The healtier boundaries, the more satisfactory relationships.
Have you ever said “I’ve given them everything of mine, but they don’t realize the worth of it!”? There are many who have said this. Their common feature is that they consume their own resources while sacrificing themselves for others.
Just like the boundaries which indicate the property ownerships, there are crucial invisible boundaries that separate us and others. If these boundaries are not known or learned wrongly, it can lead to exhaustion and deterioration of relationships over time.
Some of the thoughts like “If I set boundaries against others, wouldn’t I get upset with them?” or “will I be lonely at last?” may confuse. Yet actually, boundaries are not the thick walls in which we lock ourselves; rather they are like a fence that shows where ourselves and others begin and end. Thus, it also helps to maintain healthy relationships.
Let’s assume an employee named Sally. Her colleague John is lazy and really bad at time management. He requests Sally that most of his task to complete because Sally is quite a disciplined and responsible woman, as well as being so ‘soft’ to others so as not to offend them. John had also requested someone to do his works once, but they said him that they already had their own works. Then he has ‘discovered’ Sally. Because when every single time he comes to tell her that if he can’t complete the tasks in time, then he can be fired; Sally’s conscience becomes uncomfortable with this situation and whispers that “you have to help him”.
Somehow, Sally arranges her time and finishes both her own and his tasks in stress due to extra burden. After this tired and long work day, she goes home and wants to spend time with her family. But suddenly she notices that one part of her task is overlooked and she has to work at home now. Her husband and children reproach but they are already accustomed to this.
In this example, there are more than one sufferer. The first one is Sally, because she cannot say ‘no’ to others and undertakes their burden. So, she even forgets her own issues so as to ‘help’ others. Unconsciously she gets angry with them because they don’t take responsibility. Also curiously enough, some of her friends take her for granted with the thought that they can lead her by the nose. The second is Sally’s family. Her husband gets into difficulty to communicate with her because she ‘s generally either tired or busy. He misses her even in a same house. Her children can’t take necessary care from her for the same reason. And the last one is John. Don’t be suprised. He seems relax because transfers most of his works to her, but actually as long as Sally helps him, he’ll have difficulty in learning time management and taking responsibility.
If we don’t want our good intention to have such an outcome, we must learn to say simply ‘no’. As we do this and sustain our determination, others will get used to it and respect us.
“Boundaries not only show what we are responsible for, but also define what is not on our property and what we are not responsible for. For example, we are not responsible for others. We are never told to control others, but we spend most of our time and energy doing it!”*
*Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, Boundaries Workbook