Boundaries protect our mind, body, and spirit and they stem from how much worth we put in ourselves and how much we expect from others.
The easiest of these to consider would be physical boundaries.
When someone enables and pressures us to do things: drugs; excessive drinking; or even hugging or kissing hello (yes, like on Seinfeld); we can clearly see when they’re inappropriately overstepping boundaries. Over time, with repetition, we can see when we need to rid them from our lives as well.
When we consider spiritual and mental boundaries, however, things get murky. All of a sudden we start qualifying:
How long have I had this friendship/relationship?
What’s the overall quality of the relationship?
What are their extenuating circumstances that would cause them to act this way?
We’re looking for a reason to justify their actions.
He only called me this name. She only talked behind my back once. They must have forgot my invitation. It was a group effort, I don’t need to be acknowledged - even though everyone else got recognition. I get it. It’s OK. I’ll deal with it. I’ll get over it. I must be being ridiculous or emotional. I feel a little belittled, left out, or not heard but that’s OK, I’m sure she’s just upset. He just needs some space.
Do you hear the silencing in that?
Do you hear where our boundaries and expectations are being pushed?
Do you hear where we’re forsaking our personal value for the contentment of others?
Additionally, there’s the survival quotient of this relationship. It adds an extra pressure to accept or swallow your words because you’re in your “house” and you don’t feel at home when someone pushes your boundaries.
What I mean by survival quotient is, if this is someone we depend on - like a spouse - what would it mean to end the relationship? How would we survive? How would we pay our bills, where would we live, how would we explain this to our friends and family? That isn’t always something you have to entertain but that sometimes comes up and it can create a lot of stress when considering staying in a relationship or even in contact with a person.
So we have these varying levels at which we can justify another’s actions to sway our decisions to stay in a relationship that, had it been new, we would have left.
At the same time, if we haven’t taken the time to get to know someone well enough, we may not know the difference within them between permanent toxicity and temporary negativity.
Meanwhile, though, how do we protect our spirits and minds against things that will throw us off our path?
Start by defining your boundaries and expectations. If you need a place to start experimenting - start with being aware of respect and reciprocation. In other words, if someone can’t reciprocate your effort and respect your expectations, then you might consider new ways to navigate that relationship with your new boundaries in place.
Personally, I have hung on to unhealthy relationships longer than necessary because of either the history or because I wonder: if I hang on, maybe this person will change. Maybe I can be the light they need to see. All the while sacrificing my own mental clarity and spiritual freedom.
I don’t want this for you.
I want you to be in control of your relationships - not controlling but in control - by being aware of how you want to be treated, expressing that clearly, and having the guts to distance yourself from people who repeatedly don’t respect you.
Trust me, as you start to respect yourself and hold firm on your boundaries, other people who will respect you will come along to fill the vacancy you opened.