There is much written on the need to set boundaries with harmful people. There is indeed a learning curve in learning to set boundaries. We need to understand that a good boundary is not a rule I place on someone else, but it is a decision I’m going to make given someone else’s negative actions. We need to understand how to make them without becoming the controller. We also need to understand what is appropriate and what is not. But the hardest part is not in the setting of boundaries, it is in the holding of boundaries.
There are two kinds of boundary-breakers; the first is the person who just wants what they want and will fight to get it, and the second is the person who will cross a boundary just because it’s there. Both kinds of boundary-breakers create unhealthy, destructive relationships.
When we finally get strong enough to set a boundary, we believe that if someone really loved us they would adhere to our boundaries. The truth is, true love does respect another person’s boundaries. A boundary-breaker is generally not loving but is self-seeking.
Holding a boundary starts by not getting offended at not being loved. Now, don’t get me wrong…someone who is not respecting your boundaries IS being offensive. But reacting out of a place of offense isn’t going to help you. We need to step into a place of love for the offender and hold our boundaries in kindness, because that is what is good for them and for you. And yes…you can love a person by saying no their desire. This may be the hardest thing you ever have to do in life.
Now here is where the rubber meets the road: the boundary-breaker isn’t going to like it. It’s not going to produce warm fuzzy feelings in them for you. In fact, they may tell you that you are being selfish, controlling, or manipulative. They may use anger, stonewalling, guilt, or manipulation to get you to change your mind. They may change direction and reject or blame you. But, the most important thing to do right here (as long as you are physically safe), is to hold the boundary; don’t apologize, don’t explain, don’t get angry, don’t recant…and have a confidence you are doing the right thing. If you are not physically safe to be able to hold a boundary, it’s time to make a safety plan.
Even if you can only project a confidence, while shaking in your boots, that will be good enough. You see, when you hold a boundary in anger, they will then turn the accusation to you and say, ‘well, she’s just mad and will get over it’ or ‘he’s got such a problem with anger’, and they don’t look at themselves.
Holding a boundary in love is a powerful force. It leaves the responsibility of reconciliation with the offender (to respect your boundary), while leaving the one offended in a loving and healthy place. When we set a boundary with a boundary-breaker, we must realize that at some point they will make us hold the boundary. So, we need to be ready and do it well.