According to Wikipedia ‘personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.’
Codependency and lack of boundaries are in my experience good friends.
I may have had some boundaries in the past but allowed others to catapult over them and did nothing about it. Or I would move the boundary because I was not able, often because of fear, to even have consequences and then have to stick to them.
But I have learned how boundaries keeps me safe and ‘in my lane’.
3 years go, I had to learn how to set strong boundaries while I was afraid.
The man I was dating was on an out of control drinking binge. He was living down the street in a house of other active addicts. No water. No power. The owner of the house was in jail. While I was trying to save the man I loved, I put myself in danger. I witnessed terrible things and I was afraid.
When I reached my tolerance level (finally), I asked him to leave me alone in person, by phone and by text. I yelled, I screamed. And then unknowingly, I set my first boundary by stopping my behavior. I didn’t go to the house, I didn’t answer his calls and I didn’t text him back. It was hard but necessary.
And then it escalated.
I received 100’s and 100’s of text messages from 3 phones he had access to. At all hours of the day and night. I called the police and asked for help. Sadly there was nothing they could do…..yet. And the yet is what scared me the most. I called my best friend and told her that this is what lifetime movies are made of and I was afraid.
He came to my house at 5 am drunk and pounded on my front door. I called the police and got paperwork for trespassing for next time he comes. Next time, great.
More texts and calls. And I didn’t answer any of them. But it was still escalating.
He entered my home while I was a work. My son was home and called me. I called the police and drove home. I arrived just minutes after the police did. Apparently he had fallen on the walk to my house and had blood all over his face and hands. (And my fence and back door) I went and was issued an emergency protective order. But they couldn’t find him.
So now I had to wait for the PO to be served to him. And he would leave me alone and this would all stop.
More texts and calls and then they stopped. He then texted me and I had him violated and he went to jail. Then he called me from jail. 32 times. Another violation. He spent 31 days in jail and I was issued a 2 year protective order. Then he stood by my mail box and street corner for weeks after. But that didn’t violate my order. It was terrifying. I remember thinking about how this makes women go crazy and I would end up hurting him from the mental games and end up in jail. Thankfully that didn’t happen and he finally went away.
All this to say, this was the start of me giving myself permission to put down the fear, shame and feeling responsible .and understand the importance of creating personal boundaries.
So let’s talk about boundaries for a minute.
We need boundaries in all aspects of our life. Family. Work. Hobbies. Money. Time. I have found that having them actually makes my life easier. Allowing me to say no to some things that are not healthy for me in turn it allows me to say yes to more things that fill me up.
Once I found support with my 12 step group and a counselor, I gained some self awareness of what I am willing to and not willing to put up with in my life. Looking at situations in my life and identify area’s that cause hurt or upset or even where I’m spending time that is not for my greater good. And how to better contain those things.
This is what some of my boundaries look like:
- separating myself from a friend or group of friends
- not commenting on a social media on a sensitive topic
- choosing to end and walk away from an argument gracefully
- telling someone that I will not discuss something with them
- telling someone that I will not tolerate behaviors and if they choose to continue, I will ______
- being careful what and who I share information or feelings with
- being careful who I spend time with
- spending time doing healthy activities
Having boundaries I gained value and do not compromise my opinions. I have started to be able to make and reach personal goals which has been difficult to even create a goal in the past. I have learned how to say no and to accept no from others. I have become a better communicator. And I know to get advise from healthy friends.
You can share with someone a boundary, but you don’t always have to. Simply changing your behavior to match the boundary is enough.
Starting small and giving yourself grace is super important. It all takes time to learn how to do this after a life time of not. You build on success. It takes support, courage and practice.
My journey continues…