We’re now past five months into our “shelter at home” lives. Some people are experiencing more positive, quality family time. Some people have realized they needed to slow down, and now have the opportunity to re-balance their lives. They are fortunate.
Other people — even if they remain employed, can work from home, and are not in danger of food insecurity or eviction — are finding this new family closeness wearing. Finding both the time and space to “go” to work, set up children’s learning and after-school activities, and take care of the rest of life is a new juggling act. Maybe this is you? Maybe you need more support, but it’s not coming and are furthermore expected to give still more of yourself. You want to reset some boundaries. But everyone is under new pressures.
I don’t have a secret to solving all these issues. I do, however, suggest beginning with these two concepts before a conversation begins.
First, look at the bigger picture. Where are these relationships in your life? I’m assuming you value them. Are they long-term? Spouse or long-time partner? Child — youth, teen, or adult? I’m also assuming these are neither abusive nor manipulative relationships. Where do you see these relationships in the future?
Second, look at your current boundaries, and boundary-setting process. What are you feeling? What would you like to see happen, and what are your less negotiable needs?
Some guidelines to engaging for support:
- Give thought to how to express what you need, not just what to say.
- Include tone of voice. Practice what you want to say. Use your smartphone — record yourself and listen back. Get a trusted friend to give feedback. Does your tone express your intent? Maybe some frustration is coming out — how would that other person respond to that tone?
- When it comes time for a conversation, acknowledge the other person’s contributions.
- Frame it as a “we” issue. We are on the same team, in the same family, we all want positive outcomes.
- Since you’ve already given thought to your needs that are currently not happening, state them.
- Eliminate the word “but.” “But” tells the other person that the other shoe is about to drop. That their contribution is now minimized. Compare the two:
- “I really value our time together, but I need more space.” This feels like an oppositional setup.
- “I really value our time together, and I need more space.” I would add the word “also” between the words in “I need.” The tone can become more collaborative.
- There is a time and a place to be sorry. Expressing your needs is not that time.
- If this boundary will put additional burdens on the other person, acknowledge that.
- Finally, there is no “secret.” It’s building relationships that involve trust and vulnerability. Which takes time and commitment.
And check out this TED talk by Dr. Senem Eren on personal boundaries for well-being. Well-articulated presentation on why healthy boundaries are essential to healthy relationships, as well as to just being physically healthy.
Since all our self-defense classes are online for the foreseeable future, we do more practicing of verbal and body-language skills to set boundaries. If that’s your key take-away from a class, now would be a good time to check them out.
So, what’s standing in the way of you setting the boundaries you need?