As a minister, I often get opportunities to work with families and assist them in common problems that come up. Most every situation calls for some kind of boundaries to be created. Today we will give you steps in creating boundaries and present a couple of situations so you can see how they operate in those.
The perfect scenario presented itself for Joe and I to practice boundaries. Let’s set things up for you, and then show you two possible outcomes that could have happened. You choose which one you want.
HOUSING IN BOISE IS CRAZY, RIGHT? Well, our eldest daughter got caught up in a difficult situation and to temporarily move back in with us possibly up to six months.
Five people, including two teens and a baby moved into a semi-retired couple’s fairly quiet home with their cat…and for them, WE’RE MOVING BACK IN WITH MY PARENTS?
AND, we had a great relationship. Why ruin it now?
Scary on both sides.
Let’s lay out the land. We have a four-bedroom house. Our bedroom is downstairs, and the other bedrooms and a bath are upstairs. Before they moved in, one room was as an office, one room was a production line for my business, and the last one was a guest bedroom.
Scenario #1: Come on in! (no planning, no forethought). Everyone rushes in and claims a room and soon the upstairs rooms are “overtaken”. Marie is shoved out of her office and production space and forced to find some place to work where there aren’t people.
A blood curdling scream runs through her ears and throughout her body, reminding her there is now a baby in the house. She never finds a quiet space, and suddenly thoughts like “don’t these people know I am trying to run a business? Why are they so thoughtless?: “ Soon much resentment is built up because there is no peace.
The kitchen is chaotic with people running over each other. Pantry is a free for all. Business is stopped. Living room gets taken over with video games and loud television. No one gets to sleep. And there is nothing but noise and chaos.
Fighting ensues. We accuse them of being thoughtless and disrespectful of our space. Backdoor communication where we tell the grandkids what’s upsetting us and they tell their parents and the parents complain to each other and the grandkids instead of talking with us and soon the energy boils over…there are screaming matches and their stuff is thrown out on the street and then we have to call the cops to move them out. The complaints are…they invited us, they should have known. The relationship is a long time broken. Who knows if it will ever be repaired because there is mistrust and pain. There was no prep.
No space. No rules in place. No communication of wants and needs.
BEFORE anyone moves in, we call a family meeting. Everyone, including the kids are invited. One conversation is just communicating what are your needs? What are your wants regarding
time and resources? How does your typical day look? How can we monitor and adjust? How do we keep communicating? How do we help us be true to ourselves AND help you be true to yourselves in this situati
on? How do we make it a WIN WIN FOR ALL?
And then, TOGETHER, we crafted rules and boundaries we could all work with and say up front that we require weekly family meetings and regular check ins. We zoned them off upstairs and did not hover over them. They could use that space however they wanted. (of course, no demolishing things…lol) The downstairs and living room was ours to use how we wanted…not that they couldn’t be in our space, but they respected how we used that space and didn’t try to tell us how to use it. We sectioned off the pantry space and had certain kitchen hours for each family.
We created a space where Marie could have as much privacy and as quiet as possible for her meetings from home, and established communication for if
Sundays we had a committed dinner together with a family meeting so we could talk about what was working and not working. It was also a time where we played games and connected. EACH PERSON got to speak in the family meeting and share how things were going personally for them. Were there any rules we need to adjust to accommodate a need? Our goal was for everyone to feel good about the experience and to keep our relationship in tact as we really love our family!
Is it hard to have these conversations? Heck yes. They’re extremely uncomfortable. Not only are we asking for what we want, we are worried about hurting someone’s feelings or that they may not like us (many of the same issues that come up in everyday life.)
In the long run though, the wins far out weigh the scary conversations. Prepare for success or you could end up with the worst scenario.
How to create boundaries:
- Know your values and prioritize them. Who are you and what is MOST important to you? This is your why. When I know what I value and why, it is my motivation for creating and KEEPING boundaries. It also makes it easier to make decisions if you know what matters most.
This section take a lot of quiet personal reflection time to see what matters most to you. Sometimes it takes years; and even then, we are constantly having to reevaluate what’s most important to us.
- Decide consequences ahead of time. And be committed to them. Inevitably, someone will push our boundaries, it’s natural. What do we do then? In advance, we have to decide what the consequences are and be committed to going through with them. If this x happens, then y will happen.
In the long run, remember, boundaries are about honoring you and what you need, not about other people’s choices.
Sometimes they don’t have the will or skill to follow through with what you are asking of them. Sometimes it takes practice and follow through.
- Clearly communicate & reiterate boundaries. It is not enough to have healthy boundaries if you do not clearly communicate them. If ever you think someone should “know” your boundaries, then you probably haven’t communicated them well. Repeat them over and over again until everyone is surely on the same page.
- Honor Your Word. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you state a consequence, and don’t follow through others will question your authenticity and think you don’t really mean what you say. HONOR YOUR WORD TO YOURSELF TOO! How do you trust yourself if you don’t?
You might be afraid to confront others with the truth of how you feel, but it’s genuinely the way we show our love in our relationships.
- Frame boundaries in a positive way. When you go to communicate them, be respectful in your tone and how you are asking. Let those you are speaking with know it’s important to you to honor yourself and them in this communication. Watch your tone and your words.
- Think about it. If someone asks something of you and you feel uncomfortable or unsure about it. Pause and tell them “Let me take a minute to think about it.”
- Intuition. If you feel uncomfortable about something someone has said or done, take a closer look. Our intuition can often sense when something goes awry long before we actually know. It’s a great guidance system!
In future blogs, we will show you other applications of boundaries. For now, you have plenty of information to begin your practice.
WHAT ENDING DO YOU CHOOSE?
What ending do you choose? The easy entry but chaos and confusion in the end. Or the one where you had to have a difficult conversation, front loading your boundaries and honoring what you all want and need and keeping the relationship in tact?
Happy boundary making! And if you get to a situation where you might need a little help or guidance, I can consult with you and your family.
Blessings to you all.