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Friendships: Maintaining and Enforcing Boundaries

How to Set Boundaries with Friends.

Friendships can be some of the most rewarding and important relationships in a person’s life. Friends help us figure out who we are, are there for us when things are difficult, and share our joys and successes. They can be especially important if you are going through a difficult time with your family, or you could feel that friends offer support your family doesn’t. So how do you know when it’s time to set boundaries with friends?

Friends play an important role in everyone’s life. Friends may feel especially important to you if they understand parts of you that aren’t accepted by your family, or if family relationships are strained for you. They may feel like the most permanent relationships in your life sometimes. But even the closest of friendships require boundaries to remain strong and healthy.

Setting boundaries with friends can take some practice, just like all new things. But with a few conversation tools, some courage, and compassion for yourself as you grow, you can start practicing now and watch how healthy friendships flourish.

While it’s usually best to start setting boundaries early on in a relationship, establishing healthy rules and limitations can help strengthen a relationship at any stage.

In many cases, you may not even realize a certain restriction is needed until you get to know each other more. For example, it might take you some time to realize that a coworker is regularly distracting you while on the job or that a romantic interest seems too controlling.

The following tips can help you establish boundaries if you are experiencing trouble communicating or connecting with a person in your life.

Setting boundaries tip 1: Know what you want in a relationship.

Whether the relationship is romantic or platonic, it’s hard to have your needs met if you don’t know what they are. Reflecting on your values and beliefs is a good place to start.

Ask yourself questions like:

What traits do I like to see in other relationships?

What behaviors bother me?

What qualities do I admire in others?

What material items matter the most to me and why?

How do I like to spend my time?

What makes me feel fulfilled?

By gaining a more thorough understanding of yourself, you can begin to imagine the types of boundaries you need. If you know that you value independence, you’ll likely want to set financial rules between you and a friend/partner. If you value high productivity or privacy, you might set physical boundaries with coworkers who tend to wander into your workspace.

Assessing how you feel with someone.

Thinking about how others make you feel can also help you identify necessary boundaries. After interacting with other people, reflect on your feelings by asking yourself questions.

Did the other person make jokes or comments that made you feel disrespected?

Did they do anything that made you physically uncomfortable or unsafe, such as raise their voice in anger?

Did you feel pressured to do things that didn’t match your values?

Did you feel overwhelmed by the person’s requests or expectations of you?

Did you feel as if they were infringing on your sense of control or infantilizing you?

A moment of reflection can help you decide whether you need to set limitations with the person in the future.

Tip 2: Talk to the person about your needs.

Knowing how to effectively communicate your needs to others is important. Rushed conversations, poor wording, and vague requests can make it harder for loved ones to understand and respect your ground rules.

Consider timing. The best time to set a boundary with your friend/partner is when you both feel relaxed and can focus on the conversation. If you’re in mid-argument, try cooling down and circling back to the conversation once you’re both calm.

Be prepared. Nervous about discussing your needs? Write your points down before the discussion so that you can speak clearly about your needs.

Consider the delivery. Try to use “I” statements to convey how you feel. Avoid “you” statements, which can seem accusatory. For example, say, “I felt overwhelmed with the amount of work I had to take care of while you were away.” Expressing your emotions is a great way to start laying the groundwork for a relationship boundary.

Be clear. A vague request, such as, “I’d like more personal space” may get the message across, but it’s better to be as clear as possible to avoid confusing the other person. Try, “I feel disrespected and uncomfortable when you come into my room unannounced. Please knock before entering.” A calm but firm tone lets the other person know you’re being serious but not disrespectful.

Address feedback. Depending on the boundary, your friend/partner may have questions for you. Know that you don’t need to justify your needs or explain yourself, but doing so may help the other person understand where you’re coming from. You might even ask follow-up questions to ensure the right message was conveyed.

Feedback in romantic relationships

In romantic relationships, it’s especially important to ask your partner how they feel about a request, rather than guessing. Ask if it seems unfair or unusual to them. Or ask whether it conflicts with something they need or want.

Each of you has your own thoughts and feelings, and each person is responsible for putting these sentiments into words in order to be understood.

Let others take responsibility for their emotions.

We often feel naturally inclined to care of how other people feel and react to our words and actions. However, you shouldn’t feel responsible for how the other person reacts to the boundary. For example, they might be upset that you’re asking for more “me time.” This could lead you to feeling guilty or selfish.

Remind yourself why you’re setting the restriction in the first place: You want some time alone to pursue your separate hobbies and avoid feeling emotionally crowded. Don’t feel you have to disregard your own needs.

Tip 3: Enforce boundaries.

Not everyone in your life is going to respect your boundaries all of the time. A friend/partner might accidentally cross one or difficult family members might do so intentionally.

Restate your needs. It’s possible that the other person didn’t understand your original request or simply forgot it. Be calm, firm, and clear about what you need.

Have clear and reasonable consequences for crossing a boundary. If someone has a habit of talking over you, for example, you could say, “I feel disrespected when you talk over me. If you do that again, I’ll have to end the conversation.”

Only state consequences that you’re willing to enforce.

If you aren’t willing to follow through on a consequence, the other person will feel empowered to overstep your boundaries in the future. For example, if you tell your partner that you’ll take a break from the relationship if they keep lying to you, it’s important to actually follow through on that.

How to respond when someone else sets a boundary.

You’re not the only one who can set boundaries. When someone voices a restriction, you might feel a sense of shame or frustration. Perhaps you feel like you’re being reprimanded or “put in your place.”

You may notice some negative emotions rushing to the surface as you try to immediately defend your actions. Keep in mind that you are not losing anything but gaining knowledge of what makes the person in your life feel safe and happy.

Take time to breathe and listen.

If you’re feeling upset, deep, slow breathing can calm your nervous system’s “fight or flight” response.

This makes it easier for you to receive information rather than prepare for an argument.

Accept that the person setting the boundary knows what is best for them. If something truly doesn’t work for you, communicate your needs so that you can both reach a compromise.

Remember that you both have your own way of processing and feeling emotions. Try not to assume what your partner needs before they say it out loud. Allow them space to voice their needs and wants.

Apologize when necessary. You’re only human, and we all make mistakes.

Maybe you accidentally overstepped a boundary by making an offensive joke or oversharing when you’ve been asked not to.

When someone reiterates the boundary, be humble enough to apologize for your mistake. Ask for clarity if you feel you need it.

By learning to accept and acknowledge other people’s boundaries, you can start to think about how you can improve your own connections with others.

Ultimately, effective boundaries can leave you both feeling empowered and result in a healthier, more satisfying relationship.

 

this is your #Wellnesswatch

with Nyaguthii Kariuki

Consultant Clinical Psychologist.

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