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Boundaries Are Different for Everybody

Boundaries are for everyone - but the boundaries you set are different with each person or type of person. We don't set the same type of boundaries in the same tone with our mothers as we do with our children (look - I've dated myself as an elder millennial by assuming that both are an age where they'll fully comprehend them) - or either as we do our intimate partners. If we don't learn from our families of origin how to set boundaries well - a lot of us didn't! and it's part of why to set them with our kids, to model that - we may learn first how to do it with and around friends, work, and our intimate partners, and struggle with developing a comfortable voice in which we assert boundaries with family members.

What do I mean "a comfortable voice?" Often, lessons about how to set boundaries are kind of stiff. They're very script-like. My own class on boundaries falls into this trap, it gives formulas to follow and then says "...or in your own words" - which can feel like a formula when you've never asserted boundaries before!! As someone who spent years in therapy learning how to set boundaries, I definitely spent a while at the beginning setting them overly rigidly and following formulas very carefully - a lot of hard nos, literally leaving rooms, and phrasing things in very carefully worded If-then statements. Over time, a lot of these things have become more natural and "in my own voice" - I can explain a situation and what I'll do if something is wrong for me in it without blaming or making it someone else's responsibility, but also without a script, most of the time. (Sometimes, if an issue is high stakes, I still script things in my head and the whole script tumbles out - my partners usually think this is endearing and my family thinks it's annoying. Your mileage may vary.) But this has only happened with practice and time, and lots of both. The first step was (is) starting to learn about and listen to my own embodied boundaries and express them at all.

The keys are first admitting that as a person, each of us is entitled to unique personal boundaries (a physically and emotionally ergonomic environment, or as close as we can make, given real life) and second, that these might generate different interactions with each person in our life to maintain and that's ok. When I remind a toddler that we give people space, I do it in a very different tone and words than I do if a grown person has sat almost on top of me when there are other places to be at a party; both are to enforce my boundaries around physical comfort and space - and it might be ok for my partner to sit like that even in public so long as the rest of our physical interactions are appropriate for the gathering we're in - the boundaries are different with a partner than a friend or a child. You might have a very different reaction to an old friend interrupting you to interject with a memory than if a coworker did with an idea - context matters as well as relationship. If it feels awkward or like we're deep in "script mode" only practice will move us through to the phase where this is less so the case and we are speaking in the unique relationships we have with the folks in our lives. We need to start somewhere in setting our boundaries so that we can grow through this phase.


Upcoming events and classes: Knowing our limits is a kind of boundary that can help us negotiate more safely - Negotiation for Edgeplay (digital for Wicked Grounds) is coming up on 9/19 at 6pm Pacific 9pm Eastern. Learn more about boundary setting, what boundaries are, and where you may have boundaries you aren't acknowledging in Boundary Expression and Enforcement on 9/24 at 2pm Eastern (11pm Pacific). In November (11/10-11/12) I'm hosting a relationship retreat at a beautiful, secluded property in the woods here in Connecticut focused on communication, connection, and adjusting or reaffirming nonmonogamous relationship agreements. You can find information on that here or email me for more information.

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