Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

Can we talk about setting boundaries?

Asked by nikipedia (27327 points ) March 26th, 2012

I think a lot of people—especially women—have trouble setting and enforcing boundaries in their relationships with other people, romantic and otherwise.

Do you have any experience with this? Learning to set boundaries? Realizing your boundaries were too extreme?

When are you setting boundaries, and when are you being controlling? For instance, you might ask that someone not swear at you during an argument (reasonable boundary) but what if you ask them not to use any angry or hostile language at all? Does that become controlling?

Maybe not the best example. I’m really just interested in hearing how other people have dealt with this.

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11 Answers

JustPlainBarb's avatar

I just have certain standards that I set for myself. They’re based on common courtesy and respect. I seldom compromise on those basic principles .. and I don’t think anyone should.

That’s not being controlling, just part of having self-respect.

As I’ve said on here so many times before. You can’t always control what others do .. but you CAN control how you allow it to affect you.

If someone acts in a way I don’t appreciate around me… I’m outta there. Choose to surround yourself with positive influences and people. Take control and you’ll have it.

picante's avatar

I have extreme difficulties in setting/enforcing boundaries in personal relationships (which I’ll confine to my immediate family). I started to write chapters one and two of my book, but I’ll just stop here.

To assist in your demographic profiling, I am a woman.

tom_g's avatar

I don’t believe I have problems setting boundaries, but I have noticed something about some people in my life who have had difficulty with this. In my experience, some of these people can’t appropriately set boundaries because they aren’t aware that boundaries are being broken until well after the event. They feel uncomfortable, and caught off guard, but it’s only the post-event analysis that reveals where things went wrong. Then there is the natural, “well, I wish I had said…” comments and beating yourself up because it seems clear now.

I’m wondering how often this type of thing happens, and something can be done to bring awareness to ones boundaries so that violations can be addressed at that moment.

Akua's avatar

I tell people my limits and my bounderies. If they do not respect that then I choose not to deal with them. It’s really that simple. I don’t go out of my way and try to change them because I think that part is controlling.

marinelife's avatar

I did not come out of childhood with good boundaries. it took many years of work and therapy to set them.

rooeytoo's avatar

It is an excellent question. I often think people are trying to control others when they claim they are setting boundaries. I think I cannot tell people how they are allowed to act even towards me. My right is to control what I do and if I don’t like what others are doing, to remove myself from the situation. In relationships, I do think it is true that we attract and are attracted to people who are similar to ourselves. So if I find myself repeatedly in bad relationships, I have work to do on myself in order to stop putting myself in a victimhood position.

bkcunningham's avatar

I set boundaries. The thing that I’ve noticed over the years though is that my boundaries have changed. I suppose it is because of the times I’ve allowed others to overstep that boundary and I’ve not taken stronger actions or reinforcement of what my boundaries are to that person. Sort of a snowball thing.

picante's avatar

Seeing the excellent responses above, all of which resonate for me in some way, I’d like to add that being the victim of childhood sexual abuse, most especially when your own mother rather goes into denial around that, sets the stage for a lifetime of poor boundaries. At least, I lay the blame there.

The adult models from my childhood had no boundaries. My husband’s adult models had no boundaries.

Interestingly, I’ve fared much better on the professional side, but then, I’ve had lots of good mentors, coaches, teachers, peers along the way. They were/are simply wholy lacking in my personal life.

Unconsciously, I do seek out the weakest parts of myself in others. I’ll be attracted to those who have weak boundaries without really knowing that until it’s too late.

josie's avatar

You can set whatever boundary you want. The only limitation would be how many relationships can you establish and keep given your boundaries? Set strict boundaries, fewer relationships but probably less drama and chaos. Set broad boundaries, more relationships but more bullshit. It is your life. Within reason you can design it as you see fit.

funkdaddy's avatar

Something I haven’t seen mentioned that I think is important is the role that honesty plays in defining your boundaries.

Assuming most people you spend time with aren’t intentionally trying to hurt you, just being honest about how you feel about something makes people aware of where your boundaries are without any major declaration.

If something becomes a big deal, and bothers you, let someone know before it boils over, not after. If something isn’t a big deal, let it go.

A real life example would be if someone just stops by your house every time they’re in the neighborhood. It could be seen to them as just wanting to hang out and taking advantage of the opportunity, to you it could be an annoyance that throws the whole visit off. Just being honest about it sets the boundary without making it bigger than it is.

“Hey, before you come over give me a quick call/text just to make sure I’m here and I have pants on.”

As long as everything isn’t a big deal for you, speaking up every now and then in a kind way is generally well received. And honestly if it’s not that seems to be more of a problem for the other person. Too often we decide it would be rude to speak up and instead let the objection fester and become a bigger deal than it ever should be.

If you do your best to be kind and flexible, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with also being honest.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think I’m pretty good at setting boundaries. I don’t have a problem with saying “No,” or telling people they’re out of line. It’s hardest with my grown children, though.

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