who doesn’t have them…right?
I grew a friendship with this person and they moved in.
Once moved in, after signing an agreement on our terms (no food in the bedroom, clean, pick up after your animals, etc), everything was going good. I thought we had a mutual level of respect and understanding based on her agreeing to everything I stated. I had always been calm and respectful with her despite knowing she had some previous trauma and I hadn't personally had any issues with her.
After a while, I noticed her room began to smell.
She had a dog and the dog smelled as well. We told her she could wash her dog at any time with the multi-functional hose we had in our big fenced-in backyard.
I never saw her use it once in the 2.5 months she stayed.
It was also a courtesy that my partner help take out her dog while she and I were at work. (this was something we didn’t have to provide, but we did and it was not to do EVERYTHING for her animal, but to make sure he was able to go potty and be fed and watered on occassion).
*Side note: Remember to see who in your life 'thanks' you for all that you do. Those who are ungrateful are more likely to take advantage of you and your kindness/ people-pleasing nature.*
She took him in the yard to play maybe 2-4 times MAX for no more than 10-15 minutes (and this is a generous number), in the time she stayed and he mainly stayed in his kennel in her room. The dog is also deaf so he needs extra training and care.
She had a trainer that was supposed to come to the house that is lifelong for her dog. To use as much as she needed for training and deaf signs, etc.
She had the trainer out once and usually left her animals to be alone on the weekends.
Now, these are all things to do with her dog but they are RED FLAGS on responsibility and the way she cares for things around and in her space. Especially living things. I won’t even go into detail on her cat tearing up our doors and the cat litter box.
Besides the animals, I had a personal issue. An agreement issue that had been spoken about before she even moved in, considering I knew her habits. * (keep this in mind for later)
She never cleaned. Clothes were everywhere, her bathroom was a disaster and unorganized. Garbage bags were in her room and dishes were left with old food on them.
It was disgusting.
The first month, I asked her to clean. “Yeah yeah, no problem! I’m sorry I know I have an issue.”
*She’s aware of it.* Hmm. Okay, I guess I can cut her a little slack. Didn’t charge the cleaning fee that was in the agreement as stated.
I didn’t mention anything for a little while longer.
But over the next few weeks, my partner, who had to go into her room to get the dog every day to let him out, continued to message me how disgusting her room was.
And it was.
This happens multiple times where her room is constantly a disaster and has food and dishes left in there to accumulate nasty-ness.
Now, here it is. Time to set boundaries. I’ve been nice. It’s been 2 months. Never charged a cleaning fee.
Continuously mentioned she needs to clean.
Continuously. Each time she kind of cleans, but gets more and more frustrated about me mentioning it, even though she is disrespecting our home and the agreement she signed.
I’m no longer wanting to be nice. I’m tired. Our home is not a place for garbage to accumulate and I don’t tolerate laziness hidden behind excuses of life and random events that are ‘more important.’
I begin to get very frustrated.
One night after officially 2 months of living with us, I’ve had enough.
She falls asleep on the living room couch after smoking weed in her car, (probably because her bed has everything all over it per usual), and my partner decides he’s going to make sure her dog has food and water. He does not, so he fills it up.
I see the room, and I just can’t believe it’s still a terrible mess.
I get so angry and fed-up that I send her a text message (instead of waking her out of a dead sleep) that she needs to clean when she is awake tomorrow, no excuses. I’m was tired of her room in OUR HOME looking like this. I gave her until Monday morning to clean her room, the cat room (an extra room we allowed her cat to stay in so she didn’t have both animals in her personal space), and her bathroom.
Did that happen? Not like it needed to. She ended up taking the dog to her mom’s house thinking we would no longer have an excuse to go into her room to see the way she treats it.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t as smart as she thought she was, and I sent her a text letting her know we would still be checking on her room.
When this happened, hours after the message is sent, but read, she decides she’s giving her 30 days notice.
Boundary set. She didn’t respect the agreement she signed nor my requests for her to clean, so she’s leaving.
That is what a boundary does. It causes those who shouldn’t be in your life, to leave, and apparently, the friendship that she and I shared was all on the surface. It didn’t go any deeper than her always wanting her way.
Now, after that incident, you would think it’s over.
No. The dog is out, the cat is moved into her room and the cat begins to tear up that door as well.
One day, 2 weeks later, my partner and I open her door while she’s out to spray the cat before we leave the house. (You have to spray him with water to keep him from tearing up the door)
As soon as we open the door, it’s not as bad as it used to be, BUT, there are garbage bags inside. Sprite cans and a McDonald’s cup on the floor.
And it smells. Bad.
The worst part was walking over to her bed, and seeing days old take out food from Chinese and McDonald’s on her bed that were FULL, and that had obviously been there for more than a day or two since there were multiples of them.
This means she would have had to have SLEPT next to them. On top of there being plates with leftover juices on them all over her bed as well, underneath the days old takeout food.
I am a reasonable person. Kind. Understanding, and much more patient than most.
That was the last straw of disrespect in our home.
That night when I saw her at the house, I told her to immediately clean up her room. I wasn’t asking, nor did I ask nicely.
She took that as a sign of disrespect towards her when I had asked her so many times before to clean up. She shut her door hard and that caused my partner to get into a sour mood.
They then begin to yell at each other. I say a few words here and there, and she eventually leaves the next day. Mind you she said, “I’ve been quiet and left you guys alone I don’t understand!”
We had no problem with her. I had even been friends with her. Took her out to eat. Dyed her hair. Went shopping.
We had boundaries of her not respecting our home or the agreement she signed and being lazy and irresponsible.
She and I are no longer friends, but would a real friend have disrespected my home in such a way in the first place? Would they have put themselves in a position to be asked multiple times to clean up after themselves, lest they incur a $50 cleaning fee?
The answer is No. They would not have. Fee or no fee.
Being quiet and staying out of someone’s way, does not mean they are respecting you or your space if they are still doing what was causing an issue in the first place. Remember that.
Now, going back to my “*” points. I knew of her habits and had her come into my home anyway. Red flag on me. She also knew she had a cleaning problem but yet staying at her mother’s and a shared apartment before that, she did nothing about it. Red flag number two. (I had seen both places before moving her in)
Those flags are enough. You don’t have to wait until 3 flags for someone to be officially disrespecting your boundaries because I promise you, you will know when you know.
If you feel boundaries are what you have been missing for important life changes to happen; get on it Hun. Don’t keep waiting and waste years of your life pleasing other people you won’t stand up to. Or helping people that refuse to help themselves.
You have no one else to handle your business, but You.
“If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you,” and "when something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor."
- Fred DeVito
- Elon Musk