Visit Us on Facebook! Marriage and Family Counseling The Woodlands - Call 936-697-2822 Now. The Woodlands, TX, Serving the Greater Houston area.
AchieveBalance.org, a complete counseling center, Professional Counselors, Counseling, Individual, Family, Therapists, Marriage Counseling, Premarital, Houston area, The Woodlands, Conroe, Spring Texas. Continuing Education Provider for Licensed Professional Counselors, Therapists, Social Workers.

Posts Tagged ‘conflict’

What is a Boundary Anyway?

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

 

 

 

cowbigeyes

Good boundaries are a part of any good relationship. In fact, a relationship without boundaries will almost always have other symptoms: violence, emotional arguments, infidelity, addiction, emotional cutoffs, or debilitating enabling. The problem with boundaries? They can be hard on a relationship. The boundary-setter finds it hard because he dreads retaliation from the boundary-receiver. The boundary-receiver finds it hard because, well, no one really LIKES to receive a boundary. Here are three things everyone in a relationship needs to know about boundaries:

  1. Boundaries are designed to protect the boundary-setter, not the boundary receiver. Let’s say you love your neighbor, you love your neighbor’s cows, and you love your yard. You do not, however, love your neighbor’s cows IN your yard. In fact, you are starting to lose your serenity because of it. Since you value your yard and your serenity, you decide to build a fence. The cows are a little miffed because they can’t get to your grass and your neighbor is a little miffed because his view is now marred by your fence. You, on the other hand, feel pretty good because you have your serenity and your yard. Maybe your neighbor will realize your serenity helps the relationship and grow to appreciate your fence. Maybe he will harbor hurt feelings over your fence and never speak to you again.

Lesson: You built a fence because you started valuing your peace more than your neighbor’s peace. There is a possibility the relationship with your neighbor will suffer because of this shift. There is also a possibility the relationship will become better than ever.

  1. Boundaries are not the same as telling someone what to do. Let’s say you have the same neighbor, the same cows, the same yard, and the same budding resentment. You realize that a fence might hurt your neighbor’s feelings so you are going to try some things that are ‘less offending’ than a fence. Here’s what you try:
    1. You try to talk to your neighbor and tell him that if he cared about you he’d keep his cows on his own side.
    2. You tell your neighbor that it’s just common sense to keep his cows under control and if had any common sense, he would do that.
    3. You repeat 1. and 2. at all social gatherings, barbecues, and kids’ birthday parties until eventually he goes the other way when he sees you coming.
    4. You file a restraining order against your neighbor and his cows.
    5. You shoot the cows when they come in your yard.

Lesson: Nagging, guilt trips, threats, and acts of violence are attempts to change or control another person. Unlike boundaries they rarely protect your yard or your serenity and they always damage relationships.

  1. Boundaries will always require a change in your behavior, not your neighbor’s. Did the neighbor have a right to graze his cows on your grass? No. Did you have a right to be angry? Sure. Is it fair that you had to spend money and time and energy to build the fence when his cows are the problem? Yes. After all, you care more about your serenity (and your yard) than your neighbor does. Lesson: If you value it, then it’s up to you to protect it.

So the next time you are considering action because of a partner (or a neighbor) remember the difference between boundary setting and controlling. Boundaries are uncomfortable, sometimes costly, strategies designed to protect you. Controlling strategies are designed to change someone else’s behavior so you are more comfortable. Boundaries have the added benefit of improving a relationship. Controlling almost always results in relationship damage.

Kate Walker Ph.D., LPC, LMFT

Main Menu