The most fulfilling relationships are ones where individuals strive to create an environment of mutual care and consideration...
"Spouses in healthy relationships cherish each other's space and are champions of each other's causes." Henry Cloud
...as anything less, ultimately, leads to frustration and the build-up of resentment.
Whether they are mothers (who find themselves doing the bulk of the more demanding child rearing and domestic tasks); carers who take on the most challenging aspects of their caring roles; colleagues who cope with co-workers who opt to do less than their share of labor, or family members who experience pressure to fulfill others' expectations..., any one of us can at times find ourselves having to erect boundaries—to help create and nourish an environment of mutual care and consideration in our relationships.
"One of the first signs that you’re beginning to develop boundaries is a sense of resentment, frustration, or anger at the subtle and not-so-subtle violations in your life. Just as radar signals the approach of a foreign missile, your anger can alert you to boundary violations in your life."
Below are two tips for supporting you to set boundaries:
1. Strive to communicate your inner experience…:
"One of the characteristics of love relationships that flower is a relatively high degree of mutual self-disclosure." Nathaniel Branden
Consider communicating the impact of someone’s behavior on you inner experience, and what support you would like to receive that would make the biggest difference for you…; remember that there isn't anything as powerful as positive reinforcement for motivating desired behaviors and interactions...
Taking a chance to discuss your inner experience, using words that are not blaming (i.e. ones that don’t begin with “You…make me…”) helps to create an expectation that your inner experience matters, helping to create a relationship environment of mutual care:
E.g. I feel that I am carrying the larger load of responsibilities and I feel frustrated, the kind of support I would greatly appreciate is… It would make me feel… (e.g. more relaxed and appreciative)...
2. Persist in requesting/working towards equal access to leisure time and development opportunities for each family member—it’s worth it!
"The greatest gift you can give someone is your personal development." Jim Rohn
"Solitude is very different from a 'time-out' from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other." Henri Nouwen
Historically, women in particular carried a legacy of having less access to leisure time, fewer privileges, and an expectation around dedicating themselves wholly to servitude; certainly they have been less encouraged to pursue self-development outside of their caring roles.
Persisting in creating relationships where there is mutual consideration and striving for equality and fairness is of benefit to all family members… continuing with status quo may only reinforce unjust behavior and cement unrealistic expectations…
However, in its initial stages, the process of setting boundaries may feel uncomfortable...
"When we begin to set boundaries with people we love, a really hard thing happens: they hurt. They may feel a hole where you used to plug up their aloneness, their disorganization, or their financial irresponsibility. Whatever it is, they will feel a loss. If you love them, this will be difficult for you to watch. But, when you are dealing with someone who is hurting, remember that your boundaries are both necessary for you and helpful for them. If you have been enabling them to be irresponsible, your limit setting may nudge them toward responsibility." Henry Cloud
"...remember that your boundaries are both necessary for you and helpful for them. If you have been enabling them to be irresponsible, your limit setting may nudge them toward responsibility." Henry Cloud
Boundaries—a gift to our children
My setting of boundaries is one of the greatest gifts I can offer to my 6-year-old son, Nicholas.
They give him a sense of safety. At times he is “in danger” of experiencing a mounting sense of emotional overwhelm, whether due to feeling restless, tired, or experiencing difficulties with calming himself, I notice how my setting of boundaries helps to settle him.
They could be something as simple as my insisting that he picks up a toy that he threw in frustration... He learns to internalize these and similar limits/boundaries and self-regulate.
This can seem surprising. It may intuitively seem that those times Nicholas feels tired are “worst” for enforcing boundaries. Nevertheless… without them, his distress is more likely to escalate and unravel further negative emotional states such as an experience of feeling overwhelmed.
Observing family members set and respect one another's boundaries helps him to respect the inner experience of others and self-regulate; which will continue to support him to coping with taking on board ever greater freedom and responsibility in his life...
"The opposite of bad is not good. The opposite of bad is love."
"I define love thus: The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."
M. Scott Peck
*In a case where you are in a relationship where your partner is not interested in creating an environment of mutual consideration and care and is obviously invested in retaining the bulk of power and control in the relationship, it is so important for you to seek support and assistance, to explore ways of being physically and emotionally safe.