What are boundaries? Boundaries are communications in relationships about what’s not ok & what’s ok. I tell people when they see my vast library at home, “I don’t lend my books. I would rather buy you one than risk never seeing my book again.” That communicates a boundary.
The boundaries that are most often shared are about what you don’t want.
Because people are so full of avoidance, often boundaries are not communicated until people are really angry. Usually they have waited too long & suppressed how they really feel. Boundaries are really important because it is a way to demonstrate respect.
Often parents feel very entitled to ignore boundaries. They believe that If you love me, then I should just be able to show up on your doorstep & be welcomed. They don’t want to hear the ordinary boundary “Please call & let us know you are coming.”
Someone I know wrote a terrific letter to his parents. He has been a people pleaser which means he has not been authentic for his entire life. He is healing & working very hard to get mentally healthy. So part of his progress is to write to his parents & be more real about boundaries.
He gave his permission to share the letter he worked so hard on which asks for greater respect for his decisions different from his parent’s expectations:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I love you both and I know you love me. All of my life both of you have always told and shown me love and caring. You provided me with a college education, a wonderful home, full of memories, laughs and amazing food. No matter what, I could and can, always count on you to be there for me.
I never want that to change. Both of you brought me up to show you respect and love for family, which I do. You are great people and great parents and I hope that the rest of this letter will help you to see the son you raised is now a man and how things have to change.
I am a man capable of making choices for my life and future. I began lying as early as six years old and people pleasing even before then. People pleasing means I lie to make you happy. I cared more about catering to you. By not being real to myself. I erased my feelings.
That is what I have done all of my life, always worrying about appeasing others and neglecting myself and my feelings. This enables both of you to have control over me, because I would always go along with what you would say or feel, for fear of making you upset with me.
Now, I am changing this about me. Now I’m more honest with myself and now I am trying to be honest with both of you. Lately I feel sad and angry with our relationship. Our communication is extremely poor. Recently, I have tried to communicate in a hearable way and I was treated the same way that I have always been.
I took a small reasonable boundary requesting a phone call notifying me when you would be coming over to my house and both of you played the victim and turned this boundary around as though I never wanted you to visit again. Boundaries are reasonable and you acted as if they are unreasonable.
Another example is telling me I should not live in limbo in regards to the state of my marriage. That is not respectful. I get to make my own choices even if you don’t like it.
Another example, you need to stop blaming my wife for all of the problems in my marriage. I contributed 85% to our problems.
She has loved me enough to be honest with me and I am doing the same with her. Both of us will take as long as we feel is necessary to decide our future. Those are examples of things that violate boundaries. It has always been difficult to voice what my real feelings are.
Relationships without boundaries lack respect.Boundaries mean respect to me. Even if you have felt that you have respected me or the boundaries above, I have not felt that. I understand that you treat me the way that you do because you love me, you want me to be happy and you want me safe.
This is what I need to be happy. I need to feel respected and heard. Long term boundaries make all relationships work better. I love you both; your son