1. Healthy people will understand your need to set boundaries. Only toxic people will argue them.
Friends and loved ones who are genuinely concerned with your wellbeing will understand your need to set boundaries. The only people who will not understand or respect this need are those who are incapable of maintaining a healthy relationship.
Toxic people will almost always try to tell you that boundaries indicate a lack of love. But these people are wrong – their idea of love is a love that only flows in one direction. It’s a love in which they get what they need from you but do not give you back what you need. Because what you need is your space, your distance and your right to set and reinforce boundaries.
2. There is no way to set boundaries without hurting some feelings in the process.
If you’re waiting for a time where you can set boundaries without stepping on toes or hurting feelings, you’ll be waiting forever. People who disparage boundaries will always see them as a personal attack. But in the long run, laying those boundaries down will help both of you to heal and grow into stronger, more independent people.
You just have to choose to be the bigger person off the bat, and accept that you are going to have to temporarily hurt someone’s feelings for both of your long-term gain.
3. Other people are going to push your boundaries and you are going to have to be the one to reinforce them.
In a perfect world, boundaries would be set, stated and adhered to religiously. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
In the world that we do live in, toxic people are going to push your boundaries – repeatedly, relentlessly and just about as far as you’ll allow them to push.
At the end of the day, you have to be the one who upholds and adheres to your own pre-decided limits. Because nobody else is going to take on that responsibility for you.
4. When you’re firm in your boundaries, others have no choice but to respect them.
The only way to truly enforce your limits is to stand by them firmly and unwaveringly. If you tell someone you’ll speak with them once a week, you cannot pick up the phone the other four times that they call. If you tell someone you’ll do them a single favor, you have to turn down their additional requests – no matter how valid those requests are. No matter how important that favor is.
In time, they’ll learn to respect your time and call on it only when it’s genuinely necessary. But in the meantime, you’re going to have to stand by the boundaries you’ve set in a way that the other party likely will not.
5. Sometimes it’s going to be painful for you, too.
It’s painful to watch your loved ones suffer. It’s painful to see those you care about in pain. It’s painful to sit idly by while people who genuinely need help and guidance struggle to figure things out on their own.
But at the end of the day, you have to be bigger than the pain caused by your own sense of empathy. You have to remember that you’re doing what’s best in the long run. No matter how much it hurts for you to go through right now.
6. In the long run, telling someone ‘No’ is always better than telling them ‘Maybe.’
To people who enjoy pushing boundaries, the word ‘Maybe’ serves as an invitation. It’s an invitation to test your limits, question your methods and aggressively pursue what they want from you, even if they know – on some level – that your maybe is really a ‘No.’
In the long run, telling someone a firm and unadulterated ‘No’ is infinitely more productive than telling them ‘Maybe.’ No means ‘Let’s move on from this.’ It means “I’ll have no further part in this.’ It means, ‘Please stop testing my boundaries.’ It means ‘I’m not going to comply.’
‘No’ is a tough word for many of us to use – especially those who dislike confrontation. But the power of ‘No’ is immeasurable. It saves you from having to reject someone over and over again. And it saves the other party from pursuing a fool’s errand that will ultimately only disappoint them further.
7. Nobody benefits from a toxic relationship.
The single thing that keeps most of us from setting boundaries is the fear that we’re negatively impacting someone else by setting them.
We’re overextended, but our friend needs help. We’re emotionally spent but our loved one is suffering. We know that someone is not in a proper frame of mind to maintain a healthy relationship but we don’t want to abandon him or her because that frame of mind is not their fault.
And to some extent, these concern are likely valid. But at the end of the day, allowing a codependent or toxic relationship to perpetuate itself is unhealthy for everyone involved. The healthiest thing your suffering friend or loved one may ever learn in their lives is how to depend on themselves. How to respect others’ boundaries. And how to seek out help in a healthy and sustainable fashion.
Boundaries may hurt feelings in the short run but they can absolutely save lives in the long run. And that’s a damn important thing to remember when you’re the one in a position to set them.