We often talk about setting boundaries in relationships.
They are vital. They’re the bread and butter of healthy relationships.
It’s about saying “no”.
It’s about stating your bottom line.
It’s about making sure you’re clear on how you want to be treated, and where necessary, backing this up with clear action.
I also think so much about sustaining relationships is about a degree of flexibility and forgiveness.
This doesn’t mean that we allow our boundaries to be decimated.
It means that there is something natural and very human in our boundaries. Think of a hedge, instead of a wall.
A wall can feel hard, punitive, and unwavering.
A hedge is sturdy and solid, but it is also flexible.
It grows as we change and the situation unfolds.
If our personal boundaries are more like walls then it suggests that we’re still holding on to something painful that happened in the past.
When we’re still licking our wounds it is appropriate that our boundaries are more robust.
If we’re new to practicing boundaries, we will also need to experiment, and during this process we will go overboard, erecting fortresses instead of hedges.
This is what we need to do at the beginning.
It’s an art we refine day by day.
However there also comes a times when this kind of intensive boundary keeping exhausts us, and means that we can’t be open to any new experiences in life.
I’d like to leave you with an exercise.
Write down 10 behaviours that you won’t accept in your relationships (make sure they include your professional life too).
Then review the list and check in with yourself whether one feels more like a ‘wall’ or like a ‘hedge’.
Adjust where necessary. Again, I stress that there will be circumstances, or people who we just need to keep a wall up with. We can also check in with ourselves about whether keeping this wall serves us. If it does, stick with it. If it doesn’t, then review that particular boundary until it feels ‘right’.
If you’ve done this exercise, you now also have a clear idea what you will and won’t accept in our relationship. You have boundaries! You’ll also get a sense of what kind of boundaries you tend to erect.