Boundaries – those things we need to set and honor when we realize someone continually encroaches on our space, violates us, drains us, or things have gotten to a place where some type of limit must be set to maintain a healthy relationship. I’ll be honest – I’m awful at setting and keeping boundaries. Mostly because the people I usually need to set them with are people I’ve been close with and known for a long time. But I’m learning to get better at setting and keeping them because, well, they are there to protect me from what feels like lots of negative and toxic energy. That is really the first step with knowing how or where a boundary needs to be set: when being with the person starts to feel worse than it feels good.
For me, the requirement for a boundary is usually related to lots of drama and the excess need (from the other person) to constantly focus on their drama. I’m not talking about when someone is in crisis. That happens to all of us. I’m talking about those people who have a dysfunctional need for drama, which typically equates with negativity. That usually morphs into a constant focus on that person’s drama with very little give from their end of the relationship. Or, to make it much simpler… you start feeling worse after being around them. Remember, your time is precious. The people you spend it with should fill you up, not drain you. Are you drained by someone? Chances are you need to set a boundary.
But what does “setting a boundary” mean? I think it’s different depending on the relationship and how much space you need. And, I know you have to experiment with what feels best. Maybe you limit your interactions with this person for a some time and then decide to see how spending a bit more time with them feels. You may realize things have improved and a little time and space were all you needed. Or, maybe you realize it’s still draining to be around that person, so you need to establish a bigger boundary. Experiment until it feels right. Remember, this is not about them or neglecting them – it’s about what’s healthiest for you. You may need to explain to them what you’re doing, but you may not. Every time I’ve set a boundary the person never even notices, or if they do, they don’t say anything. I assume they’re too wrapped in their own drama to even notice (which is likely true). But there may be that person who asks what’s going on and I suggest being honest. Your response needs to be about you and your needs because ultimately, that’s what it’s about.
For me, the biggest challenge is keeping the boundary. As I mentioned, the people I typically set boundaries with have a lot of drama, and negative energy in their lives and they are also people I care about so when the drama gets too much for them and they reach out to me in a tizzy, I naturally respond. I find most of the time my quick response is a habit I’ve been accustomed to for years. So, I need to break that habit of getting sucked back into their stuff. To do that I just have to remember not to respond immediately. And also remember how awful some of those dramatic conversations make me feel! The funny thing is that when I don’t instantly reply to their needs, they find someone else to go to and miraculously, their crisis passes by the time I do respond to them.
Ultimately setting and honoring boundaries with people who have become a drain on your energy is about making your life healthier and more peaceful. If you can maintain the boundaries, you actually end up in a healthier relationship with them because you’re honoring what you need and do not get resentful of that person for draining you. You’re able to be a better friend to them in the long run. Honor yourself and your need to set boundaries – it will keep you sane, healthy, and ultimately much happier.