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How My Brother Set a Boundary with Me

boundaries Aug 31, 2023

A few years ago, I listened to a great podcast hosted by Jen Hatmaker with guests John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud. It is called Wise Men & Women Bring Gifts of Boundaries. Below are my modified notes, some of them personalized.

Relationships shift and change, both within our families and externally. We grow up and become adult children, a definite shift for our parents to get used to. Our own kids grow up and now we must adjust. Our adult children begin to date and move into the next stage of getting married. Families are in constant motion and everyone is required to shift and grow with each other. Sometimes some family members or new additions to the family can get stuck and not be flexible to all the relational changes.

 

I BUMPED INTO A BOUNDARY LINE

 

I remember when I approached my brother after he was recently married and said "I need to talk to you privately about a matter." He surprised me by saying "Whatever you say to me you can share in front of my wife." Honestly, it hurt but I respected him like crazy for setting this new boundary. I loved his new wife. It wasn't that I wanted to keep her out of a family conversation but I was used to my sibling relationship being between me and him. I knew it was time for him to form a new family. It didn't mean there was no more sibling relationship but it was important for them to become one. And you know the saying, 'Three's a crowd!'

What if I had reacted poorly and insisted on our old sibling relationship? That would be called entitlement.

 

ENTITLEMENT

 

Entitlement is when somebody thinks they own the title of something of yours...you owe me the right to listen to me, you deserve or have the right to be loved the way you should be loved. There is no freedom in this kind of relationship. For example, let's say you don't invite your siblings/mother-in-law over to a family dinner because you're establishing your own traditions. A healthy person says "Great, have a great dinner!" vs. making you feel like you have done something wrong.

Entitlement destroys safety. No human being can fulfill our demands. One misstep or insensitivity will send the entire relationship tumbling down. The entitled person must be listened to perfectly at all times or they will feel wounded or injured. Admittedly, I have been on both sides of this equation. It's not a title I am proud of. More on this later in the blog.

 

LACK OF BOUNDARIES

 

My husband, Russ, grew up welded together with his mom and brother because of his father's struggle with alcohol and drugs, which forced the three of them to turn to each other. When Russ was married to his first wife, he never 'leaved and cleaved'. He subconsciously looked at his new family as wife, kids, mom and brother, which made his former wife not feel like a priority. For example, when plans were made with his former wife and children it often included his mom and brother. It is important to make sure your spouse feels like they are your top priority and they don't have to compete with other family members.

 

LESSON LEARNED

 

In my (Danielle) previous example with my brother, I had to set a new standard of asking questions and no longer assuming I could just show up when I was in town. It was awkward but I knew it was the right way to mirror back respect to not only my brother but his wife, as well.

 

SETTING BOUNDARIES

 

So what if you're the one having difficulty setting boundaries?

Is it because you are: (by Terri Cole of Real Love Revolution)

  • Feeling responsible for others’ happiness.

  • Inability to say “no” for fear of rejection or abandonment.

  • Weak sense of your own identity. You base how you feel about yourself on how others treat you. (This has been me for years.)

  • Disempowerment. You allow others to make decisions for you; consequently, you feel powerless and do not take responsibility for your own life.

     

WHY ARE BOUNDARIES SO HARD TO ESTABLISH?

 

Boundaries are not about blaming other people but equipping us to be more stable. But it can be difficult to unravel old habits. If you have enabled behavior that constantly crosses a line, it's important for you to have people who practice boundaries around you to help rewire both your habits and your brain.

In order to avoid conflict, we appease what a loved one wants from us. It's easier than setting boundaries.  It's easy not to brush your teeth before you go to bed but ultimately the root canal will be your consequence. Relationships operate in the same manner. You reap what you sow.

But I'm afraid they will get mad if I set a boundary. If you stop enabling the entitled person it is like taking a toy away from a toddler. There will be some initial chaos. It may be cute at 14 months old but it's not cute at 50 years old. You're just putting off the root canal.

A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again. - Proverbs 19:19

 

UPCOMING HOLIDAYS

 

So what does this look like to implement boundaries? Family get-togethers may be on your calendar so here's how can you make this year's holidays more enjoyable.

  • Make decisions as an adult with your family BEFORE the vacation, party, trip, etc...

    • What kind of memories do you want to have? Pleasant or miserable? Live intentionally. Plan things out.
    • Hopefully, adult children's dependence on their parents has lessened. You're now adults with both your parents and your siblings.
      • Sometimes we wish for memories that never happened. Recognize this might be why your siblings or parents might be acting out, making you feel bad if you don't do everything together.
      • If we put up with bad behavior our hope is maybe things will turn out differently.
        • Take off rose-colored glasses and make plans realistically. Set expectations ahead of time.

 

  • Deal with awkward relatives or unpleasant behaviors

    • Have you told the drunk uncle ahead of time what the consequences will be? The drunk uncle can take his pants off but we can control our behavior. Boundaries are not about manipulating the uncle but what you are going to do when the bad behavior happens. "I don't talk to drunk people but I'm happy to talk to you tomorrow." Call a cab for the uncle.
    • Plan ahead so you are not stuck in the middle of the drama.

 

  • Set boundaries when family gets too close for comfort.

    • It's okay to say I've got to go. Give yourself relief and freedom when things get uncomfortable.
    • Sometimes we are bound up in our feelings and need permission from others before implementing boundaries.
    • When family punishes you when you don't attend a family function sometimes bondage occurs. but it's important to say, "I'm sorry it feels hurtful to you but we need this time alone as a family."
      • Bondage occurs because we still have weeds in our hearts. We have to deal with the voices in our heads and be healed. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." -Gal 5:1
    • The brain needs to experience healthy relational experiences with other people. Your brain needs this so you're not stuck with "I'm such a bad person."
      • Experience what it is like to say no to someone and not be punished.
    • Family conversation on how we will be disciplining our kids. We want to have lots of fun and here are our ground rules. Teach your kids how to ask, "How can I help?" If disciplining, pull them aside and not shame them in front of people.
    • When other family members try to discipline your children, say
      • "Come to me when they are acting up."
      • Take Grandma aside and share "Let me be the Mama."
      • "I appreciate your perspective but please respect that I'm the parent here."
    • But there are times when both God and the Beverly Hillbillies know that we shouldn't make certain sounds at the dinner table.

 

 

ARE WE THE UNSAFE PERSON?

 

So back to being entitled. What if WE are the unsafe entitled person? What if a healthy person says no to me because I'm acting entitled? I know I would be extremely defensive.  So what if you're caught off guard by someone telling you no? Two things are going on...you have your outward reaction and an internal one. The internal one is hurt. Pray and write about it later but in the moment take a breath and be vulnerable and welcoming with the person who had the courage to tell you no. Tell the person this is new information and you'll try to accommodate.

 

BEING JUDGED

 

See the problem with being misjudged is we judge ourselves by our intentions. Others judge us by our actions/behavior. So until someone can align both our behavior and intention frustrated feelings can be at an all-time high.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. - Proverbs 15;1

The bottom line is if someone causes havoc by doing or saying something, they control you but when you respond you remain in control with responses and consequences. Plan things out. Live intentionally.

 

 

Learn new communication skills you can immediately apply in your marriage and some harder skills (with practice) that will transform your marriage.

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