Relationship Boundaries – Part II

Hi everybody, it’s Katie. Thanks for stopping by today.  This is my second interview on the subject of boundaries with my friend, Dani.  This girl is the author of a blog, God In Real Life, and today is our second post on the topic of boundaries. We did an earlier post on this topic, and for those of you that haven’t seen it, let’s talk briefly about what boundaries are and how they work?

Briefly, boundaries are our “property lines” over what makes us who we are. They are our thoughts, our beliefs, our decisions, our body, our mind and all the other things that we have authority over — even possessions. You can envision it physically like we have a house, we have our yard, and a fence around our yard. That defines our space — that which is ours. That’s what boundaries do, they define what is under our authority.

Just recapping, why would I want boundaries, and why would they be important in a relationship?

What boundaries are good for, is us taking control over what is ours and allowing other people to take control over what is theirs. It’s understanding what I have authority over and what I don’t have authority or control over. Boundaries helps to define that and help us take responsibility for ourselves and not take responsibility for what is not ours. 

Good. Now, let’s move into some more questions, and one would be, can I have boundaries with my family? I guess that includes my husband and kids. Can I have boundaries with them?  Because to me, these are the people that are in my house. Here’s my house, my yard and my fence, but they’re in my house. So, can I have boundaries with them, and what does that look like?

Boundaries are important in all of our relationships, and as unusual, we still need boundaries with our kids and with our spouse. It’s going to look different than our other relationships boundaries because, first of all, our spouse, is our closest physical relationship. Boundaries are never to shut anyone out, but always to protect the relationship. So I’m going to have boundaries in my relationship to create more intimacy within the marriage.

With children, that’s an interesting relationship, too, because they are actually dependent on us. We are actively pouring out into our kids, so we don’t want to have such rigid boundaries with them that they’re not experiencing love from us. Because one of our sole reasons for parenting is that we are displaying the love of God to our children. So with that, boundaries within the family are going to look a little bit different than they will with other relationships, and especially as you get progressively distant to friends or just acquaintances.

With our spouse, I think boundaries, like I said, are made to protect that relationship. We are still individual people within the relationship, and we still need to make sure that we’re not taking on responsibility that is not ours in the relationship. I’m still in control of taking care of my body. My husband can’t force me to do that and I can’t force him to exercise or whatever it might be. Like I said in the previous interview, whenever we’re having difficulties within the relationship, if it’s a volatile relationship where there is actual arguing, yelling, or mistreatment of any kind, then we need to set parameters. So that we are not trying to control what our spouse is doing, rather we are controlling how we respond to our spouse.

If there is any kind of abuse, mistreatment, disrespect of any kind, you can say, “I don’t appreciate that. When you do that, I will do this. When you yell at me, I’m going to end, not the relationship, but I’m going to end this conversation. I’m going to be leaving the room.” So, we’ve set parameters in that way. But not just in volatile relationships, we still need boundaries in every day life to ensure that we are in control of ourselves and that we’re not just delegating responsibility to our spouses.

In the case of children, I’m thinking of three different ways boundaries apply to that relationship. The first is, we have boundaries with our kids to protect them. They are within our property lines, so to speak. They are under our authority. These are children God has given us and we are the authority over them until they become adults. So we set parameters around them for like who influences them, who we let babysit them and things like that. We also help them to set boundaries for themselves. For example, with my three-year-old, I’m not just going to let her eat whatever she wants. I have boundaries for her until she can make healthy decisions for herself. There are different ways to protect children with boundaries. I’m protecting their health. I’m ensuring their safety with boundaries.

The second part is having my own boundaries with my kids, as odd as that may sound. They don’t get to control our relationship, they don’t control me. When my first two kids were younger and I had no understanding of boundaries, I did let them control me. So I understand what it’s like to be on the other side of this and to think that every time a kid asks for something, I need to get it to them. Every time they want me for whatever reason, I need to be there for them which is not healthy. I was losing myself in the process and I was a slave to my children.

That’s not healthy. I was completely losing myself until I learned boundaries so I could say no to my kids. It’s a little bit trickier because we don’t want to be so closed off to them that they’re not feeling our love. That’s the number one priority, that our kids feel loved. So, if we have so many boundaries that we’re unreachable as a mom, there’s something wrong.

Yeah, then you need to scale it back a little bit.

Yes. Scale it back, but I’m still allowed to make decisions for myself. I’m still allowed to say, “No, not at this moment, but maybe in a few minutes, we can do that.” Or if they’re asking for food, “You’re going to have to wait until dinner to eat.” Things like that. I don’t have to give in to their every request. I can also have physical boundaries like, I don’t have to allow my kids into the bathroom every time I have to use the bathroom.

“You may not come in this time! Sorry.”

Exactly, especially as they’re getting older, it’s like, “We have to…” Physical boundaries are good and healthy, and what they do is help children respect us as a person and also respect other people’s boundaries. We’re not being selfish, we’re teaching our kids how to love others by respecting other people’s boundaries. Then the third, for kids, is teaching them to have healthy boundaries for themselves.

I feel like this is a big one. Boundaries, where kids learn how to… what does it look like to model that for them?

We have to, as parents, see what they do have authority over. Number one, is their body. That’s the first thing they were given as a person. They have their bodies and they are in complete control of their bodies. Hugs and physical attachment, things like that, we don’t force that on our children. If grandma wants a hug and our small child is not comfortable with that, we don’t force it because then the time comes when it’s somebody else that is maybe not so trustworthy. We want our children to understand they do have authority over their bodies and that they are not obligated to give access.

Not everybody has access to them. That’s so good and so true. That’s perfect.

It’s my job as a mom to ensure that I am respecting my children’s boundaries. Even giving them authority over certain things like, “That is your stuffed animal, you get to decide who plays with that special stuffed animal.” Or if my kids don’t want me to brush their hair at the moment, if they’d rather brush their own hair, I won’t force myself on them. Of course, all of this is determined by age. You have to decide what is appropriate for your child and at what age? But I do think the most important thing is that they have some sense of authority over themselves and know that you are respecting their wishes and their boundaries.

Good. That’s so good. Especially the part about kids, I know it’s tricky because as moms, we have to figure out where to draw the line but yet how do we teach them? So, this part about kids, I think is great.

I have one last question and that is what happens if somebody gets mad about the boundaries that I set in motion? What happens if someone’s angry and they’re like, “I don’t like that.” Let’s just say it’s someone I care about or it’s someone in my life that is going to be in my life and that I need to be able to keep in my life. What do I do if they get angry?

That is a very interesting question! I think that’s the number one reasons we’re afraid to set boundaries. We’re afraid of how people are going to react because what does it say about us? That person is now mad at me or they think I’m mean or selfish. Trust me, I’ve heard it all and it’s hurtful. I don’t think there’s an easy way of navigating it because someone is hurt and it’s because of my decision.

First, I need to be confident of the decision that I’m making. So I’ll  go to my husband and to other trustworthy people. I need their validation, am I doing the right thing or am I doing something wrong here? Just getting that validation from other trustworthy people, and being confident in the decision that I’m making helps. It also depends on who it is that is complaining about our boundaries.  If it’s someone close to you and you love them, try to empathize with how they’re feeling. Like, “I understand you want to see the children on this day, but that’s not going to work out. I understand that sometimes my schedule can be hard to work around, but let’s try to make this work.” And so, you’re empathizing with how they’re feeling, and then also trying to work with them about how to make things work better. 

But still not compromising your original position, which in the example you just gave is, I want to see the kids on Monday at 9:00. Well, that’s not going to work but  you don’t compromise. You’re still trying to find something reasonable that works for both of you.

Right. I think it’s important that we’re not compromising and that we’re not saying yes when we really mean no. We’re not letting other people… I mean, because if we do compromise and we allow their feelings to control us, then we’re loosening our boundaries. We have to stick to what we’re comfortable with and not allow the feelings of others to control our decisions about what is ours but at the same time, we want to hear people.  We want to know how they’re influenced by us and see if there is another way that we can work things out.

Sometimes, there isn’t… I mean, sometimes, your boundary is just your boundary and you need to stick with that. There are some people where there’s nothing you can say to them. It’s only going to be the boundary that communicates to them. We all probably have people in our lives who have fought us on our boundaries because they don’t respect our boundaries. There’s nothing more we can say to them, it’s just going to be our sticking with our boundaries that communicates to them what we expect from the relationship.

And that’s the beauty of boundaries, you’re never using boundaries to shut people out of your life. Basically you are giving them parameters and you’re giving them choice. Like, “This is what I want the relationship to look on mine end, this is what I expect. I expect to be treated fairly and kindly,” or whatever it is. Then it’s their choice of whether or not they are going to engage in the relationship under those parameters. So boundaries are always for relationship. That is the ultimate goal. You want to respect yourself and invite people into your life under your parameters. It’s always giving the other person the choice of whether or not they want to engage on that level with you.

Whether they can meet you there, and if not, then… I feel like if you’ve said, “Here is my boundary and I’m inviting you to meet me here. If you can’t, my boundary is still my boundary… I’m not going to dip down.” Because then, you’d be compromising yourself and the things that are important to you. So it’s like, “Okay, here’s my boundary, and you can either meet me here or not.”

I like what you said about talking with your spouse, trusted friends, and maybe mentors that you might have and just asking, “Am I doing this the right way?” And then receiving the confirmation, “You know, it’s okay, you’re doing this well.” You’re loving this person, but you’re saying, “Here’s my line.” Then if people can’t meet you there, you’ve done it in a loving way. If they can’t meet you there — then it is what it is.

It’s their choice ultimately.

Yeah. I think this a great help. Dani, I really appreciate you coming in and doing this interview with me. I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries since reading your blog.

If you like our blog posts, I would like to invite you to also check out our YouTube channel and click on the Subscribe button if you want to follow along with us. We also have a Facebook page, it’s named The KT Files. I also invite you to check out Dani’s blog, God In Real Life. She has a lot of great stuff not only about boundaries, but there’s quite a few other things there as well that are of great value.

Thanks for joining us this week…..we’ll be back next Wednesday with more about families, life and love!

Resources About Boundaries

Boundaries Series by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (affiliate links)

Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk

The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero

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