I have been told that I don't respect boundaries whether they are mine or another's. That may be true. I have had a tendency to become enmeshed in another person's life where I feel what they feel, do what they do. When that happens I lose myself which leaves me with weak or no boundaries.
By having weak boundaries, I would morph into being what someone else wanted me to be. This is really a form of dishonesty which prevents real intimacy. It's not possible to be intimate with a person who can't express feelings, wants, likes or dislikes, or who can't be honest about those feelings. I think that this behavior was a way by which I learned to survive.
I didn't know what a boundary was until Al-Anon. And once in Al-anon, I mistakenly thought setting a boundary was something I had to do to someone else. What I now understand is the only person I can really set a boundary with is myself.
For instance, I can't set a boundary in which I tell another what they can't say or do. I cannot tape their mouths shut or tie their hands. But I can learn to say no when I want to say no.
I didn't have "No" as a boundary for such a long time. It was difficult for me when I was younger to say no to those who asked something of me. I would either go along with what was wanted, lie about why I couldn't do it, or just avoid the issue altogether. None of these responses worked because I felt resentment, anger and guilt. Even if I did manage to convey a "no", it was always given with a long-winded attempt to soften the blow. I have since learned that "No" is a complete sentence.
Another problem I've had with boundaries is to not believe it when another told me "No". I would do what I could to convince them to change their mind, to do what I wanted them to do. That was what I would do with my parents as a child, and that childlike behavior carried through into adulthood.
That's why boundaries can be tricky. I have to look at my motive for setting one: am I doing it for my good, or to try to make someone else do something I think is good for them? Am I trying to change them or to punish them? I don't think these are good reasons to set boundaries.
I've found that my boundaries tend to be flexible. I don't like to establish a wall. I also don't want to constantly drop boundaries so that they are never in place. I read that a good boundary could be thought of as a being like a drawbridge that I can pull up when I need to do so.
These are some guidelines for setting boundaries:
1. Give up any expectations about the outcome
2. Clearly define consequences that don't disrupt my serenity.
3. Set boundaries and communicate them clearly.
4. Enforce boundaries consistently.
5. Set boundaries without regard for the relationshipAnd these are some of the healthy boundaries that I now strive to use :
Keep my Mouth Shut-- I don't need to engage in arguments with another.
Live One Day at a Time-- I don't want to project about the future or rehash the past over and over
Take Nobody's Inventory but My Own-- I don't need to browbeat another or try to convince them of my viewpoint. I just need to focus on my own behavior.
Focus on myself-- I pay attention to what I am thinking and feeling and reach out to others in the program when I am angry, lonely or tired.
I'm still far from being able to do all of these things consistently. But I have come to understand that having healthy boundaries is must better than not having any at all.