Should I suck it up and be near my abuser? Should I push my feelings down to appease the other person?
For a lot of my life, my main goal was to appease everyone and avoid conflict like the plague. I would say, “yes” to things I was uncomfortable with and apologize profusely even when I wasn’t sure a “sorry” was necessary.
For abuse survivors, appeasing people is ingrianed into our psyche- its how we learned to survive.
But it’s not healthy, or productive.
That’s where boundaries come in to play. Boundaries help us to protect ourselves, both physically and mentally. We are able to become the best versions of ourselves, and then turn and create the best version of relationships. That’s why boundaries are vital to developing healthy relationships, especially after experiencing abuse.
So today I want to share everything I’ve learned about setting boundaries in the hopes that it will become a less ominous task.
How to Create Healthy Boundaries
1. Care about people, but recognize you are not responsible for their happiness.
If a boundary makes someone unhappy, that’s on them, not you.
2. Realize that some people are going to be mad/offended/rejected no matter what you do.
I’ve bent over backwards many times in my life, trying to appease people. But you know what? They end up never being satisfied and something I do always, always, ends up making them angry. No matter how hard I try to avoid it.
3. It takes two people to make up a relationship- therefore, if there’s a problem, it takes two people to fix the relationship
If someone has a problem with their relationship with you, they need to be open to finding a solution with you. Its not all on you to fix it.
4. Discuss expectations up front.
Everyone has expectations for everything and that’s ok. But they need to be voiced. No one can read your mind and you shouldn’t be expected to read anyone elses.
5. You are human. It is impossible to make everyone happy.
Don’t even try. Believe me, I’ve tried for my whole life and I usually end up in the hospital. (I have health problems.)
6. There are a lot of humans in this world. You can find nice people to spend your time with.
When I was younger, I thought I had to make things work with the people I was given. Not true. There are lots of people in the world who want friends. You just need to find them.
7. You get to decide who you spend time with and how you spend time with them.
Nothing should ever turn into a dictatorship. No one else gets to tell you how you spend your time. If you don’t want to be around someone, don’t be around them.
8. You can love people from a distance.
There are plenty of ways to show love from a distance. Periodic text messages, positive thought emails. Even just positive vibes and prayers is enough to show love. Love doesn’t mean submission.
9. You can love people and not spend time with them
When people ask me, “do you really love that person?” I like to respond with, “Yes. I would call an ambulance if they were outside dying in a ditch.“ Love for me is letting go of judgement and resentment and not wishing ill will on others. It’s not cowering down and allowing them to step all over me.
10. If someone takes away your freedom to choose, distance yourself from them
When someone wants total control over you or over a situation, its a red flag.
11. If someone makes you feel anything less than the magnificent human you are, distance yourself from them.
I don’t have to be around people who tear me down, even in small, slight ways. In fact, I don’t have to be around anyone who will not uplift and encourage me.
12. Life is short. Don’t waste your time with people who make you feel like crap.
Since having children, my free time is basically a few hours a week. In that time I have to fit in dance classes (for my health), any writing I need to get done, and, if I’m lucky, a couple of hot showers. So time is extremely precious to me. I have to be extremely frugal with how I budget my time. I legitimately don’t have time for people who make me feel bad about myself. That’s just how it is.
13. There are a lot of people in this world who need help. You can find someone to help who also treats you nicely.
I would always get stuck in the thought of, “Oh well so and so really needs help from me so I can put up with how they treat me.” But it took a toll on me. Soon, I discovered that if I continued to help someone who was hurting me, I wouldn’t have enough energy or time to help any one else.
14. No one gets to decide what you are comfortable with.
There have been many times when people have tried to guilt me into doing things I’m not comfortable with. Like being around people. I’ve had many acquaintances say things such as, “Why can’t you just be in the same room as (insert abusers name).” Or “Its not that bad. Just put up with the (insert toxic behavior) for a couple of hours. Stop complaining about it.”
15. Your family doesn’t get special privileges to treat you like crap. If they treat you poorly, you can distance yourself from them, just like you would anyone else.
“But they’re my family. That’s just how it is.” I’ve heard this from sooooo many people when I ask them why they put up with their families treating them poorly. No. Family is a verb. Family is actually caring about your feelings. Blood does not automatically give someone the right to hurt you.
16. Distancing yourself does not make you a bad person.
The natural reaction to distancing myself from things has been this incredbily nagging guilt. I should be more understanding. I should be less dramatic. I should put up with it. No. I should not put up with it. I am allowing for myself to grow into the best version of me and I’m offering the other person a chance to have a healthy relationship in terms that make me feel comfortable. If you think about it, That’s actually the kind thing to do.
17. Saying “no” does not make you a bad person. In fact, clarifying your needs and expectations beforehand makes you a super awesome person who actually cares about building relationships.
Yep. I sometimes feel guilty saying no but I’ve found that setting boundaries actually lets me have deeper, longer lasting relationships with people. I feel like they respect me and they feel the same.
18. Other people saying no to you or distancing themselves from you does not make you a bad person. It just means something in their life is making them need some space. And it might not actually be you.
On the same wave length, I’ve learned to stop taking things personally when someone says no to me or wants distance. (ok, I’m still working on this. But its a work in progress.)
19. Its important to be open to the boundaries others put up for themselves.
This is another one I’m still working on. But it’s important to remember that boundaries can actually deepen relationships so its a good thing if someone else wants to set boundaries.
20. You need to voice your boundaries.
I discovered that I need to voice boundaries. If I keep them to myself, I get angry when people violate them. Which is not fair. People can not read my mind.
21. Boundaries are not personal.
Boundaries people put up are not a reflection of my self-worth. It’s just someone seeing something that needs to be adjusted.
22. Boundaries actually reduce conflicts
I struggle with any type of confrontation so I avoided boundaries like the plague. However, I discovered that I actually ended up having way more confrontations (and way more emotional confrontations) when I didn’t set boundaries then when I did.
23. If someone is offended by your boundaries, they don’t have to be in your life.
I have encountered people who haven’t learned that boundaries aren’t personal. I completely understand the impulse to take offense. But If they can’t respect my boundaries (or at least be open to a discussion about them) then they don’t get to be in my life.