Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: setting boundaries

Setting Boundaries: With Your Family Members (Including Your Kids)

One of the places where it is hardest to set boundaries is with your family! Trust me, I know, and I have a very loving, wonderful family. This includes in your marriage or partnership, with your parents and siblings, extended family, and gasp…your own children. Here are two ways that I have attempted to set boundaries and what has happened. We’ll call these case studies. (Are there case studies on blog posts? If not, here’s a first!)

Case Study 1: Adult Family Members I tell a member of my immediate family NOT to talk about certain things in front of a person we all commonly know. The reason for this is because it will lead to trouble for someone else we both love very much. I know, I know what you’re thinking. Why talk about the subject at all if I’m worried? My answer to this question is two-fold: I have to trust people to listen to me when  I set boundaries, AND there are some subjects and situations I have to talk about, and the only people who truly understand are immediate family members.  So what happened after I set the boundary and shared the information?

At an event, I actually hear the family member I confided in talking about the subject to the person I didn’t want to know. Ugh.

Now what do I do?

I set a boundary, and it was crossed. This family member passionately believed the right thing was being done, but it was still a boundary that I made that was not respected. I could have jumped up right then and there and said, “Stop! I told you not to say anything!” (I didn’t do this, although I wanted to.) What I did was later, when I felt calm: I addressed what happened and explained again why it is important to not talk about the subject, but my family member didn’t apologize.

So…now I have a new boundary. If I don’t want someone to know, I don’t tell this person. Do I feel upset? A little, but I also feel proud of myself for creating a boundary, addressing it, and figuring out that in this circumstance, this family member’s own feelings and passions overpower my boundary.

Case Study 2: Our Kids Kids are constantly pushing boundaries and rules–according to child experts, this is normal. Maybe this is true, but I want to raise a kid who respects other people’s boundaries. This example is going to seem silly, but it is a harmless example about my daughter I feel okay sharing with the world 10 people who read this post. Also, I think this kind of thing happens to parents every day of our parenting lives, and it can wear thin on our patience. So stick to your guns, parents!

Her grandma and dad sing to her at night. Her grandpa hums. I read, we say our blessings, and then I snuggle with her. She says: “I want you to sing like Daddy and Grandma.” I say, “I don’t sing.”  This is not 100 percent true, of course, I do sing, and I have sang to her before when she was younger or sick. But I absolutely do not want to make this a part of our nighttime routine. I am exhausted by the time she goes to bed, and I don’t want to sing since I don’t enjoy it. I explain this to her and show her how what we do at night works for both of us. And she has people who sing to her on other nights.

Now, my daughter is strong-willed, which will be a great quality WHEN SHE IS OLDER. So, a few times since this singing discussion, she has brought up: “Why can’t you sing?” “I want you to sing.” Tears, silence. I explain it again, in a kind way, and now I am definitely not backing down. I have set a boundary (simple as it may be). Yes, my people pleasing mom side is really fighting me on this one, but this is a lesson–she needs to respect this boundary. We already have a nighttime routine that works, and that we both like and can manage, and I’m not changing it now.

So far, the boundary has stuck. . .

How about you? How do you set boundaries with your family members?


Look at All These Bad Things That Can Happen If You Can’t Set Boundaries

I’ve been reading a book, Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I’m not sure if I agree with all of their religious viewpoints (just a warning, for those of you who are liberal-minded), but I find the book useful, nonetheless. What inspired this post was a section in the book that talked about people who have trouble setting boundaries (raises hand!). I thought I had blogged about it on here more than I have, but when I did a search for BOUNDARIES, this is the only post that came up.

As I mentioned in that post, my friends are often talking to me about setting boundaries. I don’t even think I was aware of my lack of boundary-setting until I was going through my divorce. It is so hard to see what is in front of us! I tend to be a people pleaser, which now I am working very hard on finding my voice and trying to vocalize when I don’t like something, without losing my temper or coming across unkind. None of this is easy to do, and it does not come naturally for me.

But back to the book, so when I read the following quote, I had a huge A-ha moment:

People who have trouble with boundaries may exhibit the following symptoms: blaming others, codependency, depression, difficulties with being alone, disorganization with lack of direction, extreme dependency, feelings of being let down, feelings of obligation, generalized anxiety, identity confusion, impulsiveness, inability to say no, isolation, masochism, overresponsibility and guilt, panic, passive-aggressive behavior, procrastination and inability to follow through, resentment, substance abuse and eating disorders, thought problems and obsessive-compulsive problems, underresponsibility, and victim mentality.

Wow, so that is quite a list, right? The authors do not mean that someone who has difficulty setting boundaries will have all these problems. I highlighted the ones in bold print that have known to plague me at one time or another in my life. But I wonder how many of us knew that having trouble setting boundaries could lead to so many problems. Most of us think of it as being an issue, of course, but more like: You let people walk all over you. You can never say no, and you do too much.

But it is much more serious than this! Many of the symptoms above can lead to death if they are not treated.

This quote has had me thinking for days. It’s why I feel called to blog about this.

  1. It is very important to teach our children how to set boundaries, how to respect others’ boundaries, and what to do when someone constantly pushes your boundaries or doesn’t respect them.
  2. I need to set boundaries and figure out what my consequences are for someone in my life who will not accept my boundaries.
  3. When I set a boundary, I need to be clear and firm, but loving and kind. It is possible to do both.
  4. It does not make me a bad person to set a boundary. People will still like me. They may even like me more.

If you are good at setting boundaries, congratulations! Please teach us in the comments how you learned to do it. If you have questions or want to discuss, so do I. Any tips or questions anyone has, please share.


Setting Boundaries: Dating

So I’ve started dating again, and my friends have been on me about setting boundaries. You should know this about me: I am terrible about enforcing the boundaries I set, and I constantly question the boundaries I do manage to set. So if you landed on this post to see how to set and enforce boundaries, check back in a year. This post is going to introduce you to the problem, and maybe we can learn together.

Before I go on about boundaries, I have to share the funniest thing that has happened to me while dating so far. I do mostly online dating. I don’t meet a lot of single, available, tall men from working out of my basement and being the mother of a 6-year-old. SO…I’ve been on the apps you hear about. They are not as bad as you hear. But one day, I had a “zero” date–what you call the “meet and greet” when you’ve exchanged messages and maybe a phone call with someone, but you haven’t met yet.

Anyway, I had a zero date at Starbucks, and I thought it went pretty well. We had talked on the phone and exchanged a few text messages before this, so we had each other’s phone number. We talked for the hour I had at Starbucks, and he went on and on about how he hated online dating, how people needed to be upfront, and how no one could focus on one person anymore,  and then at the end, he said: “Well, we could do a dinner. I’d like to see you again.” So, I thought okay, why not? Then he didn’t text. So, a couple days later, before I decided to move on, I sent my typical text: “Hey NAME, how is your weekend going?”

And the response I got back this time. . .

“Pretty good so far.”

“Is this Gwen?”

That made me laugh out loud. So I decided, well this is over, but it didn’t stop. He kept texting as if I was Gwen. And he said:

“Sorry if I didn’t recognize the number.”

30 minutes passed

“Should I delete this number?”

Finally, I decided to let him know his mistake and told him it was Margo, and yes, he should probably delete the number, and I wished him well.

SO boundaries. . .my friends say that I try too hard to fit into other people’s lives instead of letting them know how to fit into mine. I agree. They also say that once I set a boundary that is reasonable and I am comfortable with, I have to STOP apologizing for it. Set it, have a good reason for it, and then move on with my life. If someone doesn’t respect a reasonable boundary, then they are the problem–not me.

What do you think? Are you good at setting boundaries?