I think boundaries are one of the most crucial elements of a healthy relationship, and as I’ve said before, I don’t think trust and connection is possible without them. Relationships with a high degree of conflict and toxicity will lack healthy boundaries.
Outside of our actual behavior, we practice healthy boundaries – or play out our toxicity – via our communication. Our words, and we say those words to another will determine the emotional safety of the connection. That’s why I also think focusing on creating healthier communication is so important, because all of our thoughts, feelings, needs, fears and choices are conveyed through what we say, and how we say it.
Healthy boundaries in communication is the focus of this week’s podcast, because I think when you’re communication isn’t going well, it’s usually pretty wise to begin with the boundary issues first. When I work with couples and families I begin by having each person follow the first ground rule: You cannot say anything about them to them. Instead, practice I statements and tell them about YOU instead. Duh. You say. But you would be surprised how pervasive this issue is. It’s not always easy to remember to do!
Staying focused on ourselves, we therefore must tell them about US and what our choices are. This means letting go of the outcomes – and their choices – which is so risky and vulnerable. But this is the only way to have a healthy relationship! To tell others about us, and allow them to own their choices. This builds trust. Gone is the fear-based people pleasing, tiptoeing, manipulating etc etc. As I’ve discussed on previous episodes, this can be a struggle. We humans like control. We don’t like loss. Or letting go.
Examples of what to say are “I just want you to know I love it when you put your things away.” (Positive Opposite of what you loathe.) Instead of “Why do you always leave your crap everywhere? I always have to clean up after you.” (YUK how shaming and guilting! As if you “have” to clean up after them? Nuh Uh – you choose to do so. Or – “I won’t stay in this room if you continue to manipulate. If you choose to be more emotionally honest I will listen.” Instead of: “All you do is manipulate and bullshit me. No wonder I cannot trust you.” So here, you give them a choice. What do they want? Also you are choosing for you, and not giving them all your power.
So staying on your side and detaching with love is the first step. The second one is to be vulnerable and tell them your truth. What they end up doing with your truth is not within your control. Besides, if you tried to “get them to see…” or “make sure they understand…” you can never feel at peace, because deep down you never know if they actually “see” or “understand” or even want to hear you. Anxiety increases momentarily when we practice letting go. But it decreases greatly over time when we do….and they eventually pick up that ball of ownership. And it is only then that the real truth of the relationship becomes very clear.
Boundaries protect. They allow choice and freedom. They also allow the truth to come to light.