I hate waiting. I’m sitting in my car in the back of a Walmart parking lot, waiting for my friend to arrive. She’s always late. I even told her 15 minutes earlier than I planned to be here and she’s still late. Why can’t she just be on time for once? At least if I was at home I could be getting stuff done. Now I’m just sitting here. Waiting. I wanted to just meet her at the party for this very reason but she wanted to ride together. Why does she think her time is more important than mine? It’s so disrespectful.
When we find ourselves in a situation where someone else’s behavior is violating our personal, physical, or emotional space most of us will do one of two things: stay silent and build resentment or act out passive-aggressively. Neither of these behaviors strengthen relationships.
The truth is I love my friend. I don’t want to feel resentment towards her. I just want to love her. I also want to love myself. My time is important. I don’t like being treated like this. This feels like a violation of my personal space.
For the past couple days, we’ve been discussing how to take responsibility for our own results without trying to control other people. One of the tools we can use to do this is setting boundaries.
Setting a boundary means deciding what you will do when someone violates your personal, physical, or emotional space. It’s NOT a way to control or manipulate someone else. It’s not an ultimatum. It’s not a threat. You aren’t telling them what to do, only telling them what you will do. It’s not something you do out of fear, anger, frustration or resentment. To set a boundary properly, it needs to come from love. Love for you and love for the other person.
We set boundaries because of what we are willing to stand for in our lives.
In this case, I might tell my friend: Hey, I know you struggle with being on time. I’m going to wait 5 minutes and then I’m going to leave. I love you. I’m not mad at you. This is just what I need to do for me. And then I follow through 100% of the time. She can choose to behave however she wants to. I don’t make it mean anything about me. I don’t get emotionally invested in the outcome. I just follow through.
Most people aren’t willing to have conversations like these because they’re afraid of hurting the relationship. But setting boundaries actually increases intimacy in relationships. I told my friend the truth. Staying silent means I’m lying to her. She probably doesn’t even know how much it bothers me. She doesn’t even know there has been a boundary violation. Now that I’ve taken care of myself, I no longer feel any resentment towards her. I live my life the way I want to and I’m free to just love her, exactly as she is.
Everyone has different boundaries. Many of you won’t think being late is that big of a deal. It’s not a boundary violation for you. But my time is part of my personal space. You’ll likely have other things that wouldn’t affect me. We usually don’t need to tell someone where our boundaries are until they have been violated.
If you hit me, I will call the police.
If you speak to me like that, I will leave.
If you have sex with someone else, I will file for divorce.
If you don’t call before coming over, I won’t answer the door.
The person must be violating your personal, physical, or emotional space. We don’t set boundaries just because we want someone to behave differently. “If you don’t stop playing video games I’m not going to have sex with you” is NOT a boundary. That’s a threat. It’s manipulative and trying to control their behavior.
Just saying NO is not a boundary. Saying NO and telling them how they should behave is not a boundary. Saying NO and threatening them is not a boundary. You must follow all of the following steps to set a boundary.
Step 1: Get to love
Step 2: Make a request
Step 3: Set a consequence, something YOU will do
Step 4: Follow through 100% of the time
As a final note, boundaries are rarely needed. Most things fall within The Manual rather than Boundary Violations (see my post titled The Manual). I always refer to The Manual and clean up my thoughts before I decide to set a boundary. Usually that’s enough and the boundary isn’t needed. But it’s a great tool for situations that call for it.