Setting Healthy Boundaries
Setting boundaries is an important part of any healthy and happy relationship. It is also a complex part of relationships, especially for those with Borderline Disorder. Often, setting boundaries can make us feel even more isolated, separated, alone or abandoned from those we need the most. Creating healthy boundaries is a part of learning to be an adult and being in healthy adult relationships. Boundaries make it possible for us to be our own unique selves in a relationship with another unique being, each maintaining separate identities, respectful of one another, without becoming codependent and while still loving one another.
Discussing boundaries when everyone in the relationship is calm and ready for an open discussion, rather than in conflict and turmoil. This creates a greater opportunity for success. It may be helpful to think through what you want to discuss with your loved ones or family before you sit down with them. Think through what these new boundaries might look like. You may want to write down a plan to discuss with them, as well as important talking points, so that all parties can remain neutral.
Recognize your own strengths. We all come to relationships with strengths. As someone with Borderline Disorder, it is important for you to recognize yours as well. What do you bring to the relationship that will help in a negotiation? What will make it complex? An honest reflection of your strengths and realities of how your symptoms affect the relationship will help you to create the outcome you need. Ask yourself honestly what you need from the boundary you are creating. For example: Perhaps you need to feel more control in treatment decisions about your Borderline Disorder, but still want your spouse to be involved. Perhaps the boundary you could ask for would be that you see your clinician on your own, and they come in for the last five minutes for a wrap up.
Make sure everyone is in agreement of the boundaries and consequences. How will the consequences be enforced? When and under what circumstances is it appropriate for your loved ones to intervene on your behalf? Remember, establishing appropriate boundaries helps you to be more interdependent in your relationship, and at the same time free to be your unique selves. You are negotiating your happiness and the happiness of the people you love most; negotiate wisely.
Ultimatums are never a good idea. Where do you go from there? Think through threats, ultimatums and the consequences of not keeping boundaries as you create boundaries with your family or loved ones. Have a plan for your plan.
People you love can’t be expected to tolerate physical, psychological or verbal abuse. Do not expect them to. It is important that you regulate your behavior and treat your loved ones with respect. You are not expected to tolerate abuse either.
Setting boundaries is a process, not a single conversation. You could try discussing boundaries once or twice a month, a few boundaries at a time, seeing how each works, instead of all of them in a list. Start with simple successes and build on those, one change at a time.
- Smith, Melinda, and Jeanne Segal. “Helping Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.” Helping Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder: How to Recognize BPD in a Loved One and Improve Your Relationship, 1 Oct. 2017, www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/helping-someone-with-borderline-personality-disorder.htm.