Boundaries 101: The Why, the What, & the How
My best friend got very upset over something very small the other day.
Someone who had scheduled a viewing of her house canceled last-minute - like, 10 minutes before they were supposed to show up - and she was mad. I felt she had every right to be annoyed, since she could have slept in and snuggled with her husband and their dogs, and that’s just rude! I would have been pissed! Wouldn’t you?
She was upset about the lost snuggle, but mostly, she was disappointed with herself. Why? Because her husband took the cancellation completely in stride, and even though she wanted to, she wasn’t able to let it go. “Why am I so sensitive,” she asked me?
I immediately thought of what Glennon Doyle says in Untamed, that the opposite of sensitive is not brave... it's insensitive.
"The opposite of sensitive is not brave. It’s not brave to refuse to pay attention, to refuse to notice, to refuse to feel and know and imagine. The opposite of sensitive is insensitive, and that’s no badge of honor."
And her husband is not insensitive. He just happens to be a champion of boundaries. He has always been so clear about that with everyone in his life. I used to work for him and I was amazed by his fearlessness. Here’s an example: his outgoing message on his voicemail is, “Please text your message to this same number.” I mean, the sheer audacity… of telling someone how best to reach you… which is what they are trying to do…
Maybe he’s on to something.
Being upset about someone disrespecting your time isn't a sensitive/insensitive situation. It's a bravery/fear one - it's about being an accommodating people-pleaser, even when it harms you.
When we get upset about something small that happens with a perfect stranger, it’s a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back situation. We’re overwhelmed by all of the times that our boundaries are disrespected – usually because we haven’t made them clear or insisted on their respect – and this one is just unforgivable because we don’t even know or like this random person who is walking all over us.
Let me say that more plainly.
We’re upset because we lack good boundaries with the people close to us, and since we feel like we don’t get to have that, we get our feathers especially ruffled when someone not close to us disrespects those boundaries.
Without boundaries, we are too receptive to everything that comes our way.
What do good boundaries look like?
Good boundaries are simple and direct. They may be verbally communicated, but they can also be simply understood. Sometimes, the boundary is for yourself, and what you say out loud is something else entirely. I swiped a few great ones from an article in Psychology Today.
For example, I have an elaborate evening wind-down routine, and if guests overstay their welcome, it delays my bedtime and thus affects my enjoyment of tomorrow morning. Instead of being angry about it, I make it clear when we are making plans what time those plans end. I might remind my guest during the visit, and usually, when that time rolls around, they’re heading out the door without me having to bring it up again.
Here’s the boundary:
"You have a finite amount of emotional energy every day, and unused minutes do not roll over."
I’ll give you another great example, from my big sister, Lorie, who is a goddamn Boundary Queen. I complained to her once that someone I wasn’t close with was texting and calling me a lot. I didn’t want to be super close with this person, but I didn’t know how to extricate myself from the situation. Lorie told me that it was up to me to set the tone for the relationship, so I should respond to the messages with the frequency I wanted to have contact with that person, and ignore the rest. Whether that’s answering once a day, once a week, or once a month is up to me. I remember scrunching up my face a little and then saying, “You don’t always answer me when I text or call you, sometimes for days…”
And she said, “YUP.”
Ouch. But, message received. And now I respect that boundary. I also don’t take it as personally when she doesn’t respond to me right away. I realized that I’m not the only one calling her, and that she has every right to decide how much she wants to interact with me.
"A narcissist cannot invade your space unless you open the door."
There’s no specific phrasing, formula, or actionable for a boundary. It’s just a vague expression that means something incredibly important: I respect myself, and you will too.
How does this apply to your wedding plan?
In my new offer, the Jumpstart, we nail down what you and your partner value most – in each other, in your hopes for the future, and for your wedding journey and day. Those values become your wedding mantra - i.e., the boundary that guides all of your decision-making while you plan.
Setting a boundary around your relationship starting right now, before you even think you need it, will help keep the goodness in and the negativity out. Think about this long term – do you want your parents weighing in on every aspect of your life? You want their help negotiating the price of your car (something my dad still does for all his kids, even though two of them are in their 40’s!) and finding a notary when you get your first home. You might want help if and when you have a baby (hello free babysitting!)… but you also want to make the big decisions about your child’s upbringing with your partner.
At some point in your life, you have to stop asking your parents for permission, and start giving it to yourself. Your engagement is the perfect time to do that, if you haven’t already. And because the engagement is often fraught with tension (the budget, the traditions, the big dreams you’ve had since you were a kid), those boundaries will support you throughout this stressful time.
WTF is a wedding mantra?
Imagine if all the stress to please everyone around you disappeared – that is your wedding mantra. It is a permission slip and a boundary. It is a phrase that encompasses your and your partner’s values, keeps you focused on what matters, and keeps you from wasting money on ideas and vendors that aren’t a good fit.
It is the perfect comeback to anyone who asks what your wedding plan is, or who wants to tell you what it should be. All the pressure to plan the perfect wedding will be lifted, and in stead, you’ll be planning your dream wedding.
If that sounds luxurious, then click here and get a jumpstart on your wedding journey - even if it's already in progress - and I'll take you from feeling totally stressed out to totally blissed out about your wedding!