Blog post written by,
Allison Ford, M.S
Registered Counseling Intern
2022 is just beginning, making it the perfect opportunity to make positive changes in your relationships and set some boundaries! The concept of boundaries is often thrown around in therapy, so we’re here to show you how to set and maintain them so your mental health can thrive this year. Boundaries need to be set when there is behavior in a relationship that is consistently causing you problems or stress. It can be described as when you have been negotiating a non-negotiable and you are ready for something to change. The point of the boundary is to ease future distress, although it can be uncomfortable in the moment. This is a lot easier said than done! Setting and maintaining boundaries is difficult work because it involves holding yourself accountable, along with holding others accountable to your boundary.
Let’s break down how to set and maintain boundaries so that this year can be the best year yet for your relationships!
1. Make a list of things that are not working for you in a relationship
Sometimes in our relationships with family, friends, or significant others, something feels off. If you find yourself consistently uncomfortable, try making a list of what is not working in the relationship. Whether that be privacy intrusions or financial problems, it is worth noting.
Example: A family member makes comments about your body at family events.
2. Clarify a standard that would help make the relationship work for you
In this step, we really narrow down the boundary that we would like to add to the relationship. It is important to note that the boundary is not to punish the other person, but it is there to make the relationship better for both parties.
Example: I will not tolerate comments made about my body this year.
3. Verbalize the boundary to the other person and have a conversation about it
This part can be very hard! As the boundary is not being set to punish, it is important that this conversation comes from a place of love, as you want the relationship to work and for the person to be in your life; there just needs to be a conversation about a change.
Example: “I really want to be around you, but it hurts my mental health when you make comments about my body. I know that is not your intention, but I need you to know that I can’t be around you if these comments continue.”
4. Provide an alternative in what IS okay
When we set boundaries, we tend to lean towards what needs to stop and what is not okay. Offering an alternative to what is okay allows the person not to walk on eggshells around you and can understand your needs better. The boundary is more likely to be respected if you offer solutions and other ways to make the relationship work.
Example: “I know your intention with the comments is out of concern or to compliment me. I am okay with comments or compliments about my life, my achievements, my job, my personality, etc. I just really can’t handle comments about my body right now.”
5. Get comfortable advocating and respecting the standard you set
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the real work, aka maintenance. However, the person responds to your boundary does not change what you have set. This can be super uncomfortable but knowing what you need and validating yourself in that is so important! Letting the person’s response affect your needs is moving backwards, though that person is entitled to a response and listening to them is important it still does not change that the relationship prior to the boundary was not working for you. This is where personal accountability is so important because it is up to you to hold yourself accountable to the set boundary, but also to hold the involved parties accountable also. This means standing up for yourself and advocating for yourself. This can also mean removing yourself from a situation or even from a relationship if the boundary cannot be respected.
Example: “We had a previous discussion regarding comments about my body and I’m sorry, but I think it may be best for me to distance myself from our relationship for the time being. I just need to protect my mental health and my peace.”
Boundaries are not easy! They also require you to be ready to truly change and be okay with discomfort in a relationship. The work you put in to setting boundaries now will pay off throughout 2022. So, here’s to peace of mind and better communication in the New Year! If you need help, we are always here to walk you through the process.
Allison Ford, M.S
Registered Intern for Mental Health Counselor Licensure
I'm interested in working with individuals who struggle with depression and anxiety as well as with couples. For a FREE phone consultation and more information about nutritional counseling, please call me directly at 561.600.1424 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Services available in person and online.