Just say the word boundaries and watch what happens to people’s faces. Some immediately become suspicious and negative while others believe they are a good thing. Why does this word elicit such opposing responses?
“Many people view boundaries as a way to restrain them,” says relationship coach, Dr. David Banks. “They say they want to be free to do whatever, whenever they want to do it. This is not a healthy way of thinking. Living with no boundaries may sound exciting, but it can actually destroy you. The sad thing is, most of the time people don’t experience the negative impact of 'no boundaries' until after the fact, and then it is often too late.”
For example, take the person whose goal is to make a million dollars in a year. He basically puts his marriage and children on hold while putting his nose to the grindstone to make his million. At year’s end, he realizes he reached his monetary goal, but sacrificed his relationship with his family in the process.
“Setting boundaries starts early,” Banks says. “As parents, we model this for our children. Consider the fact that when children are born, parents usually place the child between the two of them and the marriage takes a back seat to childrearing. In reality, the child should be positioned in front with the parents standing firmly behind the child. The boundary is set from an early age that you don’t come between mom and dad. As parents, your job is to receive your child, raise your child and release your child.”
Without firm boundaries in place, life can become chaotic and miserable. If you have never established boundaries, it is never too late to start.
“Many people are afraid of the backlash of setting boundaries,” Banks shares. “While it is true that things could be a little challenging for a while, keep your eyes on the goal. Ultimately, people are looking for healthy relationships – at work, in their marriage, with their children and in friendships. Healthy boundaries help you establish priorities, manage your time better and have fulfilling relationships with people.
“When you are spending time with your spouse and your phone rings or your teenager comes in wanting to talk about changing curfew, you see these for what they are – distractions from your priority at the moment. The phone can wait and so can your teen. Boundaries are actually very freeing.”
Dr. Banks suggests the following steps for setting healthy boundaries:
Understand your purpose – Who are you? What is important to you? What are your priorities in life?
Focus on yourself, not on others – The only person you can change is you. You can’t control other people’s behavior. If your goal is to stay healthy and connected, boundaries help.
Stay strong – If you have operated without boundaries, suddenly putting them in place could initially create chaos in your relationships. Stay the course.
Surround yourself with a strong support system – These aren’t necessarily your best friends, but they will speak the truth to you, encourage you, and hold you accountable for the change you seek to create.
Ultimately, boundaries set the standard for expectations in relationships at home, at work and in the community. They protect you and allow you to function at your highest level of productivity.
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