New year. New month. New goals. Perhaps new relationships, too. This blog article would have been more fitting last month, but a bitch has been busy-ish. And, let’s not mince words: nothing fits great these days—not even sweatpants. Is it still appropriate to blame the holidays for all the extra weight?
Regardless, most of the above sounds nice, doesn’t it? However, we can’t forget that with new, well, with new anything, comes new questions. Lots of new questions. Questions like, how do you set—and keep—healthy boundaries? Come to think of it, boundary just may be the word of 2023. Or maybe pizza will be the world of 2023. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
Boundaries are important, and for all types of relationships, including the relationship you have with your mom, your partner, your best friend, and your favorite pizza delivery guy. There’s that “p” word once more . . .
While exploring the idea of boundaries, I couldn’t help but think about a past fling of mine, Peter Rabbit. Peter Rabbit and I only saw each other for a couple of months. Our first date was classic: dinner, drinks, dancing, dick down. In that order. Oh, to be back in my twenties. Kidding! I’m extremely happy to have outgrown some behaviors of my youth.
On our second date, Peter Rabbit introduced me to a handful of his friends. I instantly hated them. Hate is a strong word. I immediately knew that his friends would not become my friends. I didn’t like them. Were my instincts spot on or was it a bad first impression? Nevertheless, I didn’t see these friends again until much later in time, after Peter Rabbit and I had gone our separate ways. I ran into them randomly at a bar and drunkenly told them all to fuck off.
On reflection, Peter Rabbit’s friends probably didn’t think too highly of me, either, and understandably so.
Still, I wondered then and wonder now: When you’re dating someone, how much influence should that person’s friends and family have on the relationship? Are you actually dating that person’s friends and family, too? Or is the relationship only between the two people in the relationship, and should everyone else simply fuck off?
Let’s say it together: boundaries.
We can all likely agree that mixing families is hard. Hell, some individuals can’t mix the proper shoes with the correct shirt. You know who you are. But despite the difficulties of life and love (and fashion!), it’s always necessary to respect another person’s boundaries, even if we don’t quite understand those boundaries or the choices that established them. This mindset takes work, people. Constant work. I can admit that I occasionally slash frequently struggle with it.
For example, pretend your sibling is dating a B I T C U Next Tuesday (yes, I’ve used this descriptive gem in the past, but it’s too good not to repeat). Is it your job to point this out? Do you have the right to address your concerns? Or should you sit back, hope for the best, and let the relationship unfold on its own? Then, if or when the shit storm erupts, be there to offer support, not judgment? No one wants to hear, “I told you so.” Not to mention, people need to learn some things on their own, no matter what we, individually, think to be true.
Replace sibling with parent or friend or pizza delivery guy—anyone, really—and the point remains the same. Who are we to offer our opinion? Especially when it’s not requested. Of course, if any sort of harm or danger is occurring, that’s a whole different ball game.
I can recall introducing my mom to an old boyfriend. No, not Peter Rabbit, a different guy. Peter Rabbit never made it out of fling territory, despite his “d”-word talents. But after this different guy dumped me (via text, no less), my mom revealed that she knew the relationship was never going to work. When asked why she hadn’t bothered to clue me in, she casually stated, “You wouldn’t have listened. You needed to figure it out on your own.”
My point? My mom didn’t cross a boundary, a boundary I never knew was fully in place until recently.
Yes, it’s time to circle back to that infamous “b” word from earlier. Boundary. I know, it’s a tough one. Probably because of the first syllable. Bound. After all, does anyone want to be bound? I mean, without their consent and a safe word in place?
It bears repeating: When it comes to relationships, all relationships, it can be difficult to set boundaries, as well as follow them, regardless if that boundary has to do with telling someone to fuck off (well, the nicer version of that), keeping your opinion to yourself, or having an open conversation with important people in your circle about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior.
Also, while we’re on the subject, here’s another question to consider: In terms of boundaries, do you find it harder to set them with new people or people you’re already involved with?
We’ve clearly established that boundaries can be challenging—setting and following—but what’s the solution? When or how does the idea of boundaries get easier? Does it ever get easier?
Broken down in layman’s terms, how do you set healthy boundaries?
How the hell do I know? I’m not a person who has it all together but thank you for thinking that I am. Yet, I do believe that in order to set a healthy, sturdy, won’t-faulter-in-a-strong-wind boundary, it’s necessary to be completely honest—honest with yourself and honest with the person you’re setting that boundary with.
Further, I do know for certain that both practice and consistency matter. As with anything, the more you practice boundaries and stick with them, the more comfortable you get with making them a part of your daily life. Just remember, you are in control of your own boundaries. You get to decide where to draw the line and the consequences of crossing it. If someone has an issue with your boundary, it’s their issue, not yours.
If you have one new goal this new month or new year, contemplate setting new, healthy boundaries within all your relationships. You’re so worth it.
Lee Ann Smith says