PMH 85 | Boundary Work

 

Healthy boundaries promote well-being and provide the framework for a deeper connection to others; however, many of the boundaries we create are from the wrong frame of mind. In this episode, introduce a reframe that will shift how you view boundary work.

 

 

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What Reframing Can Teach Us About Boundary Work

We are now in springtime 2022, almost officially.

You can’t tell in Vegas.

That’s true. You can’t tell. We are going to be talking about the juicy topic of boundaries.

You might say to yourself, ladies, “You’ve already talked about boundaries. Why are you bringing it up again?”

They are fucking important. I didn’t mean to swear at you but boundaries are super important.

They are. When we talked about it last time, you framed it so well but while we were all fair, how would you frame it?

When we were talking about boundaries before, we set a line. This is the line that we expect everybody in the world to understand. This is our boundary, these are our lines, and this is how you have to be to interact with us. You had some recent information that shifted that position for you.

I was on TikTok minding my own business like I normally do, and I came across this account, @DomesticBlisters. Her name is KC Davis. She’s a therapist and specializes specifically in boundaries. She was talking about how when you are doing boundary work. It has to do only with your behavior. I feel like when we were talking about this before, I was addressing other people’s behavior. If they do this, they are crossing my boundary.

She says that shift is wrong because when you are telling someone, “Don’t talk to me that way,” it’s not a boundary. It’s a request. That sentence stood out for me. She says, “Rather than saying that, what you need to be doing is, ‘I won’t or will not remain in conversations with people that talk to me that way.’ That is a boundary.” That shift has to go from basically blaming others to, “What are my actions? What am I holding myself accountable to? How am I showing up in this experience and situation?”\

PMH 85 | Boundary Work
Boundary Work: That shift has to go from basically blaming others to asking, “what are my actions? What am I holding myself accountable to? How am I showing up in this experience, in this situation?”

 

What it sounds like to me is that you are going from, “This is an external boundary outside of myself,” to, “These are my internal boundaries. This is something about me.” I remember when I was mad about going to a marketing meeting but it wasn’t because of the marketing meeting. It was because I said, “I don’t want to be doing things this late because I want to be able to spend at least the small time Matt and I have during the week together. Here I was in a damn marketing meeting that I had zero desire to be in.” I was mad about it. When we are looking at it through this lens, I was mad because I’d crossed my own boundary, not because I’d let others cross my boundary.

I agree with you. I sent you the TikTok but when I saw that TikTok, it reminded me of the conversation I had with my mother. Readers, you might remember I talked about this conversation I had with my mother, where she kept asking me to do something around the house. It was to hang her curtain. I said, “I will do it when I get back from my dad’s house.” I was planning a trip to my dad, and I had a lot of anxiety about that. Within a fifteen-minute span, she had asked me five separate times, and I exploded. At first, I was proud of myself. I firmly said no, and she kept asking and asking.

When I exploded, I didn’t even feel bad because she crossed my boundary. I said no, and she crossed it. What it was is that I continued to engage in that conversation because eventually, I relent it. I was like, “Fine. I will go to your house and hang up the curtain.” I was mad because I allowed and pushed myself further than I had wanted to. It’s very easy for us to deflect blame and accountability. If we are talking about living an empowered life, we look at boundary work through this lens. It allows us to take ownership of it because it’s not about them. I can’t control anything about their actions, behavior, feelings, and emotions. I can only control me and what I’m willing to tolerate and accept.

It's very easy for us to deflect blame and accountability. If we're talking about living an empowered life, looking at boundary work through this lens allows us to take ownership of it. Share on X

As you are speaking, what came to mind was showing somebody the line because they may not know where it is with you. For me, it’s one of these things that happens with Matt and lawyer jokes where I will be like, “That’s enough,” because I’m over it at some point. If he continues to go down that path, that’s when I’m starting to get mad. That reframing it this way of, the first thing is, “Here’s the line. I’m telling you where the line is. If you continue to want to engage in this space, and I continue to be here and allow it, then I’m the one that’s getting mad because I’ve already said, ‘No, that’s enough.’”

Instead, what I can do is I can say, “That’s the line. Since you still want to be in lawyer jokes, I’m going to go upstairs.” I can remove myself from the situation in a way to protect myself because I’m serious about the fact that I’m over those fucking jokes. The first one is funny but the 5th or 6th one, and you keep prodding, I’m like, “No, I’m good. Cut it off.”

It’s almost like a both, and which in appreciative inquiry, we use a lot of both, and anything can be nothing has to be. I like that you still can incorporate the request like, “Don’t talk to me that way.” It’s establishing that line because a lot of people aren’t going to know what that line is. Once you’ve made it very clear, there’s no ambiguity. When that person continues to cross that line, it almost removes that guilt that I would normally feel about making a person feel bad by walking away from the situation because I would feel bad about leaving. It’s like, “I’ve made myself perfectly clear in the fact that you are crossing that boundary shows not how you feel towards me but you must not respect what I’ve said, so I’m going to respect myself enough to walk away.”

You are either not respecting or you don’t think I’m serious. That is usually the one that comes up. When I said I’m over it, I’m over it. If you are not taking that seriously, so I have to take a bigger action that’s more to protect myself and be like, “I’m sorry, I will stop.” For him, it ends up being this overreaction. It’s like, “I will never say another lawyer joke ever again.” I’m like, “What I’m saying is right now, keep playing. If you want some of this, let’s go.” It’s incumbent on us to let people know where our lines are because they are not mind readers. Nobody is going to know like, “I don’t like it when you touch me.”

It's incumbent on us to let people know where our lines are because they're not mind readers. Share on X

You have to say something. Not just assume that this person is going to know that you are not someone who likes physical touch. You have to at least let them have that. Part of what you are doing is you are engaging in a way that allows other people to modify their behavior. If they are still not modifying, then it’s still incumbent on you to protect your boundary. If it means that much to you or it’s the hill you want to die on, great. If it’s not, you let it go but then you know that you’ve made a choice not to enforce that boundary.

Prior to us starting this episode, I drew two boxes. In one box, I wrote others, and in the second box, I wrote me. I feel like it’s the first way of going about setting up a boundary, at least initially. When we were talking about boundaries in a previous episode, it was like, “If you cross that boundary, I was putting others in a box. If you cross that boundary or try to get outside that, that’s where I’m drawing the line and being really upset because it’s all about you.” I feel like shifting this frame is putting me in the box, and if someone tries to enter my box, I close myself in. I’m like, “You can’t treat me that way. I have control of me. I have control of that space within the box.” I know that’s a weird visualization but for me, I can’t control their actions but I can control my space and my energy in that space.

Maybe instead of a box, the image that came to me was that you are in your own bubble but it’s a flexible bubble. There are certain parts where it’s going to ebb and flow and like, “Maybe I do give a little bit more here,” then it bounces out again. You figure it out because every person that you are going to interact with has a different type of permission from you.

If we are walking into your house and Vince walks by and gives you a smack on the butt, he’s got permission to do that. A stranger outside does not have permission to do that. You would hope so. That’s why I’m thinking about it. It’s something a little bit more fluid and less rigid than a box because you are not necessarily changing. It’s who you are interacting with that changes based on the type of permission that they have with you.

I like the fact that I say box but I imagine in anything in life its fluid. We evolve and change as people. That also goes with our boundaries, especially if we are doing a lot of healing work and growth. When you are talking about your situation with Matt in terms of these lawyer jokes, I’m not saying you can’t ever tell a lawyer joke again in your entire life but rather, not now.

The more that you are consistent with it, the more your requests are taken more seriously because I feel like if you are consistent with stating something or your request, walking away or living into your boundaries. That person crosses it, and it will be like, “She means what she says when she says no more. It means no more.” Over time, they know how to interact with you because you teach people how to treat you.

You do teach people how to treat you. Share on X

You absolutely do it. What’s coming to mind when you are talking about that is, I’ve had instances with my family where it’s like, “We can’t talk about that around Siria because she doesn’t like it.” They are poking fun at it and it’s like, “I don’t like you being openly racist in front of me. Don’t do that.” Is that a bad request? I don’t think it’s bad but they are trying to minimize it almost. Sometimes, Matt will have that instance of like, “I guess I can’t make a joke here because you will be too sensitive about it.” I’m like, “No, I’m not being sensitive. Make your joke once but don’t make it 5 or 6 times in a row.”

I had something similar happen with my family. As you all know, I had daddy issues for a very long time, and I’m the only one in my family that still talks to my father. Anytime my siblings would get together, including my mother, they would talk about my father, and I was like, “Can not talk about him while I’m here? You all can bash him without me but I don’t want to be in that space when you are doing it.” My mother would be like, “We can’t talk about your dad because Melissa’s here, and she gets all upset.” Was that comment necessary? No, it wasn’t necessary. Again, when you start to establish boundaries, you are going to get some pushback.

You absolutely are going to get pushback, and part of that is because they don’t know how to operate in this space. It’s like, “I’m not asking for anything but you don’t need to bring it up every single time we all get together. Don’t talk about dad. I’m asking you not to talk shit about somebody who I love still in front of me.” That’s not an inherently bad request. If you don’t like it, don’t invite me over.

I remember in the past, when I was thinking about or starting to explore what boundary work looked like for me, I would spend days or weeks mulling over how I was going to verbalize this boundary that I wanted to set. I’ve even sent you text messages like, “What do you think of this? Does this sound too mean?” It was because I was so worried about making that other person feel uncomfortable regardless of the fact that I felt not incomplete but scarred or hurt. Regardless of my feelings, it might be that people pleaser but I definitely would spend more time considering their feelings than I did my own. It’s so unhealthy.

When you are looking at boundary work, you are looking at how I want this relationship to be. I don’t even think boundaries are necessarily bad things that people should get so upset about. It’s like, “I’m doing this so we can continue to have a relationship with one another. If you want to have access to me, this is how we are going to do this.” It’s setting up the rules of engagement with you because the other alternative, which we’ve talked about before, is cutting people off. When I first started going to therapy, one of the things that I realized is I had very strict boundaries but it was a complete separation from my parents where they did not know what was going on in my life.

I separated as much from them as possible. It’s funny because whenever I go to Central America, they are like, “You guys live in the same city? You guys must see each other all the time.” I see them maybe once a quarter, which is still true because that’s the pattern we’ve gotten into. I will say I have invited them to go out to a show at a silent auction. You all know I love a silent auction. They send me all the invites. We were at the silent auction, and there was an artist that was like, “This was a good show.”My parents have taken me a couple of years ago. Matt didn’t go to the show with us because his folks were in town. He’s like, “You go with your folks.”

It was good. I was like, “Matt would’ve liked this show.” The same artist was coming, and I thought, “It tickets for four. Let’s go together.” Here I am inviting them to do something because I want to as opposed to feeling obligated to do it. It’s coming from a different place. It’s these rules of engagement of how we’re going to interact with each other because I could continue to have that wall. You know Jack shit about anything and barely knows my address. I can start allowing things in a certain way and knowing, “If these boundaries are going to be flexible, it’s going to allow us to have a relationship.”

I like that because, in a previous episode, we also talked about disengaged families, which is what you had said your family mostly identifies as. Having this boundary work allows you to move from that side of the spectrum a little bit closer to the middle, which is a healthier relationship with your family.

That’s what the boundaries are. If you have people in your life being like, “You are setting up too many boundaries,” or they are getting protective or like, “Why are you setting a boundary against me?” This is about us having a better relationship.

I like that reframe. I care enough about you, us, our friendship, and our relationship that I want to make this work. I want to put in the work to that we are both showing up authentically. That’s what boundaries do. When I was showing up for other people, I was only showing you a portion of myself because I felt I couldn’t be my full self.

At least establishing vocalizing and living into these boundaries allows us both to come and interact in this relationship authentically and get the most out of this relationship. What a nice reframe that is because I didn’t think about it in the sense that I care enough or so much about you. Not even just about myself but I care enough about you that I would like to continue this relationship. For that relationship to continue to flourish, we need these things to happen.

PMH 85 | Boundary Work
Boundary Work: Allowing, or at least establishing, vocalizing, and living into these boundaries allows us both to come and interact in this relationship authentically and get the most out of this relationship.

 

Looking at that point of view of this relationship, there are going to be people who don’t like it and I’m like, “This doesn’t benefit me. I don’t like this way of being whatever, and then we don’t have to be in a relationship with each other.” Instead of kicking people out of your life, they are going to leave because they are not going to want to engage. One of the things that I have with my folks, which I know you have something similar with, is that I am trying not to talk about my siblings with my parents. If my mom wants to know information and how my nieces are doing, you need to engage in your own relationship with my brothers. I’m not going to be the one feeding you information.

She will ask, “Have you seen Francisco and Luna recently?” I’m like, “Yeah. They are good.” That’s it. I’m not going to engage in talking about that relationship because that relationship is my relationship with them, and that’s a boundary that I’ve set up. She’s picked up on it because she will ask but she won’t go into all of the things. It’s like, “If you want to have a relationship with my siblings, go have a relationship. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to let you triangulate me in here.”

That one is a little bit of a hard one because I feel like my dad is trying to do that a bit more as we have our own relationship. That’s a whole other thing that I’m still working through. It’s knowing, “Here’s how we want to engage. If you want to have lunch with me, mom? Great. We can have lunch. We can talk about things that are going on with us but I’m not going to sit here and give you a full rundown of, ‘My brother told me this. My brother is doing this and that. Go find out for yourself.’”

Coming back to this reframe of boundary work being only pertaining to you had me thinking about my interaction with my mother because I did point the finger at her and was upset with her. When I called you and Vince, I was fuming but when I think about it, I even replayed my own actions. Again, coming through this new lens, I see where I went wrong or where I could have done better. This has been a great reframe, and I’m using it as a learning opportunity as I continue to chisel out what those boundaries look like for me.

Dear audience, I want to point out the amazing thing that Melissa just did. Melissa went ahead and replayed this from this other lens. What she did was create neuro-pathways in her brain of how she would like to interact with her mother in the future. It would be from this lens. This is something that we all can do. She did it naturally because she’s fucking amazing. Imagine a hair flip here because I’m definitely doing it but it’s something that I learned.

You modeled it. You go back and learn the thing. You are like, “How would I like to have acted in this situation?” It sounded like it would have been maybe empathy for yourself. It was like, “That was a boundary that I was crossing.” Looking at yourself internally as opposed to all of the finger-pointing that went on. Next time, if something like that happens because you’ve created this neural pathway, you will now have that option come more naturally to you.

For readers that are wondering what questions I ask myself when I am reflecting, I always ask myself two questions. It was two questions that I’ve learned in the field of appreciative inquiry because my boss would ask me this all the time. People make mistakes. The interaction that I had with my mom wasn’t a mistake. I see it as a learning opportunity because I want to have a healthy relationship with my mother, and that includes setting boundaries.

I’m sure she will want to set boundaries with me but it’s like, “What did you learn, and how would you do it differently next time?” I’ve replayed that and reflected on it. I’ve come up with the answer so that if I’m ever in that situation again, I will take that learning, how I would’ve done it differently and apply it to this new scenario.

 

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