by Matt Vaughn
Setting boundaries is a phrase we often hear when we seek advice on how to have healthier relationships. Putting into practice can be more painful and confusing than the theory.
One of the struggles with setting emotional boundaries with family members is that doing so may hurt their feelings. One thing I tell people before they set those boundaries is to ask themselves- "Am I in an emotionally stable enough place right now to handle my actions (i.e.- setting boundaries) triggering painful feelings?". It is also important to keep in mind painful feelings are often not directly related to your actions and more to what the other has come to believe they need from relationships.
But if the answer is yes, then proceed with setting those boundaries. If the answer is no then take a step back and work on getting to that emotional place where you are strong enough to deal with possibly hurting a family member's feelings when you set the boundaries.
Also remember that we don't have control over how a family member will react when we set boundaries. So before setting boundaries it is important to understand and fully accept this reality. It is not uncommon that people will set boundaries and then get frustrated that the person did not react the way we wanted them to. For example you may choose to not have certain kinds of conversations with a parent and the parent will respond by accusing you of doing something hurtful to them. If it is important to still be in a loving and caring relationship you need to also express the care you have in other ways that feel good to you, and verbally remind the other person you are not abandoning them. All the while, you continue to assert the space you need and not agree to situations that make you feel overstretched or intruded upon.