BETTER THAN HAPPY – Episode 236

Last night Bry and I went out for a romantic dinner. We left the kids home, with friends over to play. So I was a little nervous. I don’t know what I was afraid would happen. But I kept the phone right next to me, on the restaurant table, with the cameras – all the cameras around the house – up where I could see, for the entire dinner. Not very romantic, right. But I got to see that absolutely NOTHING happened while we were out. I think Bry was thinking, “Good thing she has the camera up, so we can see that nothing is happening”. Ha ha.

Because I’d just listened to Jody’s podcast, Bry and I talked about boundaries on our way to dinner, and as we sat at dinner.

The word “boundary” is misused a lot. By understanding what a boundary is and how to use it, I think we take some of the drama out of it. Let’s get rid of the drama, if we can. Let’s take more responsibility, opening up our options, as well as protecting ourselves, because that is our job – no one else’s.

FIRST MISUNDERSTANDING. Sometimes we have the idea that upholding our boundaries is some one else’s job. But it is not. It is my job to set the boundary, it is my job to set the consequence – not a punishment, but what will I do if this boundary is crossed. It is my job to follow-through.

“A boundary puts the focus back on who I want to be and what I want to do because, as much as we want other people to change, that’s really outside of our control. So, the boundary puts the focus back on what we do have control over, which is what we’re going to do or say, or who we’re going to be if and when they don’t honor our requests.”

SECOND MISUNDERSTANDING. Sometimes we make boundaries from a place of anger or even hate. And that is not a good way to set a boundary.

“People get really upset and so, they decide that they’re going to set a boundary as a way of punishing their spouse or somebody else in their life. Really, ideally, when you’re setting a boundary, it’s coming from love – love for yourself and also love for that other person. So when you think about, I’m in charge of what I’m allowing myself to be around, and if I don’t like it, then I may set a boundary. And that protects me but it also allows me to continue to have loving thoughts about you, because I’m not leaving it up to you to make sure I’m treated in a way that I prefer.”

And maybe they won’t even call it a boundary. I’m going to show him, or I’m going to show her.

“Even though we don’t necessarily formally, call it a boundary, we sort of create boundaries to try to punish someone, try to get back at someone.”

Jody teaches us, over and over again, that love always wins. Can we set that boundary from a place of love?

This morning Julia wanted Valentine’s candy for breakfast. In our home, we do not eat candy for breakfast.

But because I’m not mad at Julia for wanting candy for breakfast – I’m not thinking that she’s wrong, or a terrible person, or any of those things – I can set a boundary, or just say no, from a place of love.

“I’m just like, ‘Listen, that’s just the way it goes.’ And I think boundaries are a little bit like that if we can remove all the emotion from it.”

THIRD MISUNDERSTANDING. We don’t have to actually communicate probably most of our boundaries.

“I used to teach my clients that you set a boundary and then you tell it to the other person, but I don’t actually think that’s necessary very often. If I’m downtown and somebody walks up and tries to hit me, I’m going to run away from that person. But I don’t walk around downtown to everyone and be like, “Just so you know, if you hit me, I’m going to leave.” Most of us actually already have a lot of boundaries … inherently … And we don’t have to walk around and tell them to everyone, we just know, this is how I protect myself.”

You don’t have to explain anything to them. And maybe by us upholding our own boundaries, and the other person noticing, maybe that will create a conversation that you can have. But you don’t have to create any drama: This doesn’t work for me. So you leave, because that is what you decided you would do for you in the boundary was crossed.

“I think we could use a lot more of that (thinking) in our personal relationships. A lot of times, we do conflate these situations with a lot of dramatic thinking like, Why are they doing this? How are they going to take this? But really it doesn’t have to be such a dramatic situation, when we’re not leaving it to them to have to take care of our needs.”

FOURTH MISUNDERSTANDING. Setting a boundary is different than just saying, No that doesn’t work for me. It seems most of the unpleasant experiences in my life I could eliminate by just saying no. I don’t have to necessarily do the thought-work to create and uphold a boundary. I just need to say, No I don’t think we will be joining you for dinner that night. Or, No, I don’t want to watch a movie tonight before we go to bed. Or, No, you can’t eat a brownie for breakfast. And the allowing the other person to feel good about that or feel angry about that. That is okay. No drama on my end. They can feel how they want to feel.

FIFTH MISUNDERSTANDING. A boundary and a request are different things. And, probably more often than not in my life, I just need to make more requests. And, just like with saying no to someone, I need to let the other person choose to fulfill my request or not. No drama. They have agency. And I am in charge of my thoughts and my agency, and I can use it to serve me and to protect me, and to meet my needs.

For example, if I wanted flowers on Valentine’s Day, I don’t need to set a boundary: I need flowers on Valentine’s Day, and if you don’t get me flowers on Valentine’s Day then you have crossed my boundary and I will not show affection to you.

I can just make a request. I would like flowers for Valentine’s Day. And if Bry gets me flowers, I am grateful. And if he doesn’t, I don’t have to make it about me or about our relationship. I can think, He still loves me. He must have forgotten. And I can even buy myself flowers, if it is about the flowers. And if it is about needing his attention, then I can choose to see other ways Bry is already showing me affection. He made the bed this morning. He kissed me goodbye. He has never given me any reason to think he feels anything but adoration for me. My thoughts are optional, and I can choose those thoughts, even when he forgot the flowers.

That is way easier said than done. But it is an option. And what a more loving place to be coming from.

Those are my thoughts on boundaries tonight. I think boundaries are important. I also think just saying no, or just making requests are really important, too. I want to work on making requests this week. I want to get in the habit of making requests before I get to a point that my unmet need becomes drama in my life. Sweetheart, I need an evening to myself. Could you take the kids? Or, Emily, I need help with planning this activity at church. Could you take over the invitations and bulletins? Or, Liam, I am so tired. Could you make breakfast this morning? Instead of me stressing about breakfast, and feeling under-appreciated, and feeling like I need to set a boundary about what the kids can expect of me in the mornings, etc. I am going to work on making more requests this week.