August 10th, 2020
As a couples counsellor specializing in premarital counselling, I love talking about relationship resources and tools.
In previous weeks in this relationship series of videos, I spoke about communication, conflict resolution, keeping the intimacy alive, and the 5 love languages. Please feel free to check those videos out if you haven’t already. In upcoming weeks, I will be covering adult attachment, how to manage inevitable struggles, and personality differences.
So let’s dive into boundaries. This is such a big topic, that I will do a second video on it next week. For today, I’ll talk about defining what boundaries are.
For the vlog, click here:
Henry Cloud and John Townsend literally wrote the book on Boundaries. It’s called, “Boundaries: When to say Yes; How to say No to take Control of your Life.” This vlog is based on the chapter on what a boundary looks like.
Let me start with what boundaries are not. They are not big huge walls that you have put up to protect yourself. It is not a matter of guarding your heart to such a degree that it has hardened in solitude. Rather, it is guarding your heart from the negative influences of anxiety, jealousy, and anger. Cloud and Townsend describe boundaries as fences. They are fences with gates, and the gates can open or close to keep the bad out and let the good in.
If there is a negative influence in your life, then putting that boundary in place of saying, “No, I’m not going to put up with that, and if you choose to do x, then y is the consequence of that.” I’ll give a personal example. I have a family member whose behaviours have caused her to live a life of loneliness and lack of well-being. I have offered her suggestions and encouragement a countless number of times, and I have come to realize that her wellness is not my responsibility. She has to be willing to actually take ownership for herself. I am happy to help her along her journey if she has a burden that is great but she alone is responsible for her own load. It is up to her to make her own choices for her life. If she does not, then she herself suffers the consequences.
Saying “no” can be hard. Maybe we feel a sense of obligation, pressure, or guilt. But the resentment that we feel in saying “yes” when we really wanted to say “no” is only hurting ourselves. It’s ok to give yourself that permission to say “no”. It’s ok to let others know where your boundaries are. And it is definitely ok to respect yourself and experience a sense of self-control in using the word, “no.”
It’s ok to even remove yourself from being around that negative person or thing geographically or emotionally for a time being. With the example of my family member, it finally came to a point where I had to make my boundary crystal clear. Her behaviour was disrespectful towards me, and I cannot tolerate that. I told her that I cannot continue to talk with her until she gets professional help. Honestly, she didn’t believe me at first, she was still trying to engage with me. Fortunately I have a strong social network who were supportive of my decision. I held firm with her, and she did eventually get the message that I was serious. And guess what? She got the help. I pray that the guidance opens her up for the inner healing that she needs.
So in summary, know where your fence is, where you draw the line. Make that line clear to others. Allow gates to open to allow the good in and keep the good in, and let the bad out and keep the bad out. You alone are responsible for your own actions and behaviour. Others are responsible for theirs.
Hope this was helpful. In the next video on boundaries, I’ll talk more about applying them to couples and in-laws.
Let me know if there are any other relationship videos that might be useful to you.