What’s a Boundary?
Great question. Most of us women with addiction issues have heard of boundaries, maybe we even know what they are, but we’re not so great about putting them into use!
Boundaries are those little things we set in relationships so we don’t get walked all over. We also need them so we don’t end up walking all over others. Boundaries are often simple, sometimes they’re even easy to maintain. Most of the time, though, the situation is a bit more complicated.
Simply put, a boundary is space between individuals. Boundaries can be emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual. They allow for separation of self in a healthy way. They make sure you’re not too emotionally or physically detached from those in your life, nor are you too dependent on others. So, boundaries are often difficult, particularly with those closest to us!
Setting Boundaries Effectively
Setting a boundary is pretty easy, it’s more the identification of, and holding to, the boundary that trips people up. The best foundation for boundary setting is knowing that they’re mutually beneficial. This can be difficult with our families, particularly those family members who’ve been supportive throughout active addiction. So, the first step to effective boundary setting is the firm belief that boundaries are a valuable tool to personal and family growth.
Some basic guidelines for boundary setting:
- It can’t be all talk! After you set a boundary, follow up with action that affirms it.
- Be polite, but be direct. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t say it mean!
- Don’t feel obliged to defend or explain yourself. Be clear, be concise.
- Don’t cave! Boundaries are set because they’re necessary to healthy relationships.
It’s always helpful to have guidance and support while setting and maintaining boundaries. This support can come from a therapist, counselor, sponsor, sober-support, or friends.
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An Example of Boundaries
To set a boundary, you first have to know what your basic boundaries are. For example, if you have a parent who makes negative comments about a specific thing (your addiction, weight, etc.), your boundary might be that you’ll no longer accept non-constructive criticism.
Setting this boundary would sound something like, “It’s painful to hear your insults and I won’t continue any conversation where you begin to insult me.”
This boundary is direct, assertive, and clear. Of course, to enforce your boundary, you need to take action. This means ending any conversation where you’re insulted. In turn, you’ll build self-esteem and, in time, the relationship will grow!
Sometimes, a family member’s initial reaction is anger or disdain. After all, our families are accustomed to set family roles. However, these roles can change! Setting boundaries is an incredible way to start making the changes within yourself, which then open doors in relationships that otherwise wouldn’t have opened.