….. is our responsibility to manage. I am talking about personal and social boundaries, here, and not physical boundaries.
Is there an easy way through this life? If there is please direct me because there are times, or maybe I should say people, that I think should know better or care more. People who don’t seem to get my messages about how they interact with me as being, “not appreciated.” I may be lazy, but I don’t think I should have to exert so much energy maintaining a boundary. I don’t think I should have to be so adamant about my expectations. I tried the subtle approach, you know, the scornful look. I tried the example approach of speaking positive to them to see if they understood reciprocity. I tried the more forceful approach of calling them out, once, then twice. How can it be this hard?
Does this sound like you, or maybe somewhat like you? Boundaries are the hardest to put up and maintain with family members, but they are as necessary there as with other people. Part of the difficulty with family is that you typically don’t get the opportunity, nor do you want to, just walk away. I mean THIS IS family. They know you better than anyone else and they are supposed to care how you feel. It makes for times of “crazy making” though when family members don’t seem to care. “Crazy making” is when you have a belief system that you have had for as long as you know, that doesn’t seem to work any more, but you still keep trying to make it work.
Another difficult dynamic is that families have expectations or a status quo that they like to subtly enforce. Sometimes, the expectations are not so subtly enforced. A status quo is the expectation that you are to fill a certain roll predefined by X or Y or Z family member. Sometimes, your part is just doing whatever it takes to not rock the boat. “Not rock the boat?” Could it be they just flipped my boat?
Autonomy and connectedness are so much part of what family is all about, but is often defined differently by each family member. Autonomy is being respected when you communicate what works for you. These communications can include size of family gathers, which members are present or deliberately excluded, nature of the gathering, time and location. Connectedness is the need to be part of the bigger picture of family and sticking with each other no matter the differences. It can be just amazing how a family, all from the same or similar gene pool, can be so diverse in expectations regarding the concepts of autonomy and connectedness.
I liken managing boundaries to a volleyball game. The ball is the interaction or conversation. The net is a division between your space and their space. You are required to stay on your side of the net. The court defines what is or is not within your or their boundary. The goal in volleyball is to put the ball in the other court, but in such a fashion as they cannot return it. However, in relationships, it is best if we can send it over the net nicely and in-bounds of the court. Often, this is not what happens especially in family relationships.
I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to return a volley that is not served in a nice fashion or out of bounds of your court. However, there are touch situations that families need to talk about. You will be stronger if you develop a tolerance and even expectation for these times of defining and defending your boundary. So, if you always walk away every time the communication is a tough reach, you have not enriched the conversation or family with your input as a member. If you serve it back as hostilely as you may have received a communication, you may feel you won, but no progress was made in the relationships. If the conversation is clearly abusive, it will be time to define your boundary in a definitive way, or walk away from the exchange. Again, I say, don’t feel obligated to return a conversation volley that is not served in a nice fashion. Sometimes a boundary is giving yourself the right to walk away.
Have a safe and curious day,