Dear Lifelines: Limitless with Family

Updated: May 21


Dear Lifelines;

Last month you mentioned boundaries. Can you explain that a bit more? I don’t know why you would want boundaries with your relatives. I don’t think there should be any limits on what you do for family. Please explain why you say boundaries are needed.


Thanks in advance,

Limitless with Family

Dear Limitless:

Similar to the protection offered by physical boundaries like a fence, property line or driving lanes, relationship boundaries help to keep people around us within certain limits so that our feelings and sense of our own self-worth might be protected. When we don’t establish boundaries, we fail to acknowledge our own needs, setting our self-worth aside and allowing others’ needs to take a more dominant position. This avoidance of setting limits might put us at greater risk for being hurt emotionally. This hurt might eventually surface as us being resentful, angry, passive-aggressive or withholding because others have gone past our point of comfort and now we are feeling the consequences.

But to set boundaries for ourselves need not be an angry or hostile process. Boundaries are more about understanding ourselves and realizing at what point we start to feel uncomfortable. For instance, you may feel that lending money to relatives is fine, but at what point does it stop being fine? When do you start to feel that you or others in your family are suffering because of your kindness? The key is to pay attention to your emotions and let that dictate your boundaries. If you are ok lending $500 but they are asking for $5000 – will you still lend it? Or will you acknowledge your limit and honour your limit? It’s important to think about these possible scenarios that come up in life before you agree to do something that you are not comfortable with. And it’s not only money that deserves consideration, but your time, your generosity, and virtually any aspect of your life that you spend in supporting others. One example that springs to mind is from my early childhood. My grandma would offer my sister and me a snack every afternoon between our busy playtimes – usually Fudgsicles or Revels, quite the treat 40 years ago. As the neighbourhood kids grew to know this, Grandma ended up handing out several snacks to all the kids in the area – some kids we hardly even knew. She eventually had to set limits and gently encourage the kids to solicit their own parents for snacks. Babysitting for relatives and friends, hosting dinners, doing extra hours at work, sewing for people, dating, raising your kids, volunteering, carpooling, lending books and tools -- the list goes on and on for areas that we might need to recognize our limits when interacting with others.

Oftentimes when we feel slightly resentful or angered it might be an indication of breached boundaries and we might want to sit with our feelings and analyze what exactly is the cause of our discomfort so that we can act on that. So when someone asks you to do that extra shopping run for them during the holidays for the fifth time, or a date asks for that kiss that you’d really rather not share with them, recognize your self-worth and respond in a way that truly honours your personal limits.

Good luck and let us know your thoughts and feedback.

Lifelines.

“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” Eckhart Tolle




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