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How To Build Boundaries In Relationships

black life coaches, african american life coachesWhen the New Year begins, we usually have all types of expectations for how things will transpire.  We’re going to lose weight, save more money or whatever declaration is popular with us at the time.  Although, we must be careful of expectations due to the fact they can be a primary cause of our suffering.  If an individual expects to lose 20 pounds in a month or save a prolific amount of money in a week, you can probably see how detrimental that belief would be she or he’s psyche.

What is not unreasonable is for he or she to expect to be respected in there relationships.  Having a network of healthy people surrounding us makes life easier and keeps us sane.  Sometimes in life it’s not that we surround ourselves with awful people, it’s just we haven’t taught them how to treat us yet.  It’s common for many of us to try to avoid drama or conflict.  It’s sometimes easier to ignore or wallow in discomfort than to do something about it.  We’re either used to being treated a certain way or just hide the feeling all together.  These unproductive strategies can be something we learned from our family of origin, culture or various other possibilities.  As adults, it’s important to realize we do have the option of building boundaries in our relationships.

There are three steps that I use to set boundaries:

1.  Deciding what you stand for

2.  Accountability

3.  Let them show up, how they show up

To set boundaries, one needs to have a clear understanding what she or he stands for.  While doing this, it’s important to remember that none of us are perfect.  Our family and friends will disappoint us at times and we will disappoint them as well.  If one goes through life expecting everyone to heed to his or her beliefs, that individual will spend most of the time in complete isolation.

Yet, knowing what you clearly will not accept gives you the standard bearer that you need to precede forward.  A wise man was once quoted as saying, “Those who stand for nothing, will fall for anything.”  This is why it’s important to know what you will and will not put up with in your relationships.  A sure a way to come to that understanding is by knowing who you are and what you stand for.

Accountability means expressing whatever is bothering you in a particular relationship.  This is important because we cannot expect people to read our minds.  If we have an issue with someone, it becomes our responsibility to communicate that with she or he.  Even if we were never taught as children how to communicate appropriately, it now becomes our responsibility to learn as adults.   Whether you decide to speak to he or she in person or write a letter, it helps to address people the way you would want if the roles were reversed.  It’s also helpful to focus on a specific incident and not bring a laundry list of past grievances to the discussion.  Another technique is to speak about how the incident or behavior made you feel opposed to being accusatory and putting she or he on the defensive.

Let them show up, how they show up is done exactly the way it sounds.  It’s important to honor how you feel and not quickly retreat trying to hold onto a friend.  If you communicated your feelings in an honest and respectful manner, than there is nothing to apologize for.  If someone is crossing the line and not respecting you after being told, why would you want someone like that in your life?  Setting boundaries does not require a lot of drama but it does mean allowing people to leave your circle if they can’t be respectful.  Besides, people tend to respect an individual less if she or he will accept any type of behavior or “run from the battlefield.”  Now, I’m not saying that violence is necessary; the majority of conflicts can be resolved without any type of violent behavior.  What the metaphor does mean is that no culture in the world celebrates the man or woman who runs from the battlefield.  Many people say life is battle; accepting people in your life who won’t respect you will lead to a dysfunctional outcome.

Life is full of choices.  By choosing to love and be compassionate toward yourself, you can have the same outlook for others.  Being compassionate also means allowing people to make decisions for themselves, even if we don’t agree.  Think the Serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Let the boundaries we set be the difference maker between the people we accept in our lives and those we don’t.



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Vertis Williams
Vertis Williams is a licensed alcohol drug counselor and Addiction Recovery Relationship Coach and the founder of Regulating Resistance LLC, which is a coaching practice who’s focus is on helping people in recovery develop healthy and functional relationships.

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