Boundaries, Family, and the Holidays
During the holiday season, if you are like me, you are dreading certain conversations with family members surrounding your life. Questions like —Are you seeing someone? Why aren’t you seeing someone? What do you do for work again? What happened with the other job? How much money do you make? --- amongst other questions that may feel intrusive.
The challenge here is rightfully setting up boundaries around those things that you don’t want to discuss. I have a three-step process that I use to protect my boundaries during family gatherings and I hope they’ll be beneficial to you too.
NUMBER ONE. It is important to evaluate why they are asking the question. Is this for their personal knowledge, or do they genuinely care about you? Once you answer this question internally or externally (however you process), you can then offer a response that is beneficial to you. To some, this can make you feel that you’re being guarded or secretive. However, if what you share doesn’t feel like it is being shared with a safe person, you don’t have to share.
NUMBER TWO. You must generate a response that doesn’t leave you regretting engaging in that conversation. For example, let’s say a family member asks you, “Hey, are you seeing someone now? It’s been a long time since you’ve brought someone for us to meet”. You can then respond by simply saying, “I rather not answer that question”. Saying no is hard when it comes to family and it may be a challenge at first, but to protect yourself, no is often necessary.
NUMBER THREE. Be okay with disappointing people for your own well-being. People who truly care about you will respect your decision. You can be connected without enmeshment (Enmeshment occurs in a relationship which personal boundaries are permeable and unclear). Connection looks like having boundaries, whereas enmeshment looks like blurred lines.
Connection is for relationship and boundaries are intended to benefit relationship. It is hard to wrap our heads around boundaries because a lot of us have the tendency to want to please people. However, setting up boundaries doesn't need to be a heavy task in close relationships. It is healthy and beneficial to both parties to set boundaries.
Boundaries enhance connection, and connection leads to healthy relationship and loving well (doesn’t that sound good?).
Learning to love someone well can be carried to multiple relationships and won’t stop with you. You can be the trailblazer in your family by cultivated healthy boundaries together.
Now let’s say, you are “not new to this, but true to this”, and you have attempted to set boundaries and it simply didn’t work. Where do you go from here?
1. Make sure you know what boundaries you have in place and why – being 100%
sure of what your boundaries are decreases the likelihood that you will waiver your stance.
Solid foundation is key.
2. Stay firm on your boundaries – wavering on boundaries could result in harm being
done to yourself.
3. Reiterate what your boundaries are – constant mention of your boundaries will
hopefully get other people on board with your boundaries.
4. You may need to create distance – if the relationship is becoming unhealthy after
multiple attempts of the steps above, it is okay to create distance.
Setting boundaries honors yourself and invites others to honor you and your boundaries. If we cannot honor ourselves first, then we cannot expect people to honor our boundaries.
To learn more about boundaries, check out Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Cloud and Townsend.
BIO: Celina Deal is originally from Maryland and comes from a
big family of 4 brothers and 1 sister. She is a graduate student at
the Moody Theological Seminary studying Clinical Mental Health
counseling. Her overall desire in pursuing this degree is to counsel
ex-offenders to successfully reintegrate them back into their
community while simultaneously reducing recidivism. Connect with
her on Instagram @living.lee.