When You Set Boundaries, Certain People Will Leave.
I haven’t talked to a particular relative in a couple of years.
Our relationship was very unhealthy. Every day, he had a crisis of sorts, and I had to talk him down. He never asked what I was doing or how I was doing. If I said something positive, he made a negative comment. I suggested therapy, and he would become angry.
If I suggested anything other than venting to me, if I didn’t respond right away, if I didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear, he could become upset with me. So I stopped protesting. I wanted to get along, after all.
Turns out, I was not doing him any favors. He did need therapy. We had a bit of a falling out, and he only recently got back in touch with me.
But then, he started falling into the same routine.
It was as though no time had passed at all. Immediately, I was again the free therapist. The shoulder to cry on.
I have been guilty of doing this to my friends as well.
Therapy is expensive. And it can be hard to get help. But I have been trying hard to work on this, now that I’m more aware of it. I have to learn to moderate my own feelings better. And I cannot moderate someone else’s feelings for them, either.
I do not want to be in high-emotion, codependent friendships and relationships my whole life.
So I saw it as an opportunity to set a boundary.
I used to shy away from anything that felt like confrontation. Now, I see it a bit differently.
I clarified that I did not want to have the same kind of relationship we once had. I repeated myself. I did not immediately jump into trying to “make” him see the positive. I just repeated his feelings back to him. I let him know that I understood that he was upset, and empathized with him, but I did not offer advice or a solution.
Within a couple of days, he disappeared again.
It became obvious to me then that he did not miss me, but what I did for him.
Once I stopped being a therapist, he did not want to talk to me about me. He didn’t ask what I was doing, what kind of music or movies I was interested in.
And there was no confrontation. No fight. I just simply set a boundary and held to it, and he stopped messaging me.
When you set a boundary, people who care about you will either adapt and try to change how they treat you, or, a lot of the time, they will just leave when they see they cannot get what they want out of you.
Boundary-setting with people you love is important.
Everyone is caught up in their own drama from time to time. Someone who loves you should be able to express when you’re a little much, without fear of retaliation or being “punished.”
And, similarly, if someone tells you that you’re crossing boundaries, it’s up to you to listen and try to fix the issue, even if your feelings are hurt in the moment.
There is nothing wrong with this.
I used to think there was something wrong with this. That somehow, relationships should never have any kind of confrontation, ever. Difficult discussions should be avoided. No one ever really apologized or admitted when they did something wrong.
This was because I had never really seen healthy boundaries being set. And when it was attempted, it was always a fight. A blow out. A kind of “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” mentality. This stemmed from a matriarch who infected her children and grandchildren with skewed views of what relationships should look like.
Relationships are not about self-sacrifice, or suffering.
No one should command that kind of blind loyalty from you — even if they’re going through a hard time. In fact, hard times are when boundary-setting is needed the most. That’s when people tend to slip up, even if they have good intentions and hearts full of love. That’s when people become self-absorbed and need a reminder…lest they fall into self-indulgence and solipsism.
And if you express yourself and your boundaries are not respected, your concerns not acknowledged, and no apology to be had, then maybe there’s no love lost.