Updated: Aug 3
When you are thinking about following through with boundaries, it probably means that you have set a boundary that is now being tested. You have to restate it, or put effort into holding that boundary. For a lot of us, this causes pain, guilt, shame, and feeling overwhelmed! You are not alone! Setting and holding boundaries first sometimes going to hurt.
Following through with our boundaries can be one of the hardest things we do. Here are 4 helpful tips to think about when following through with boundaries.
What is my history with this person?
Ways to restate your boundaries
Be okay with creating distance
What is my history with the person I am holding boundaries with?
When we look at how to follow through with boundaries, it is important to consider how the person has reacted to your boundaries in the past. If they typically listen to your boundaries and right now they are not, you will have a different approach to them than you would with someone who has never respected your boundaries.
With someone who typically respects your boundaries, you might want to pause and have a conversation. Talk with that person about your experience with them and restate your boundary.
ex: Hey, I told you that I am really busy this week and that I won't be able to talk and you have called me 4 times. Whats up? ... (approach the conversation with curiosity, and then restate the boundary if needed) I really can't talk this week. If you really need something, just text me so I know why you are reaching out and I can call you back when I am less busy.
With someone who continues to not respect your boundaries, you might need to react in a different way. Create some distance, communicate the boundary more firmly.
Ex: I told you that I cannot talk on the phone this week. If you call I will not answer.
There is no room for interpretation of what the boundary might be. There is the opportunity for them to change their behavior, and you are letting them know what you will do if their behavior does not change.
Ways to restate your boundaries
When we start off setting boundaries, we usually try and place them on others. Check out my blog post about this If you want an in depth look at how to set boundaries that are more effective. If you have stated a boundary like, "please stop interrupting me when I talk." You do not actually have control of holding that boundary. The next time you talk and they interrupt you, you will get upset and probably not be effective in your behaviors after that. So what do you do? SET BOUNDARIES ON YOURSELF!
ex: The next time you interrupt me, I will have to end the conversation.
Another great way of restating your boundaries is by giving the person the behavior you do want to see rather than the behavior they need to stop doing.
ex: The next time we are talking, I would like for you to just listen until I am done talking. If that doesn't happen, I will have to end the conversation.
Be okay with creating distance.
This is a really hard one for so many of us. It is usually the people that we love that are crossing our boundaries and the thought of creating distance feels almost unbearable. Creating distance does not always mean cutting people out of our lives, and sometimes that might be exactly what it looks like. Creating distance is just a way of protecting our boundaries and can look however you want it to look.
Sometimes, creating distance means that you change what connection looks like.
ex: You and your best friend decide to create a ritual of meeting for a morning walk every week. She shows up late every week and wants to stay longer than what you agreed on and now you are rushed to get ready for work. Creating distance might look like saying that you can’t meet on the weekdays anymore, that you can only meet on the weekend when you have more time.
Sometimes, creating distance means seeing the person for less time each visit.
ex: Whenever you get together with family, they tell you what you are doing wrong. The next time they invite you over you might tell them, "I love hanging out with you when we have light hearted conversations. I'm going to have to leave today if the conversation goes a different way."
Sometimes, creating distance means that you see the person less often.
ex: Your friends get together every week, but there is one friend that does not know how to respect your emotional boundaries. You might tell your group that you can only hang out every other time.
And yes, unfortunately, creating distance sometimes looks like cutting people out.
The good news is that this does not have to be for forever. If the person shows that they can respect your boundaries, you might decide to allow them back into your life.
ex: Your mother has shown over and over again that she is not able to keep your emotional boundaries. You might need to say "mom, I love you and I really want to feel connected with you. Right now, the interactions that we are having are doing the opposite of building a connection. I am going to have to walk away for a little until we can have conversations that feel like they are bringing us closer together."
When we create boundaries and hold them, others may not like it. They may try and get you to go back to not communicating boundaries and call you names like, selfish, manipulative, stuck up...
If you are experiencing that, it is worth talking to a mental health professional to sort out your thoughts, feelings and behaviors around this person or situation. A lot of times, you will have to work on self-soothing. Getting yourself out of fight or flight and back into acting and thinking in an effective manner.
So what does that look like?
Progressive muscle relaxation
Taking a shower or a bath
Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing compassionate and tailored mental health support for moms at all stages of motherhood. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!