Healthy Boundaries

Healthy Boundaries

Many years ago, Kenny Rogers made famous a song called “The Gambler”.  Its wise lyrics offer good advice for all of us when it comes to relationships. “You got to know when to hold ‘em.  Kenow when to fold ‘em.  Know when to walk away.  Know when to run”.

Often, we find ourselves in toxic situations where we feel neglected, abused or just plain frustrated.  Usually this is because our needs aren’t met in a healthy way and the other person takes advantage of our kindness.

Do you ever feel like you just can’t please another person no matter how hard you try?  Despite this, you just keep trying harder and harder.  Perhaps it is time to examine the reasons that you do this. 

Some people allow another person to make up the “rules” and mete out punishment in the form of guilt or anger if they don’t get what they want when they want it.  Their demands can hold the other person in an unhealthy emotional captivity for years.

There are times in life that you have to “walk away” as Kenny Rogers suggests but sometimes you just need to set some healthy boundaries that will change the dynamics.  Here are some steps that will help you:

  1. Write down the things in the relationship that are negatively affecting you.  Is the other person excessively critical, demanding of your time or selfish?  Perhaps you feel that your needs are usually ignored while their needs are made paramount.
  2. Choose one thing on your list that you want to see improved. (Small steps taken one at a time).
  3. Decide where your “bottom line” rests. Perhaps the other person wants you to call every day and talk for hours, a situation that prevents you from having relationships with others or personal time.  Your “bottom line” for example might be to talk for 30 minutes twice a week instead.
  4. Write down a few words that will clearly communicate to the other person what you can and will do. You might say: “I have decided that I need to limit our telephone calls to 30 minutes twice a week so will call you at 7 pm on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.”
  5. Practice saying this out loud so that you build confidence.
  6. Choose a time when you will tell the other person what you have decided.
  7. Do not allow yourself to get into an argument or long conversation about this. Just repeat the sentence clearly and firmly if and when the other person tries to negotiate, argue or get emotional.  You might have to repeat the sentence several times.
  8. Stick with the plan. Do not waiver.  Call when you state that you will call and end the call at the time you have communicated.  You might have to say, “I’m hanging up now” (and do it)!
  9. Prepare for and prevent manipulation. Ignore calls that are not on the scheduled time and let the messages go to voice mail, so the other person sees that you are serious.
  10. Use the 30-minute scheduled calls to talk about positive things and not about changing the plan.

Old habits can be hard to break.   If you need help to deal with a toxic relationship, don’t hesitate to ask for an appointment with a psychologist who will help you.

It’s time to quit ignoring or putting up with the problem and deal with it appropriately.

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