Why Do We Need Boundaries?
Part 1 of 2 What are boundaries and why is it important to have them?
Boundaries are limits in a #Relationships that your friends, partners (and relatives) need to observe. They can be simple or complicated. They can address different aspects of a #Relationships – social, emotional, or physical, for example. And there can be different levels of boundaries that you set.
In the kink community, boundaries are set before a consensual #Relationships starts. The different levels are “hard no,” “yes,” and “maybe.” It’s easy to understand what hard no and yes mean – that the person simply will not perform certain acts or gives voluntary consent to them. The maybe category is a bit trickier. These are acts that the person is willing to consider or try, but hasn’t definitely either agreed to or ruled out. That’s why partners have “safe words” or other signals that indicate when a maybe isn’t working for them and they need to slow down or stop.
Boundaries are useful in nonsexual #Relationships too, and again have categories like hard no, maybe, and yes. For example, in romantic #Relationships I have a hard no against physical #Abuse , and I communicate that to all my partners. If one of them hits, slaps, or otherwise gets physically violent with me, that’s the end of the #Relationships . No explanations, no excuses, no second chances. I’m out of there. I’ve made my husband aware of this boundary and he respects it. He’s never crossed that boundary.
Unfortunately, at the time I established that boundary about physical #Abuse , I didn’t know about the concepts of verbal #Abuse and emotional #Abuse . In one significant #Relationships , I put up with these for quite some time. Verbal #Abuse and emotional #Abuse are two of the tactics of gaslighting. I put up with those for far too long before I was able to say, “I’m out of here.”
Dan once described boundaries to me using the metaphor of cookies. Suppose someone offers you a cookie and says, “Here’s a delicious chocolate chip cookie I made just for you. Yum, yum. Try it.” Only when you do try it do you discover that the cookie isn’t a chocolate chip cookie at all. Instead, it’s a shit cookie – something you definitely don’t want to eat. You set up a boundary about shit cookies. Just because someone offers you a shit cookie, you don’t have to eat it. And you really don’t have to say, “Yum, yum. This is delicious!”
What kinds of shit cookies are you likely to encounter? They can be insults. You don’t have to believe them. They can be other kinds of distressing – talking about you behind your back, for instance. You don’t have to respond or explain. Or they can be actions such as the aforementioned gaslighting, sandbagging, or saying one thing and then undercutting it with actions. You don’t have to put up with those. Refuse to eat the shit cookies. They are all bad for your #MentalHealth .
There are less drastic boundaries that you may have to set as well. If you have a friend who always calls you and vents at length about their problems but never listens to your problems or your advice regarding their problems, you might set a boundary: “You can call me with problems, just not after 9:00 p.m.” or you could set an unspoken limit that you will only listen to the friend for half an hour at a time. After that, you end the conversation and get off the phone. Perhaps you establish a signal that you have reached your limit: “My eyes just glazed over.” Your friend may even pick up on the signal: “Your eyes just glazed over, didn’t they?”
Or you might have a partner that has unreasonable expectations. Such a limit might be that you will be involved in disciplining the children, but you won’t do it all yourself. It could even be a seemingly silly one. I refused to iron my husband’s shirts because I felt resentful when he treated me like a laundress. He came to understand what I meant. And we worked out a solution: wash-and-wear shirts. Those I would gladly purchase. Problem solved.
Sometimes, however, there are people in your life who go beyond simple boundary breaking. They refuse to acknowledge any boundaries that you may have. People who hurt another family member, for instance, or who expect you to solve all