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The Two Steps Needed to Set a Healthy Boundary

The holidays trigger lots of thoughts about boundaries. Some of our families seem to have no boundaries. No subject is off limits and no opinion goes unexpressed. This can make the getting together a very fraught experience. Often we dread what might happen at the event so much that we spend the weeks before it in a stew of negative emotions and stress.

While coronavirus has provided a handy dodge for those of us who want a legitimate reason to avoid holiday gatherings, and totally sucks for the rest of us that want desperately to gather with friends and family, we don’t need an outside circumstance to rescue us. We can rescue ourselves by understanding how to set a healthy boundary.

First we need to know what a boundary isn’t. A boundary is not a wish or a hope that someone will act a certain way or treat us with respect. A boundary is not whining about how someone always does something that you hate and demanding that they stop it. A boundary has two parts. The first part is the request. I call this the “if” part of the boundary. The second part of the boundary is the consequence. This is the “then part. It goes like this. “If you yell at me, then I will leave the room and I will not come back in the room as long as you are yelling.” “I really want to meet you for lunch, but I know you tend to run late. If you are more than 15 minutes late, then I will leave.”

Boundaries are not combative and they are not meant to control the other person. Boundaries are not about forcing other people to behave in a certain way. Individuals always get to choose how they behave. Sometimes we forget, especially with family and friends that we always get to choose how we behave in a certain situation. So think about a boundary that you would like to set and try it out. If you want some free help with this, shoot me an email at and we can chat about it.

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