Some of my clients do not want to set proper emotional boundaries in their lives because they don’t want to risk losing relationships. They’re afraid that if they take care of themselves and tell the truth, they might make the other person angry. So in order to avoid the other person “getting upset”, they stay in relationships that are based on lies, pretenses and resentment. This prevents true intimacy in the relationship.
Having a conversation about an emotional boundary can be uncomfortable and challenging – it is really hard work. It is also the work of true intimacy. Honoring yourself and what is authentic and true, along with the willingness to let other people interpret it how they will, is difficult, but well worth it in the end. People who cannot find the courage to have conversations like this, stay in relationships where they are pretending. Then they often wonder why their relationships aren’t deep or intimate. Or even worse, the relationship erupts in the end due to built up resentment and hostility, which we blame on the other person for our own lack of emotional boundaries.
What is an emotional boundary?
I like to define it like this:
An emotional boundary is something that I create for myself. Like a property boundary, it delineates where I end and you start. It is a request that I make of someone else to change a certain behavior and a consequence of what I will do to self-protect if they violate the boundary.
Emotional boundaries promote self-responsibility and empowerment, ultimately leading to closer relationships with others.
It is about telling the truth to ourselves and to the people in our lives.
An emotional boundary is not an ultimatum. Nor is it a way of controlling another person, so that we can feel better.
How do you know when you need to create an emotional boundary?
I like to tell my clients this:
There is a situation that consistently upsets you and you are worried about being viewed as bad, rude or uncaring when you think about having an emotional boundary conversation with the person in this situation. And yet, this is exactly the way that you are acting on a regular basis with this person. You try to smile and act like everything fine, but you are seething underneath. You act one way with this person and then complain about them behind their back. If asked, you always say that everything is fine but the resentment is building.
How do you set an emotional boundary?
Here is what I teach my clients:
Emotional boundaries always come from a place of love.
If you are angry, frustrated and mad – you need to work through these emotions first.
Write down all your feelings and work through them until you can get to a place of calm, peace and love. It’s important to remember that the reason you are upset is not because someone has violated your boundary, it is because you haven’t been truthful with yourself and the other person and set a boundary in the first place. When you can really own that and take responsibility for your emotions, you can explain your boundary from a place of love and then set clear consequences for what will happen if the boundary is not honored.
Setting emotional boundaries requires courage. It is all about truth-telling and honoring yourself, no matter what. When you can have this conversation with someone from a place of love, you will significantly increase peace and intimacy in your life.