Boundaries are often misunderstood. Many view them as a means to control another person, a way to gain power over someone, or as something that will hurt the relationship. The truth is that a properly set boundary invites intimacy and trust.
In this episode, I will be clearing up exactly what a boundary is, and what it isn’t. You will understand:
- How clear boundaries strengthen relationships
- How to set them from a place of love
- What the most important piece of boundary setting is
- Why boundary-setting is a form of self-respect
You’ll come away from this episode empowered with the ability to more clearly see boundaries that need to be strengthened, and how you can step into a more honest version of yourself by honoring those boundaries.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast,
episode number 37, Boundaries.
Hello, and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast, where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently
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Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks
off. Is it possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host,
Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hi everybody, welcome to episode number 37, where we are going to talk all
about boundaries. We’re going to talk about what they are, what they
aren’t, how to set them, et cetera, okay? So let’s just dive on in. We
often think about boundaries as ways to control other people’s behavior.
That is not what boundaries are. We also sometimes think of boundaries as
ultimatums. Boundaries also are not that, okay? What boundaries are are
ways for us to protect and take care of ourselves. Boundaries define where
we begin, where we end. Boundaries are our borders, like our personal
borders. Boundaries help us define what is not ours to take responsibility
for, and help us to know what to own and what to hand back to other people.
So I’m going to give you an example. I live on a few acres in Montana with
the Missouri River in my backyard, it’s pretty awesome, I love having the
river in my backyard. In the summertime, people float the river all the
time, they float the river, they boat on the river, right? And yeah, it’s
in my backyard, but I don’t have a problem with it because they’re not
coming off of the river and into my yard. Now, if somebody were to get out
of their boat or raft in my backyard and go walk around my yard, that would
be a boundary violation because they would be in my space, right? Or what
if they cut across my yard to get to different parts of the river? Although
they’re not physically hurting me, they would be violating a property
boundary, because my boundary to my yard begins when you get out of the
river and up onto the land, right?
Now, most people know that that’s not okay, most people know that, that you
don’t go onto other people’s property, but sometimes people might push
that. People might say, “Oh, they won’t mind, I’ll just cut across,” or
“I’ll just hang out here. That looks like a nice yard, I’ll just hang here,
they won’t mind, right?” If somebody didn’t know that, it would be my job
to kindly let them know. “If you come onto our property, I will ask you to
leave. If it continues to persist, if you keep coming onto my property,
we’ll have to call the police.”
Now, this probably will never happen, right? Likely not, but that’s an
example of a boundary, somebody coming into your space, and sometimes they
might not even realize it, right? And it’s our job to protect our own
space, it’s our job to let people know our line, our boundaries around our
own self and our own space, okay?
So what is a boundary violation? It depends on the person you’re talking
to. It is very individual, okay? For example, in that example I just gave
with the yard, some people really might not care. Some people might be
like, “You know what? I love that I live on the river, come on up. You can
use our picnic table, you can hang out on our lawn, you can swing on our
swings, no problem, come on up.” Because I have children that live at my
home, some of them younger, I don’t feel comfortable with that. That’s
personal. I would not feel comfortable with random strangers hanging out in
my yard, right? But that’s a personal preference.
Now, there are some boundaries that I think we all, in general, agree with,
like we all would think it’s probably not okay to haul off and hit people,
right? And so there’s some that are a little more blatantly obvious to
people, and some that are a little more nuanced, okay? What a boundary
violation is though, is when someone intentionally or unintentionally is
causing harm, okay? Often it’s unintentional, okay? Coming into your space
in a way that is not okay for you. It might be fine for somebody else, but
it’s not okay for you.
So how do you set and enforce those boundaries and why do you do it? When a
boundary is clear, this is what it looks like. It’s a clear, concise
request with a very clear consequence. “I love you. I’m so glad you’re
enjoying the river. Please enjoy the river. But if you come onto my
property without asking first, I will ask you to leave. If you come onto my
property again without asking first, I will probably call the police.”
So let’s look at some examples. Let’s say your husband interrupts you when
you are speaking. You can say, “When you interrupt me, I feel disrespected.
I want you to let me finish before you respond. Because I cannot control
you, if you interrupt me, I will choose to leave the room,” okay? That’s
what it sounds like. It’s very clear, it’s very calm, very kind-sounding,
right? That doesn’t sound mean, it’s just clear. “This is my boundary. If
you cross that boundary, this is what I will be doing.” Right? That’s all
What about bigger violations, like bringing other women into the marriage?
Behaviors that harm intimacy, like pornography, for example? Again, it is
personal, but the boundaries can be set, the consequences can be followed
through with, and ultimately you get to decide if it’s a place you want to
stay. Now, how do you know if your boundary worked? How you know is if you
followed through with the consequence, you protected yourself.
Now I want to give you some examples of what boundary violations are not,
okay? So, sometimes we like to complain about things that our spouses don’t
do. “He didn’t take the trash out and he won’t. I’ve asked him countless
times, and he won’t. He won’t tell me he appreciates me. He won’t apologize
for his mistakes. He won’t play with the kids.” On and on we could go,
right? These are actually not boundary violations, because they’re not
actually harming, they’re not infringing on your space, they’re things that
he’s not doing. These are expectations that are not being met. So if you go
back and re-listen to episode number 14, it’s called The Manual, and it’s
all about how we can harm ourselves by having so many expectations of other
people, and then hanging our own happiness, our own sense of worthiness and
lovability, on if they are meeting those expectations or not.
We give power away right and left when we do this. We’re giving it to
somebody else, saying, “If you don’t do this thing, then I am not lovable,
so please do this thing so I can feel better,” okay? That is not a
boundary. Now, we can make requests, and I suggest making requests, right?
This is all about speaking up and saying what you want, saying what you
need, but I don’t suggest making expectations and then determining your own
worth and lovability based on if those are met or not. That is very shaky
ground to build on, okay?
Now, let’s say for example that somebody comes into our home and lights up
a cigarette. While they are the one that’s smoking, they are in our home,
and we can decide that we don’t want cigarette smoke in our home. This
would be considered a boundary violation. We can say to them, “I love you,
you are so welcome to smoke, but if you do it at my house, I will ask you
to go outside.” That’s an example of setting a boundary.
Now let’s talk about boundaries in marriages and relationships. So I have
clients who are either divorced or going through divorce. Some of them are
used to being verbally berated by their ex-spouses, many of them. They’re
used to it. It’s like they’ve gotten so used to hearing it that they can’t
hear that it’s a boundary violation, they can’t hear it. They may feel that
there’s nothing they can do about it. They may feel afraid because they
think it’ll get worse if they express their discomfort with it, so many of
them just kind of take it.
I want to remind you that you get to set your comfort level with how you’re
treated, and that boundaries are about self-respect. It’s about respecting
yourself. It’s about, if you imagine drawing a circle around yourself,
saying “This is what is allowed in this circle. If you come past that with
things that are not allowed in this circle, I will ask you to leave.” It’s
a matter of self-respect. Sometimes it can be helpful when you’re
considering what you’re allowing to look at one of your children and ask if
you would be okay with someone talking to them that way. You might not be,
So for me, when I was going through divorce, I did have to set boundaries
about communication. At various times, there would be excessive amounts of
texts and emails that weren’t necessarily kind. And at one point, I
expressed that it was okay with me to communicate about our children, but
it was not okay to communicate about anything else, that I was not going to
engage, and that if other texts were sent, besides things having to do with
our kids, I would not respond. That was how I set a boundary for myself.
For some of my clients, that is not enough, and they have to block the
person in question to protect themselves, but they are doing it with
setting those boundaries in place, saying, “I love you. You’re welcome to
continue X, Y, Z, but if you this in my space, if you continue to call me
and yell at me or send me these emails, I will not respond. If it’s a call,
I will hang up.” Right?
So the most important piece here, that is the hardest, I’m sorry to say
it’s the hardest part, is following through with the consequence. Any of
you listening who have children know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to
give a consequence, to follow through with it. We worry a lot about the
feelings of that person, like, “I don’t want to hurt them, I don’t want to
seem this way,” right? But here’s the thing. If you don’t follow through,
they will not believe you. They will think that you’re bluffing, and
they’ll continue with the same behaviors. You have to be clear about the
consequence and follow through.
Have you ever heard, like in parenting advice, how people say “Don’t give a
consequence that you don’t want to enforce,” right? Or “Don’t give a
consequence that makes it so hard for you to give to the child, don’t make
it so hard for you.” I think it’s the same thing here. Think about it. Put
thought into what the consequence might be. Now, Please understand this is
not a means of punishing another person, it’s not meant to be punitive.
It’s a means of protecting you. The consequence, “You stepped into my
precious, sacred space in a way that I asked you not to, and this is now
the consequence for doing that. You have to leave my space, you don’t get
to be in here with me.”
Now again, this is very hard. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s no big
deal, this is very hard for everybody, it’s hard for us to set boundaries.
We tend to take responsibility for other people’s emotions, so when we set
a boundary and that boundary is not honored, we often doubt ourselves.
“Maybe I didn’t need to set that boundary. I don’t want them to feel bad.
Maybe I was being too sensitive. Maybe I’m reacting too much.” Now, we do
care about them and their feelings, okay? We do. But when you’re setting
those boundaries, you’re doing it from a very calm, clear place. You’re not
doing it in a reactive mode, okay? We are not intending to hurt them, but
what we are doing is we’re saying what we are comfortable with and not
comfortable with inside our circle. By caring more about their comfort than
ours, we are in essence lying to ourselves, and we are making ourselves
very, very uncomfortable because we know it, we know it.
Now, sometimes we may say things like this. “Well, I don’t always treat
them perfectly. I can be dot, dot, dot. I’m not perfect.” Now, we can own
our own behaviors, for sure, okay? But guess what? The people around you,
they are responsible for their circle, and if there’s something that’s a
boundary violation to them, they get to set that boundary for themselves.
They can say, “Hey, I love you, but if you dot, dot, dot, I’m going to dot,
dot, dot,” right?
I think so much of it is about intent, right? Sometimes we unintentionally
step over the line for other people. So let me give you an example, okay?
So let’s say that somebody has a mother-in-law that comes over unannounced,
and often just comes into the house without knocking, just comes in, and
this happens all the time. And let’s say that the mother in this situation,
not the mother-in-law, but the mom with the kids, she is somebody who part
of her boundary is she really likes to have space for herself, she likes to
know when people are coming over, she likes to feel prepared, she likes to
feel physically put together, and so when people come over unannounced,
it’s unsettling to her, and she feels uncomfortable and doesn’t like it.
Now, the mother-in-law has good intent, right? She’s like, “I want to come
see my grandkids, I happen to be in the neighborhood, I’m going to stop by.
It’s helpful even, I’m going to help her, so she should be so happy that
I’m coming.” Now, it could be very hard for this person to say to her
mother-in-law, “Hey, if you come over unannounced, it’s very likely that we
won’t answer the door. It’s not something that I’m comfortable with. If you
please let us know beforehand, you’re welcome to come over often, but
please let us know beforehand. Please make sure that it’s an okay time. If
you come unannounced, we will not answer the door.”
Now she might get really offended, right? “I’m coming to help,” right? “I’m
coming to help you, and how dare you just blow me off like that? I can’t
see my grandkids.” She could, right? She could get all caught up in the
drama of it. Bottom line, the person setting the boundary is not intending
to hurt or control or anything, all she is doing is she is honoring her
wishes, she’s honoring her own boundary of what she is comfortable with,
So sometimes when it comes to our own behaviors, we sometimes don’t know
that it’s a boundary violation for somebody else, because to us, we might
be like, “Oh, I love it when people come in unannounced, I love it when
people just show up.” That’s why it’s the responsibility of each person to
know what their boundaries are and to set them, okay? You can want what you
want and have things that you are comfortable with and not comfortable
with, just because you are, just because that’s how you feel. You do not
have to have a reason that other people are going to get on board with,
it’s okay, okay?
When we really want or need something and aren’t getting it, what we often
do is slip into resentment and blame. And as a reminder, resentment means
that we have a need that is not being met and we’re blaming somebody else
for it, okay? So back to the example of the mom who has the mother-in-law,
okay? Let’s say that every time, she doesn’t set that boundary because she
doesn’t want to hurt her feelings, her mother-in-law’s feelings, but let’s
say the mother-in-law comes over, and every time she’s so bogged and she
complains to her husband, and she complains to her friends like, “Oh, my
mother-in-law, she just comes over,” and she’s resentful and mad, and you
can bet that when her mother-in-law is there, she is showing up in that
She might be really stiff, she might be kind of cold. Is that loving? Is
that more loving than telling the truth and saying, “Hey, I love you, but I
don’t want you to come over unannounced,” right? I hope you can see in this
example how telling the truth is actually the more loving option than not
telling the truth, denying how you feel, and carrying around resentment and
blame. That is not kind and loving, right?
Okay, so I want to point out a few things. First of all, boundaries are not
about manipulating other people’s behavior, okay? Not at all. It’s about
powerful truth-telling. I want you to remind yourself that boundary-setting
is for me, not against you. Sometimes we can think that if I set a
boundary, it’s going to hurt them. Boundary-setting is for me, it’s for the
individual, it is not meant to come at you, okay? Manipulation can be where
we’re against the other person. That’s when we’re trying to manage someone
else’s behavior so we don’t have to manage our own, okay? “If you would
just not do this thing, then I wouldn’t have to be mad.” In other words,
“If you would not do this thing, I don’t have to deal with my own negative
emotion, I don’t have to set a boundary, I don’t have to speak up, I don’t
have to tell the truth, so could you just do this thing so that I don’t
have to be uncomfortable?” You hear the difference there?
Boundaries are not ultimatums, which are more about controlling someone
else’s. They can still do all the things that they want to do. You’re
saying, “You cannot do those things in my space, and if you do, this is
what’s going to happen.” It’s about self-protection rather than changing
someone else’s behavior so you get to feel better, okay? They can keep on
with their behavior, you’re just saying, “If you want to keep that
behavior, awesome, but it’s not going to fly in this space.”
Number two, boundaries are not escape routes. Sometimes you start ignoring
someone because we don’t want to deal with them. We don’t want to deal with
that person, we don’t want to deal with our own negative emotions, so we
just think, “I’ll just ignore them altogether so I don’t have to have that
conversation, and I’ll blame it on them. I’ll just cut them out, I’ll just
cut them out.” We are not taking the easy way out here, my friends. The
easy way out is to cut people out, okay? That’s not what we’re about. The
harder but more truth-telling, grown-up thing to do is to have the
conversation where you set the boundary and say “This behavior in my space
doesn’t work,” okay? The boundary is set in the difficult conversation, in
giving the consequence, not in avoiding that altogether, okay?
Number three, do not set boundaries when you are not feeling peaceful and
loving. So for example, if my teenager’s yelling at me and mad at me, I’m
probably not in a good spot to yell back at them and say, “Don’t yell at
me. You’re not allowed to yell at me. If you yell at me again, this is
what’s going to happen,” okay? A boundary is well thought out, it’s very
consciously thought out, “What are my boundaries?” Okay? And then they are
expressed before the event happens, okay? Before it happens again. Like if
it happened before, you’re setting the boundary.
So back to my yard sample, I don’t need to set that boundary unless
somebody violates that boundary, right? So if a kid’s not yelling at me, I
don’t need to go to them and say, “Hey, just so you know, if you yell at
me, this is what’s going to happen, okay?” But when this has happened and
you feel that it’s a violation of your boundary, you make it clear in your
mind first before you go have the conversation. As a reminder, you’re
setting boundaries when there is a violation, either emotionally or
physically. You get to decide what those boundaries are. You get to teach
people how to treat you. It is a matter of self-respect, okay? It’s a
matter of self-respect.
So to wrap things up, what boundaries are useful to you? How can you grow
in this area? As I have prepared this podcast episode, I have had many
thoughts about this myself, and gone, “What are my borders? How can I make
my borders clearer? How can I make sure the people around me know what my
borders are, and how can I make sure I know what they are?” Right? That’s
so important, to know what your own boundaries are, and why. It might be a
little bit uncomfortable because you’re owning that you get to take up
space, that your experience matters, that you get to determine who comes
into your sacred space. It matters, okay?
If you want more information about this, there’s an excellent book called
Boundaries. I’m forgetting who the author is off the top of my head, but
it’s just called Boundaries, and it’s all about boundaries, what they are,
when to set them, it just goes into depth more and gives some more to think
about, so if you want to learn more about this topic, go check out that
Anyway, that’s what I have for today. Thank you so much, I love you all.
Thank you so much for being here. I have mentioned before, I have a couple
spots that are coming open for one-on-one coaching. If you’re interested,
now would be a good time to reach out to me. You can find me at
andreagiles.com. There’s a link in there, “Work with me,” where you can
schedule a one-on-one call with me. I love doing all of this deep work with
my clients, we work together for six months, we go really deep, and I get
to watch my clients transform right in front of me, it’s pretty awesome, so
if that’s something you’re interested in, now is a good time. All right, my
friends, thank you so much, take care, and have an amazing week. Bye-bye.
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast. If you would
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