Boundaries exist all over the place and we probably don’t even realize it. Boundaries are similar to rules or laws and are in place for a reason. Most of the time it’s to protect us. However, people often feel they don’t need to respect or follow them and this is when problems occur.
As with any good parent you begin teaching your children about boundaries from the day they are born. Through our words and actions we define the boundaries. We live on a cul-de-sac and near the end of it lies a trail that people use to bike, hike and run on. This trail also has a high number of homeless and transients who live along the trail. Since we know this we have made it clear to our children you can only go as far as our mail box (half way to the trail) as we are aware something serious could occur if they ventured out by themselves. As our children age and show more responsibility the boundaries will grow larger.
Most people I know have special or personal boundaries. Really it’s a safe distance they feel comfortable talking with another person. Depending on the relationship, the amount of space may increase of decrease. If you lift up your arm and hold it out, this is their general rule of what is considered a safe distance of space. Of course there are lots of different type of people and some are close talkers and huggers, which if you need an arm’s length between you and them makes it very difficult to feel comfortable talking with them.
Personally, due to sexual and physical abuse issues from my past I have struggled with allowing people to get physically close to me. It takes some time for me to warm up to you being in close proximity. I used to hate people who walked up to me and out of the blue just gave me a big old bear hug. Most of the time this happened in church and it was always awkward. What made it difficult at least for me was the underlying expectation; if someone at church hugged you, just accept it. This is church, hugs are expected all around and no one is going to hurt you. How do you go about saying, “Uh, no thanks, no hugs for me, you see I don’t like them and they freak me out.” Especially to another guy who very much gets joy from hugging people. I always found this to be strangely odd. Today I find it easier to accept a hug from someone, even another guy. It’s taken some time, but I do enjoy getting hugs from people now and on some occasions will initiate them. So who needs a hug?
In our respective extended families my wife and I have seen boundaries violated repeatedly, which as caused more drama than I ever imagined. Boundaries that have been crossed repeatedly and have left us not wanting or desiring to be around those folks any longer. In years past this has made some family gatherings difficult to get through. In order to protect our family and our children my wife and I have drawn hard lines and cut people out of our lives because they were unwilling to change their words or actions. For some we have placed them in extended periods of “time outs” until their behaviors could change and they could treat us the way we needed to be treated. This has not been a fun process and in all honesty something I never thought would occur, however it has been one that has needed to occur and even though we are no longer “favorites” in the family, it’s something I would strongly urge anyone to do in the same situation.
I believe in boundaries and my rule of thumb is to always set hard and firm boundaries in the beginning and then over time as I see how things are going I can ease up. It’s this way with my kids and anyone else involved in my life. I believe as a man and as the leader of your family you need to set up strong, firm boundaries across the board. You will have to stand up to your family or friends, but once your married and start a family, that is the time when you put them first and define those boundaries so that your wife and kids know they are the priority in you life and the reason we draw boundaries is because they are important.
I believe and have seen this to be especially difficult for “YES” people. These types of folks are always saying yes and want to please others. They have difficult times saying the word “NO” as well as establishing healthy safe boundaries. In their attempt to make others happy they forget about their own needs and overlook putting boundaries in place for themselves. This is a difficult place to be, people like this often get hurt and burnt out easily. Often I have found they seem to continue operating in the same patterns, but extremely frustrated with their life.
Part of a lifestyle changes for me is calling people out on their stuff that I am not okay with and holding firm and tight boundaries in all areas of my life. Maybe it’s because I am older and wiser, but I have seen so many damaging things occur to so many people across the board. This leads me to believe it’s extremely difficult for people to set firm boundaries out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings. For the sake of yourself, the best things you can do is put those boundaries in place. Pull back and enforce harder and firmer boundaries. My own experience in doing this allows me to feel safer and more comfortable in your own skin. It protects you so people can’t hurt you. I believe everyone needs strong boundaries in place. Let the other person know this is now how things are going to be and let them deal with their feelings. It’s not up to you to worry about their feelings. It’s up to you to take care of yourself and feel safe and secure.
As a real authentic man the best thing you can do for your life is make sure you have strong, firm, boundaries in place that will protect yourself, your wife and kids. I am not someone you mess with when it comes to boundaries.
How do you do with boundaries?