"Boundaries" from Chaprter 7 of Pillars of Awesome Relationships.
“I only have to be willing to get up one more time than him,” Deena said about disciplining her son and constantly enforcing boundaries with him. Her son tested limits and pushed boundaries with her all day, every day. She recalled all the times when she prayed to have the strength to not give in and let him push past boundaries; no matter how tired she was. She prayed, “God, help me remember that I am investing in my child’s future by not letting him break the rules, even when I am this tired. Help me remember that if I let him get by with everything he tries to get by with, I will be infinitely more tired in his teenage years because I will be up all night worrying about him every time he goes out.” She knew that boundaries had to be enforced consistently to be effective.
Setting Boundaries Is Not Enough; You Must Actually Enforce Them
Through her constant efforts, Deena’s son was able to slowly learn to channel his massive energy into more productive things than testing boundaries and breaking rules. He began excelling at sports and music, eventually landing a spot in the city’s youth orchestra.
In his bestselling book, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., writes, “Lack of boundary setting with children leads them to have a sense of entitlement and the inability to delay gratification.” This applies to adult relationships, too. If someone is taking advantage of you in some way, you are not setting boundaries. By not setting boundaries for equality or appreciation, you are opening the door for other people to feel entitled to whatever they get from you.
When boundaries are set once and not enforced—or when they are not enforced consistently—the boundaries are fairly useless and the setting of the boundaries was a waste of time and energy. Setting boundaries one time is not enough to effect change. The boundaries must be set and enforced.
"But Marcus, boundaries don't work . . . "
Sometimes when I suggest that a client set a boundary, the client will respond, “I said that. It didn’t change anything,” or “Boundary setting doesn’t work with my husband.” These statements are simply the voice of frustration; either the client did not set boundaries in an effective way, or he or she did not enforce the boundaries with appropriate consequences.
Our ways of interacting in relationships are largely habit, so when we want to establish a new habit, like setting boundaries, it will take time and we will go through a learning curve in adapting to the new boundaries and the new way of being. Without consistent reminders, we won’t be able to establish the new habit, like setting boundaries, as thoroughly as we want (or possibly at all).
Saying "No" -- It's not the only way to set boundaries, but is it a vital one.
I sat in a group of about 75 people who had gathered to hear a Native American medicine man named Joseph Rael speak. At the end of his talk, he took questions. A woman sitting in the front row asked, “Grandpa Joseph, I have had this sinus thing for years now. I have constant congestion. I am always stopped up and my nose runs. What is going on with that?”
“It comes from the place of saying ‘yes,’” he answered. The woman looked at him, confused, waiting for more clarity. We were all confused. I was wondering if he had really heard her question.
“Maybe there are some places in your life where you need to say ‘no,’” he added. A hushed and knowing, “Ooooooohhhh…” went across the room. Everyone recognized that we all have places in our lives where we say “yes” to things when we really want to (and probably ought to) say “no.” Women stereotypically are taught to say “yes” when they want to say “no.” Men are just as bad about doing things we don’t want to do and making decisions that don’t reflect who we truly are, we just do it differently -- we all need to learn to be effective setters of boundaries. Setting boundaries can be loving and compassionate, too.
Setting boundaries is one of the most important skills we can ever learn in creating awesome relationships. Most of us were taught to not set boundaries (and our parents and others modeled not setting them) in order to avoid the emotional outburst or hurt feelings that may result when we set boundaries with someone. Therefore, few of us have skill at setting, enforcing, and feeling at ease with boundaries.
Pillars of Awesome Relationships is the guidebook to creating the relationships of your dreams. You will learn the mindset to not get triggered when little problems come up and you will learn the emotional and communication skills to be able to handle problems well and work problems out easily with you partner, friends, family, and people at work.
Saying “no” allows us to stay in integrity. In order to more fully say “yes” to what we want and who we are, we must be able to say “no” to what we don’t want and who we are not. Setting boundaries protects us from harm and gives us the space to be who we truly are.
For more on Integrity, click here.
I am constantly amazed at the lengths some people will go to in order to avoid setting boundaries. In fact, the prospect of setting boundaries brings up so much anxiety for some people that it’s one of the most common reasons clients drop out of therapy. They simply don’t want to deal with setting boundaries; instead, they hope the situation will just get better on its own, without setting the boundaries that will affirm their own worth in the relationship. Most often, these are the same people who find themselves in relationships where they feel unappreciated, taken advantage of, and dismissed.
Setting Boundaries can be easily learned. It is scary to set boundaries at first and even scarier to consistently enforce them, until you get used to them and see the long term benefits of setting and enforcing them. When you begin to see that setting boundaries directly leads to a life of ease in your relationships, then you will easily set boundaries with everyone around you and free up a lot of energy to have lots of fun in your relationships!
To pick up your copy of Pillars of Awesome Relationships today, and begin learning to set boundaries effectively, go to www.PillarsOfAwesomeRelationships.com.

Author's Bio: 

Marcus Ambrester, MA, received his master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology from Naropa University in Boulder, CO, and has been a practicing therapist since 1998. Pillars of Awesome Relationships is available on Amazon and from www.PillarsofAwesomeRelationships.com. He is in Private Practice in Nashville, TN and can be reached through his website, www.marcusambrester.com.