Why are boundaries with our closest loved ones difficult but necessary?

Boundaries.   A word we hear discussed often.  However what does having boundaries mean?  Many are confused about what “healthy” boundaries are. All of us have boundaries.  The question is what boundaries in our lives need to be re-evaluated to ensure we are not putting ourselves in emotionally compromising situations. 

Those who are closest to us we love dearly, and are often the ones in which it is most difficult to create healthy boundaries with.  Think about it.  It is easy to set a boundary with the rude cashier at the store or with a co-worker.  However telling your sister that you can’t continue bringing her to work may be more difficult.  This is because we are more invested in those who are closest to us.  Whether it is investing our time or money, we want these people to know we care.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.  The problem comes when those closest to us don’t recognize when they are making more withdrawals than deposits into the relationship. Sometimes our loves ones don’t recognize the toll their needs can take on the individual as a whole.  Failure to have healthy boundaries leads to an increase in stress, fatigue, irritability and frustration.   Poor boundaries also cause feelings of resentment, guilt, anger and being overwhelmed

Reasons many do not create healthy boundaries:

  • You don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings
  • You are worried the relationship might change
  • You don’t want to make the person angry
  • You feel guilty for saying “no”
  • You are worried the person may walk out of your life
  • You don’t want the person to think differently of you

I agree that these reasons are definitely uncomfortable. However, I can’t help but to wonder what will happen to your well-being if you continue to put others needs and wants before yours.  I urge you to recognize what is the result of continuous self-sacrifice. 

Boundaries are how we maintain our emotional health.  It is how we create balance in our lives between our needs and the needs of others.  Unhealthy boundaries lead to emotional distress and physical health problems (i.e. migraines, high blood pressure).  Here are some tips than can assist you in setting healthy boundaries in your life.

1). Tell yourself daily “My feelings matter too.”  Remember you are just as important as those you choose to help.  If you don’t consider your feelings, who will?

2)  Offer an alternative option to help.  For example, “Unfortunately I can’t help you move into your new place all day on Monday; however I can help from 10am to 1pm.”  Offering another option that is less intrusive of your time and/or energy may reduce stress.

3)  Remember saying “no” doesn’t mean you are a bad person, it means you can’t adhere to a particular request.  It’s impossible to be everything to everybody.

4)  If you feel you being put on the spot and feel pressure to answer immediately.  Tell the individual you will get back to them before the end of the day.  This will allow you some time to really evaluate whether or not you can do what is requested.  This will also give you time to practice what you will say to the individual if you cannot adhere to the request.  This is the first step in being assertive and creating healthy boundaries.

You are important too!  Your feelings matter too!  Your needs are just as important as the needs of those you help.